Deep Self Investigation

Discovering your true nature as awareness

That which is before you is it, in its fullness, utterly complete. There is naught beside.  Even if you go through all the stages of a Bodhisattva’s progress toward Buddhahood, one by one; when at last, in a single flash, you attain to full realization, you will only be realizing the Buddha-nature which has been with you all the time; and by all the foregoing stages you will have added to it nothing at all.”

~ Huang Po


Preparation for Deep Self Investigation


What Question Brings You Here? 


Why are you here, now, reading this? Isn’t it because you want to answer a critical question, one that very few people will consider in their entire lifetime? Do you know what that question is?

This question arises to the surface—to the forefront of their lives—in only a few, and drives a search for an answer. Are you one of the rare and fortunate ones who are unable to deny this need to know?

What is the question that brings you to where you are now? The vast majority of people accept a belief about who they are without questioning it. Why question what seems obvious? Aren’t we just people moving about in the world through various situations? This is what the world tells us is true. The belief in the existence of individual people is built upon an extensive structure of assumptions that are simply not true. Most likely you are reading this because you do question it. You are suspicious of what the world tells you that you are. You want to know—you need to know—Who or what am I really?


The Great Adventure


You are embarking on what could be the most important journey of your life—to find out who and what you truly are. It’s not by chance that the ultimate goal of most of the great philosophical, psychological, and spiritual traditions, in their various ways, is to know your self.

In the endeavor to explore and investigate your self, it doesn’t matter what your background is or even the depth or lack of spiritual experiences. What is most important is the strength of your desire to know the truth and your persistence in seeking the answer. This can carry you through the many distractions, wrong turns, and doubts that will occur along the way.




It can be challenging to use words when describing atypical perspectives of reality and non-ordinary states, like those resulting from the investigation of our sense of self. I wish the English language were better at describing the truth about what we are. However, it is not—it is misleading, biased, and “I”-centric. Throughout this book, you will regularly see the words “I” and “self.” Yet the core recognition discovered in the self-investigative process is that there is no actual separate self. While this may seem like a contradiction, that is the trade-off for keeping an easy flow to this material and gradually taking the reader through deeper levels of the sense of a separate “I.” Periodically, I will try to balance that by using precise, impersonal language that better reflects the actual nature of things. In the meantime, it’s best not to take this I-centered language too seriously. 

I’m writing this book about waking up and the post-awake experience in plain, straightforward, “Western” language. Nearly everything I include here is carefully distilled from my direct experience. I serve as my own final authority in refining the DSI method, and I think you should be the final authority in your investigations. In keeping with that approach, I avoid describing second-hand information collected along the way, except where absolutely necessary. This includes not quoting other teachers, teachings or scriptures. I also use very little spiritual, philosophical, or technical terminology as I prefer to state things simply. The point is for you to have the best chance of understanding DSI techniques and perspectives. 


What Is “Reality"?

It is worth considering the question of reality to begin loosening our beliefs about life and ourselves. If we watch TV, read magazines or the newspaper, or use electronic devices to check in on “the world out there,” we are presented with images, information—and most significantly—a story or narrative by the “experts” about what the bigger reality is beyond our direct experience. We are repeatedly told that there is a “world out there,” a vast and complex reality that we are just a tiny part of but that has many consequences for us. We are told we must become familiar with it and respond in a particular manner. We are told who we are, and how the world works. But are these authorities actually informed and knowledgeable about what the world is? Does their suggested “reality” actually exist? I propose it does not. It is a fictional construct accepted as real, but not something that anyone can really experience. No one has ever actually experienced this huge, intricate world directly. We only experience our immediate environment through our perception. 

We are conditioned to accept these stories about reality and what the world is like from others who say they know: the “authorities.” Their view is accepted as truth. The world view of these authorities was only pieced together from a story of their own limited experiences, combined with the stories of others, who pieced together stories from others, and so on.

If we realize that this complex and often threatening world is never actually experienced by anyone, we can begin to see beyond these stories. We understand life as presented and directly experienced, in each moment in the here and now. Direct knowledge of reality as your present experience is always simple and available.


What Is a Person? 

What are you? What does it mean to be a “person"? It is typically assumed that you are what this world says you are: a physical, emotional, thinking entity—a singular and separate form—yet interacting with the world around you. Conventionally, the physical body is often held to be the basis of your existence, with thought, emotion, and consciousness arising as by-products of the brain function and the nervous system. This model of our existence is generally accepted as the truth.

Therefore, the typical person’s idea of their life goes something like this: “I am a separate body-minded individual moving through life among other individuals. I am involved with the world but contained and restricted to this separate person, ‘me.’ I can have relationships with others, do many things physically, and think about and feel varied emotions about this world. I can have many pleasant experiences and I am also vulnerable and can be hurt by many people and things, emotionally and physically. In time, I may achieve a certain degree of success if I’m lucky, work hard, and follow the rules. Sometimes I won’t get what I want. As I get older, I will try to preserve myself and my life as much as possible, but ultimately this will fail as time and old age inevitably take their toll. Life as a person will be increasingly about loss—the loss of physical and mental abilities, friends and family, connection with what I enjoy in the world, and loss of how much society values me. At the end of my physical life, I will lose everything when I die.”

What would happen if we realized that this story is simply a series of assumptions based on a completely false model of reality?

The fact that you are reading this book suggests that you question these conventional beliefs about being a person and might be beginning to understand the implications of this recognition. Maybe you’re considering that you are not what you thought you were. You are not the self-contained person that almost everyone suggests you are, but rather something much different and better! 

Researchers in some of the more deep-reaching areas of psychology and neuroscience don’t believe that we actually exist as a separate self. They deduce that the “self” is a mental representation of an entity. This self-image is merely constructed—within the mind—as a central reference in relation to experience. Yet, despite the researchers’ relatively accurate conceptual understanding of the false nature of the “self,” this understanding does not appear to carry over to their personal experience. It does not lead to questioning what this false sense of identity means regarding their knowledge of themselves. This incongruity seems to reflect the difference between having only a conceptual understanding of the false-self’s insubstantiality, and having real understanding based on the direct perception of “no-self.” When the direct perception of “no-self” is recognized, the immense implications of this truth will begin to fracture and dissolve the beliefs, stories, and behaviors built on the illusion of “you.”


Thoughts and Beliefs

What actually is this sense you have of your “self”? Let’s look at the key building blocks of this imagined self: thoughts and beliefs. What is a thought? A thought is a mental construct, sometimes a representation of something perceived in the world, sometimes pure imagination. Thoughts are “things,” just like a reflection in a mirror is a thing. However, a thought is not the thing that it represents. Like a photo, a restaurant menu, or an audio recording, thoughts can be useful but should never be confused with the thing they “re-present” in the mind.

A belief is a mental formation based mostly on memories. It is a thought or series of related thoughts, images, or stories that we have confidence in and take to be factual. Beliefs about ourselves generally represent what we accept as true about us, or who we are. These beliefs are typically invisible, because they seem to be what we are rather than a possible perspective about what we are.

Beliefs can be well-founded or they can have very weak supporting evidence. Generally speaking, the beliefs that most people hold are based on little or no direct evidence or verified information. So, most beliefs are misleading and confusing. The process of Deep Self Investigation uses the first stage of knowing—perception—to verify what we think about who we are. This direct perception can challenge and change beliefs to more accurately reflect the truth. 


The I-Cluster and the I-Belief     

What is this experience of being a self, a person, of being “you”? We’ve already discussed how the conventional, unexamined assumption is that you are a singular, body-minded being. But on a closer look, the experience of “you” is revealed to be a cluster of independent elements. This “I-cluster” is actually a moment-to-moment, varying combination of appearance (including the body), emotions, thoughts and “me”-centered stories, and the constant presence of awareness. None of these elements alone is a “person” (an individual entity) nor do they comprise one when combined. It is interpretive thought that creates the sense of these elements being a person, that convincingly states they are evidence of the personal “me.” This interpretive thought will be referred to as the I-belief.

During self-investigation, the I-belief is almost always missed because of its subtle nature. It tends to arise and pass away rapidly in the background of the I-cluster, “behind the scenes” so to speak, continually reinforcing the sense of identity. 

The I-belief interprets the constantly changing I-cluster as a singular person, a continuous “self” over time. No matter how the combinations appear, the I-belief presents this false conclusion. A key element of the cluster that gives weight to the I-belief is the continuous presence of awareness. This constant, unchanging presence lends an air of credibility to the sense of you as a consistent entity over time.

A serious investigation of the I-cluster reveals that no I-belief is true. You can discover this through your uncorrupted—or relatively objective—direct experience. That is, you use your natural ability to perceive what exists, before belief obscures experience. This heavy reliance on perceptual, rather than conceptual, evidence is the basis of DSI, Deep Self Investigation. 

When working with DSI, a close investigation of the I-sense reveals that none of these elements that comprise the cluster are actually directly connected to the others. They certainly do not make up a person, an actual solid “you.” The elements of the cluster are actually only associated with each other. And further, each of them exists independently in its own “dimensional space.” The body dimension is separate from the emotional dimension and thought dimension. For example, thoughts don’t appear where emotions appear. It’s something like this: imagine going on a trip to the beach. When you arrive, you are aware of being “at the beach.” It seems like one thing, but the water, air and sand hold their independent positions as objects. Water doesn’t occur where the air occurs, and sand stays under your feet. They preserve their own aspect of the experience; they are not interchangeable. Water does not appear as air or sand, etc. The idea of “the beach” is simply selected and interpreted aspects in experience being considered as one thing, but it’s actually a variety of things. 

On the other hand, awareness touches all dimensions at once, so it exists across dimensional lines and seems to allow for a sort of cross-influence. For instance, an emotion can appear to trigger a thought and vice versa. Thought can then interpret what occurs in the body or mind as all a part of “you.”

Let’s do a brief self-investigation exercise now and explore the appearance of “you." Relying only on your simple perception of how “you” appear at this moment, are you more of a body and sensations, a thought, or mostly a feeling? Is the experience of your body strong or simply imbedded in a story you are thinking about yourself? Notice how your sense of yourself changes over time, and each of these elements become more or less dominant in turn.

The world around us reflects back this conventional I-sense through many sources, such as relationships, language, and social media, as if through a series of distorted mirrors. The belief in being a separate, singular person is continuously reinforced, and almost universally accepted as true. Given all that reinforcement, it’s not surprising that this assumption may persist for a lifetime without ever really being questioned. It’s really quite remarkable that anyone begins to question the nature of who they are in the first place, but some do, and that questioning might bring them to a book like this.


At The Center Of Experience 

It’s very important to realize that at the center of “your personal experience," there is only a sense of you, not an actual you. So at the very center of you is no you.


A Few Words About “The Ego”

I don’t use the term “ego.” Yet it’s essential to address this word because it is embedded in many areas of our culture, including spiritual teachings about self-inquiry. But in reality, there is no such thing. It’s a mythical entity. The conventional view is that the ego is both what you believe you essentially are, and an imaginary adversary you must struggle against to be free of conditioning. We get the idea that the ego is this separate entity with a will of its own, often working against you in some way to undermine your decisions and actions. 

I can’t prove it, but the idea of an ego appears to be a combination of ancient biblical demonic influences combined with early Freudian psychological theory on the structure of the “psyche.” It worked its way into mainstream psychology, everyday language, and eventually into Western spiritual writings and conversation. Students and teachers often talk about it carelessly, regarding struggles with spiritual practice. A student might say something like, “I try to do my spiritual practice, but my ego won’t let me!” or, “I’ve got to get beyond my ego to make progress.” Some teachers will admonish, “That is your ego talking.” It can be a mistake to introduce the idea so casually, as it just posits an illusory separate entity—often working against you—that you now have to contend with. To my knowledge, no one has actually ever found an “ego,” so why imagine one?


Beyond Psychology

DSI takes us far beyond the traditional parameters of modern psychology, which is geared toward understanding the functioning of mental and emotional structures, the impact of past experiences on present experience, and the potential improvement of one's personal life. In my experience, the psychological work I did helped free up attention from issues of mental/emotional conditioning but left intact (and even contributed to) beliefs about the false identity. DSI, on the other hand, gradually dismantles the imagined sense of self, while informing the mind about the truth of experience and this present, living awareness. I wish someone would have shared this approach with me many years ago when I was first exploring the use of self-inquiry. Instead, I distilled DSI from various teachings and teachers, and long periods of trial and error. It is the method I used to see the truth about my actual identity. 

My guess is that someone seriously engaged in DSI would come to see through the false self in a fraction of the time it took me, perhaps in just a few years. That’s several years of serious work, daily explorations, and questioning in many life scenarios. That seems like a long time, until you consider that awakening is often discussed in literature and spiritual circles as an achievement that may take one, or multiple, lifetimes. In that context, what are a few years? 

The point of Deep Self Investigation is to help you discover that you are not what you believe yourself to be—this separate, vulnerable entity moving through life. The serious practice of DSI should reveal to you that this sense of you really amounts to nothing at all like a “person.” You will also discover that what you actually are is this present experience of awareness. This true identity is here as what you are, right now, and at all times. Take a look at yourself now. What is it that feels like the most “you” of you? What is the basis of your experience? Don’t think about it, just look! Awareness is present in your experience, always and continuously, as the most prominent aspect of your experience of yourself. It just isn’t perfectly clear yet due to the clutter of many years of conditioned beliefs about “you.”


The Mind and Thinking Are Not a Problem

“The mind,” which you could say is a combination of awareness and mental processes, doesn’t need to be seen as a problem. There is nothing wrong with thoughts, beliefs, or even conditioning, for that matter. These are clearly naturally occurring mechanisms in nature, and this system is highly advanced in humans compared to other animals. Most of us are not taught how to make good use of the mind. Left to run on automatic, it can be manipulated by cultural influences. You don’t need to look far into a family, educational or religious socialization—or on a larger scale, government, corporate, or mainstream media propaganda machine—to see how the mind is manipulated to form certain views of who you are and what reality is. 

However, it’s more relevant to our self-investigation to consider how, in spiritual circles, many tend to talk about thinking and the mind as if it’s a problem—something to be stopped, suppressed, or muted. In reality, during the process of waking up, awareness naturally interacts with the mind. Trying to control the mind or the thinking process to “wake up” can be a huge waste of time, and even counter-productive. 

In other words, not only is the mind useful for characters to operate in the world, it is a necessary “lens” for conducting deep self-investigation and understanding the truth about you and reality. In my experience, thoughts subside by themselves as attention and awareness focus more on direct experience. Thus, the illusory nature of the self and many second-hand beliefs and conditioned thoughts are dismantled naturally, while new, more accurate thoughts are formed to pave the way.


Spiraling Deeper: The Process of DSI 

The process of Deep Self Investigation—exploring and understanding what you are not, then seeing what is left of the separate I-sense—is like a deepening spiral through layers of assumption and beliefs about what you are. Seeing through the appearance of being a “person” involves moving attention deeper and deeper, becoming familiar with the various features of the terrain of “you.” Attention illuminates the varied versions of the I-sense that appear, reveals the insubstantiality of it, and then moves on to the next version. At times, you’ll come to a new level where it seems like you see and experience the truth just as it is. The areas where you find elements of the I-sense may seem to be “cleared.” It may appear that there is no I-sense present, yet at the same time this does not feel as complete as an absolutely selfless experience. Beliefs about yourself will be older and subtler at this deeper level, or even seem invisible. However, in time, with close scrutiny, these subtle forms of the I-sense will become more visible and available for investigation. After you reach a clearer understanding at this level, then it’s time to go even deeper. 

Serious self investigation is a process of discovering the truth about you. Ultimately, It leads to the end of what you take yourself to be. And more, it leads to the end of the “you” who thinks of yourself as you. “No self” means just that; it is clear that nothing of a separate “you” exists. The dissolution of the belief in a “you” actually brings clarity and freedom. In this new condition, attention is freed to move outside customary channels of experience and discover what awaits in reality’s vast complexity.


What Is Really Going On?

The bottom line is that there is not an actual separate self, and never has been. If this is true, then what is going on here? Well, something is. This experience is happening; it’s just different from what we think. There is a body and thinking going on. The “mind” seems to be comprised of ongoing thought processes, much like a computer processes data. Much of this processing is occupied with stories about a fictitious “you.” The body is simply an occurrence in nature, like any other living physical thing, with the same innate, “intelligent” engineering. Like the rest of the physical universe, neither the body nor mind needs a separate “you” to exist. We will explore this new perspective about what you are, and what you are not, as we journey through this book. 


What Is “Awakening”?

The definition of awakening, as used here, is an undeniable, permanent shift in what you identify as—what you know yourself to be. It is a shift from believing yourself to be a separate person to perceiving that what you are is always this present, living awareness. Many people think that a permanent awakening is a profound, transcendent, exciting event, but this is a mistake. In the momentary recognition of “no-self” and realizing present awareness as one’s being, there is a clear, sobering perception that you are actually not here. This brief parting of the clouds of I-belief is usually followed by a rush of emotions—excitement, bliss, the thrill of discovery—and many thoughts about what is happening and what it means. 

For most of us, these secondary experiences are mistaken as the awakening itself. This can lead to attempts—sometimes for many years—to recreate that experience with the same physical and emotional elements, believing that is the awakening. This often creates confusion because if these exciting features are not present, it is easy to dismiss the moment when the selfless being is clearly recognized as selfless awareness. Therefore, it is best to simply enjoy the accompanying insights and emotions that come with glimpses of the truth of you, but do not confuse them with the awakening revelation itself. 

Using the metaphor of dreaming and waking helps to get a sense of what is taking place in awakening. Before doing any self investigation, you are in something like a dream state. You cannot see reality, due to the dream condition that occupies your attention and the habit of interpreting experience in a self-oriented way. You generally feel enclosed by the rules and fabric of this dream state. There can be a sense of feeling trapped and severely limited in your options. For mysterious reasons, you may find yourself questioning who and what you are. The desire to break out can become very intense and accelerate as you have glimpses of the awake state, the vision of a very different, expanded sense of your being. When you awaken, the dream remains, but you have a new perspective of reality. You are no longer asleep in the dream; yet you can move freely within the dreamscape and interact with dream characters. You fully realize this, and you see the difference. You realize the actuality of life that is always here and always the case, even while you were in the dream. 


This Present Awareness Is Perfect Awareness

It is essential to realize that there is only one perfect awareness—enlightened consciousness—and it is this awareness that you experience now! I first came upon this perspective through studies of Dzogchen teachings. To look for some kind of grand “enlightened consciousness” beyond your present awareness is simply counter-productive. That’s just going down an investigative rabbit hole. For years, confused and misguided by many of the teachings and teachers I came in contact with, I held onto the idea that I would awaken to a new “enlightened awareness.” Because I overlooked my present experience, I dismissed what was right in front of me. Because I had this fantasy of “reaching enlightenment,” I rejected the simple, marvelous awareness right here in the present. Finally, I realized that this ordinary awareness is perfect awareness. There is no enlightened awareness beyond this one.


The DSI Method

Here I discuss important background information—principles and distinctions of Deep Self Investigation (DSI)—before giving the actual instructions. Once you’ve worked with DSI for a while, you may want to revisit parts of this section.

Not Self Improvement

It’s important to understand that the process of deeply investigating the sense of self is not about self-improvement. It’s about waking up to the truth of what you are beyond all personality traits and I-sense appearances. If what you really want is to improve yourself and be a better “you,” that’s fine, but just recognize it and enjoy that process. There are many teachings and methods available to help with self-improvement. But please don’t confuse them with the process of waking up. In awakening, self-improvement becomes irrelevant and unnecessary. It becomes increasingly clear there is no such thing as a self to improve. “Your” life will change through involvement with DSI, but not in any way that supports the sense of being a separate person. 


Human Maturity

It appears that a fairly high level of what might be considered “human maturity” is necessary for working effectively with DSI. It’s best if you are reasonably competent at managing your life situations: holding a job or having the necessary income to live comfortably and pay your bills, engaging in healthy relationships, managing your material needs, behaving honestly and with integrity, and so on. It’s also beneficial to work through any problematic or life-dominating psycho-emotional issues before coming to this type of work. If you have significant issues with anger, trust, sexual desire, or need to control your environment and others, etc., you may achieve some degree of awakening. Still, the conditioning will reassert itself and create serious issues. 

If you can’t manage these areas of life, you may be so preoccupied with problems that you’ll lack the necessary attention to do a rigorous self-investigation. Try not to fool yourself into believing you can manage serious life challenges and a serious DSI practice at the same time. In my experience working with others, I’ve noted that this is extremely difficult, with a high likelihood of failure. 

On the other hand, there are no perfect beings, no matter what the spiritual scriptures suggest. After awakening, some human imperfection will persist, so there is no need to try to achieve some kind of personal perfection (as if this could ever happen) before undertaking DSI. 


What Is the Practice of Deep Self Investigation?

DSI is a process of questioning all assumptions about YOU. Signs of these assumptions or beliefs will generally show up—not in the form of words or images, but rather as a sense of personal, separate presence felt as in or around the body.

By observing yourself repeatedly and at length, these behaviors and thoughts about you can be recognized. Then, the root beliefs (assumptions) about “you” can be uncovered and questioned. At this point, you can begin to question what these words “I, me, mine” actually represent.

The process of DSI gradually reveals what you actually are—awareness—by seeing through the ultimately fragile and insubstantial sense of being a separate self. It works best if you practice each day, applying it to as many areas of your life as possible. While scheduled periods of exploration may be helpful, you will get the most out of DSI by using it spontaneously in as many typical life situations as possible. This will trigger the many assumptions, feelings, and frameworks you have about your self. The effect of doing this regularly will be to recognize direct reality, and to cause a gradual deconstruction of belief, identification, and attachment to the sense of being a separate self. This will, in turn, allow a greater and greater direct view of your “being” as living awareness.


Discrimination Between Perception And Assumptions

Reality is only what you have a direct experience of in this moment. That is, what you perceive firsthand. The future and the past are not real; they are simply thoughts happening now about remembered or imagined events. I propose that, as you gather information about the sense of self and what you truly are, you engage in exploring this present experience only.

Most of us learn to interpret experience by indiscriminately mixing assumptions (based on secondhand information) with direct perception. Generally, secondhand information is anything relayed to you over the years, by your family or community institutions such as schools and religious centers. This could also be any information that you’ve read or seen (like videos) from any media source—such as the government, or corporate or entertainment industries. We are so accustomed to using second-hand information as fact that we don’t even realize we are doing so. Therefore, we’ve lost the ability to differentiate between what we perceive and what we assume. To discover what you truly are, it is critical to discriminate between these sources of information, and to shift reliance on present experiential perception over beliefs based on unverified, secondhand information. 

In working with Deep Self Investigation, develop your ability to discriminate and utilize just what you can know directly in your present experience, just what you “see” or sense or notice and can verify in the here and now. What does the evidence of this present experience reveal to you? This approach will inform a whole new set of ideas that will serve you well as you discover the truth about what you truly are.


Exploring Spaciousness

DSI is not a mental exercise; it’s an experiential investigation of who and what you are.

Initially DSI involves questions and answers directed at exploring what, if anything, the sense of being a separate “I” is. Is it me, what I actually am, or is it something else? This is the process of exploring the false beliefs about being a separate person.

On occasion, while practicing DSI, questions about the I-sense may come to a natural stop when they distract from easeful noticing. This is perfectly natural, so there is no need at this point to force questions. It’s enough to simply allow attention to do its work without thought, dissolving the sense of I.

As the understanding of our true nature deepens, the clarity of direct experience will continue to deliver information to the mind and allow for the formation of new beliefs that more accurately reflect reality. For example, as you look for a separate “you” in certain sensations, thoughts, or feelings—but don’t find a “you”—some previous certainties about “what you are” may change, or even drop away entirely. Then, new beliefs will fill the vacancy left in thinking structures and processes by the many abandoned beliefs and world views.


Dissolution of Identification

Identification generally progresses through three stages of dissolution. The awakening process can be seen as a progression toward less and less identification with what arises as or about “me.” Using identification with the body as an example, the three levels of identification would be: 


I am this body.

I have a body.

There is a body.


As investigation progresses into the I-sense belief being identical to the body, the body is gradually seen to be more like something you have or possess. With further investigation, it becomes clear that there simply is a body and there is no direct connection from it to what you are. No “you” inhabiting or behind or in possession of it. And further, the body’s obvious presence does not prove the existence of an inhabitant or owner of it. It appears independently in awareness. In the end, there is a body, but what I am is not identical to it nor something that could possess it. Being as awareness without the sense of “I,” the body simply is.

And the same goes for anything believed to be a personal element of or appearance of “you.”


Exploring the I-Sense

DSI involves questioning any evidence in the body and mind that there is a separate you, what I call the I-sense. Often, what you find in response to the questioning will be a combination of belief, sensation, spatial location, or some other physical or mental feature. This cluster of items appears to be “you," a separate entity. Yet no one has ever found an actual “I” behind or connected to the thought or label of “I.” DSI exploration is not just about sending one probe, noticing something, and then stopping. It’s more like asking a question, noticing the answer, asking another related question, looking at the issue from a slightly different angle, noticing the new information, asking another question or the same one if it seems necessary, going deeper, and so on. We repeat the practice over and over as we change investigative position, depth, and angles. 

This may seem like it could get tedious and exhausting. However, I found it fascinating to explore the complexity of life and discover the truth about how I and the world actually exist. Although I took breaks along the way, I always knew there was nothing else I wanted to do more than discover the truth about what I am. So I was inevitably drawn back to self-investigation. 


Two Points of Investigation

There are two areas to explore in DSI. One is investigating what you think you are (the false self); the other is investigating what you actually are (present awareness). During the process, you will move back and forth between these two focal points of investigation, although initially most of the time will involve questioning the false sense of self. The more beliefs that you realize to be false, the easier it is to recognize the primacy of present awareness.


What Does the Word “I” Refer To? 

Knowing intellectually that the sense of separate “I-ness” is only a belief, or set of beliefs, will not serve to dissolve it or even convince us that it's illusory. The truth of this needs to be seen directly in our present experience. We do this by investigating these beliefs and how they tie in to other appearances in the body and mind. This notion of “I” is what we reference almost constantly in the body or mind that feels personal: the “me-ness” or “I-ness.” When you say, “I think…” “I feel...” “I have…” “I saw …” or “this happened to me,” typically there is a personal sense of being the doer or receiver, the one behind spoken words and physical actions. This feeling of a personal self, which underlies these terms, is the actual target of DSI. 


Attention and Awareness 

Attention appears to be an extension of awareness, a form of directed or focused awareness. Sometimes attention seems guided by conditioning around thoughts or feelings. At other times, it seems guided by some forces inherent to awareness, or attention itself, a sort of internal guidance system. In spite of how it appears, the idea that you control attention is gradually seen as false, as the I-sense is revealed for what it is. That is, not a controlling entity, but simply a cluster of objects appearing in awareness. 

What attention falls on in each moment will stand out, with an enhanced and empowered presence and significance. This is why certain ideas—which are always fabrications in the mind—can seem quite real, important, and substantial. The more important and true they seem is a function of how reinforced they are through extended contact with attention. 

No matter how it may seem, attention is not “yours” or controlled by “you.” It is an independent force with its own volition, which can be “coaxed” in a direction but not actually controlled. We can see this in experience, as we think we want attention to stay somewhere, but are rarely able to keep it there for long.  Attention is like an animal with its own intentions. I’ve also noticed that the play of influences changes over time. Early on, we can be predominantly influenced by conditioning: habits, the thought/feeling dynamic, and a desire to “pay attention” to certain things we believe are essential.   

As we develop spiritually and become less “self”-absorbed, beliefs change and conditioning decreases. The power and influence of attention reveal what is actually happening, resulting in more accurate beliefs. DSI works with this, using potent questions to coax attention in a certain direction, but then releasing the question to allow attention to automatically do its work illuminating and informing. This results in new, more accurate beliefs about the way things actually are, which eventually causes changes in how the character interacts with attention. Ultimately, what attention really wants is to go home, to return to awareness.

My current experience is that I know that I am awareness (as I know you are). As awareness, I move or flow, there is an acceptance of what comes in life, and awareness is seen to contain and animate the character, rather than you as the character having awareness. You might imagine attention and awareness as like a dolphin you have come in contact with while swimming in the ocean. You might begin to play with it, coaxing it to let you ride on it, swim with it, play with a beach ball, etc. Over time, you develop such deep respect for the animal that it seems very inappropriate to try to “train” it to serve your whims. Soon you want to simply hang out with it, follow it, let it affect you, develop a relationship of some kind, learn from it, and participate in a “dance” together. At some point, you find you have bonded with the dolphin so much that you forget about yourself and only know the dolphin. 


What Is “Awareness"?

Awareness is not a thing. It cannot be located as an object; it seems to be everywhere and nowhere. And this is important: this present awareness is ultimate awareness. It is sometimes referred to as the ground of being, consciousness, Buddha-nature, or the true Self. There is no other awareness somewhere else!

Investigating present awareness involves asking questions like, Do I exist? Check this out: how do you know you exist? Isn’t it obvious one way or another? What would it be like to not exist? It’s easy to see, of course, that you exist. It’s undeniable that “you are.” Now, what is it like to exist as awareness? This can take you directly into investigating yourself as awareness. 

In terms of your experience of existence, or “being,” awareness/attention is far and away the most significant aspect of what you are. Your separate self-related images, emotions, and sensations are not even remotely as significantly “you” as your sense of being alive, present and conscious. Noticing now, ask yourself, What is the dominant feature of my experience? Body image, sensations, emotions, your story—or something else? 

While awareness is elusive and cannot be objectified—you can’t grab it and say, “This is it!”—it also can’t be denied. It is the sense of being present, alive, conscious, and existing. If you say, “I do not exist,” or “I am not conscious,” these statements are immediately contradicted by the self-evidence of being conscious and existing. Logically, you know that if you were not aware, you wouldn't be able read this now, or even know that you are here. Awareness is like the wind. You know the wind exists by its obvious presence—how it affects you and things around you, like the trees, birds, clouds, and rippling water. You feel it flowing over the skin and ruffling your hair. However, you can’t see the wind itself or capture it and show it to someone. Awareness is much like this.

Ultimately, you’ll find awareness and attention can be trusted. There is much more to awareness than this inherently invisible quality. It is quite mysterious and wonderful—It has elements of intuitive knowing, inherent intelligence, and forces and fields of energy. For now, it is enough to begin to reflect on what it is and how it relates to you.


The Body 


We generally learn to believe that we are contained in our bodies. At the most identified, “I” stops at the skin; what I am is identical to the body’s cells or tissues. Or I may feel that I am located somewhere in the body as if it is a container, with the rest of the world outside of me. We think that it is a subject-object world, and that “I” am the subject, which ends at the body. There can also be the belief of being a soul or spirit residing in the body. In reality, as consciousness or awareness, we are not located in a body at all. This is true for all people. As you get more and more familiar with the awake condition and continue to explore the body, mind, and all of experience, the attachment to the belief in the body as a container diminishes. Eventually it becomes clear that there’s no evidence to support it. 

As awareness, I don’t occupy the body as a container, nor exist as the body’s cells or tissue. “What I am” notices what the body does, and what arises as sensation or feeling in the body, but everything is seen as objects in awareness. Mind content, imagining, thinking, etc., are also just observed, and there is clear seeing that what I am is never existing “as” these mental creations. Even the frequently imagined self, an owner or creator of these objects, is seen as just another thought. There are no longer any beliefs that tie body, thought, feeling, or sensation to an imagined “I.”

Awareness is the most “you” of you. It is the basis of your sense of alive existence and presence. As in my case, you are not the character. You are not the “you” that your beliefs suggest you are. What you are is awareness.


How to Practice DSI

First, know that there isn’t one “right” way to do this self-inquiry. There’s no cut-and-dried manual to follow. Based on your history, your prior understanding, and your mental habits, you will be experimenting with questioning and answering, following the threads until you discover what is true for you. It’s a practice that will evolve through trial and error, so be patient while exploring.


Whether or not you’ve done self investigation before, do your best to set aside your habitual way of thinking as you practice. Of course you’ll need to use your mind as you ask and answer the questions, yet try to rely heavily on your direct perception—what is noticed immediately in the present objective and subjective experience—rather than on mental analysis or cognition. 


Who Am I?


If you are a beginner—one who has never worked with self-inquiry before—start by asking yourself some simple questions about the roles you play in life. Initially, Direct Self Investigation might involve asking a question like, Who am I? As you think of answers such as, a man, a woman, a mother, an artist, a smart person, a friendly person, etc., question whether these descriptions are what you actually are. Or, are they just labels? Do they describe a role you play, something you do, or an ability you have? Your goal is to see what you are behind any role, to see what is behind the “me” that possesses any ability. What exactly are “you” in all that? For example, you might ask, Who am I? and answer, I am a father. You can now question, What is it to be a father? Does ‘father’ describe me, or is it just a label, a role, or an idea? Look closely at your sense of “I” as a father. What does “I” in that statement represent in your present experience? Following the term “I,” what do you find?


Using the “I-Question”

A great way to begin a DSI session is to generate an “I-question” out of any present issue or situation. It can simply be, Who is having this present experience? Try this out now. You might answer, I am. But what does the word “I” represent? Is it me now?

Or, you could create a more specific question—for example, I feel anxious about having to solve all these problems at work. Who is feeling anxious? Get a clear sense and feel for your emotions (around the problem) by repeating this several times and reflecting on the issue. Notice that in the moment it feels personal, true, and about you.

Continue questioning the sense of “I” in your statement, using your present perception of yourself. Now, find the sense of the “I-cluster,” the various elements that make up your personal body/mind experience. These might be bodily sensations, emotions, a sense of where “you” are located, thoughts, beliefs, or something else. As best you can, isolate and question what each piece represents. For example, maybe you feel a personal sense of “you” in a specific place in your forehead or around your eyes. Or, you have a story about yourself, or a feeling that seems central to you in the moment. 


Ask, Is it what I am? 


Yes, this seems to be part of me; it is appearing now, but is it me?


Yes, the feeling of anxiety is present now, but is it what I am? 


Continue, step-by-step, through each of the elements that you’re able to identify, questioning if they are actually part of you, or simply present. 


Exploring The Sense of Location


One focus of DSI can be to explore where you feel located, where “you” mostly seem to be. Where is it located? Get a good sense of this center of you and all its details. Note that it might include vague sensations. Is it in this body? If yes, how do you know this? What is the perceived evidence that suggests so? Where are you exactly? Does it feel like you are in the head, or somewhere else? Usually, this center is perceived to be somewhere in the torso, chest, or head; on rare occasions, it could be nearby but outside the body. Try not to think about where you are located; just look to see where it is perceived that you are. Question all the evidence.

Now, consider whether this is actually you. What are you looking at? Does this sense of you actually prove that you are located where you seem to be? What is this that you feel is you? Are you in the sensation you believe is you, or are you looking at it from somewhere else, outside maybe, or from another perspective? Don’t assume anything; verify it for yourself. How is it possible that you can look at your center or what is central to you, and see this “sense of you” from another perspective? 

If this location is not you, then where else might you be? If you feel as if you are identical to the one who watches all this, where is that “watcher” located? Notice that the location of “you” might seem to move. Can you find the center of this watcher? If you can, just repeat the same questions given above. 

If you don’t feel located in a body, where are you? Are you sure you are not located in a body? How do you know this? Continue to question where you feel located, using the same process described above.

As you continue questioning in this way, you may find that what feels most like you is “witnessing” or awareness, not something that has a location. If this happens, just continue paying attention, noticing, and reflecting on what this un-localized awareness may mean about what you are. 


The Impact of DSI on Beliefs


As you work with DSI, many ideas about what you are will be seen as not true, and fall away. For example, you may recognize that sensations in the body are not “you,” they are simply impersonal sensations arising. Increasingly strive to turn your attention to where the strongest sense of “you” is felt, and remain there as continuously as possible. Look for proof; see if you can find any area that feels more “you” than any other. When you can clearly identify the “you center,” continue to question this. Is this really what I am? Is this really me...? Is this a person… or something else…? Then wait for the answers. If you drift off of that focused point of attention, or get caught up in imaginings or thought, just recognize that and come back as soon as you can. Find the “I-sense” again and bring attention back to it—scanning, probing, exploring, and questioning.

You will notice beliefs about what you are—not as clear thoughts, but rather as a sense that something “feels true.” An example of this is the feeling that you are “behind your eyes” somewhere. It may feel true, but if you look and investigate it, you find this is just a sensation in the head combined with a subtle belief: that sensation proves that I am behind my eyes. As you put attention on the sensation and beliefs, and question whether this is you, there will be a clear sense that these cannot be what you are, and that you are always what is looking at anything that comes up. “You” are somewhere else. 

Over time, during your sessions, attention will stay in place for longer and longer periods. The sense of “I” or “me” will change or seem to move around. It might become more subtle. You can also use questions to find it, such as, Where is the I? What am I? Who is walking or sitting? What is “me”? What is this I? It’s very important to not just think about the answers, but rely on your direct perception to show you what is, or isn’t, really there.


The Signature Identities

Early in the DSI process, you may begin to notice what are your “signature identities,” or significant I-clusters that feel personal, appear most frequently, and are felt to be most like “you." For example, recurring stories that seem true about you and occur in a typical day. There is typically one primary identity, perhaps around your role at work, or even as a spiritual seeker, that is central to how you most often think of your self. It can also just be something like your tendency to try to control situations, react to things that are judged to be “out of order," or wrong or inappropriate. As you explore this I-sense around controlling your world, you can begin to see how fear and threat to “you” play into many of your behaviors. What is this “you” that feels threatened?

As you work with DSI it’s important to first identify what your signature identity or identities might be, and then to keep them in mind while investigating experience throughout the day.


Shifting From Perceiving To Thinking

Particularly during the early-to-mid-stages of DSI work, there is a tendency for attention to move from directly perceiving experience to ideas about experience. This often happens without recognizing the shift, and is generally due to prior conditioning, habit, and a lack of discrimination skills. With continued practice, reliance on perceptual rather than conceptual evidence should increase as one discovers the importance of basing understanding on direct perceptual evidence over any other source of information. 

In some cases, direct perception may trigger fearful emotions, and a less threatening idea will be preferred to perceived reality. This aversion to what is directly perceived is part of an I-cluster, and represented in thoughts like, I won’t consider this as true, or I can’t believe this; there must be some other explanation! In a teaching situation, this often triggers (in the student) a distrust of the guide or an intentional movement toward distracting thoughts. On some occasions this is only temporary and can be worked through. However, in other cases it can be so strong that it stops further progress, ending effective collaboration. This is critical: if the seeker’s underlying intention is anything other than to see the truth of no-self or to awaken from the dream of “me,” then the impulse to awaken is not fully matured.


Recognizing Awareness

As your ability to investigate develops, you will probably have temporary recognitions of “no self,” not being located anywhere. You might perceive a space or vacancy where the center of “you” used to be. This is progress, but just keep noticing and questioning this experience, and going deeper. Is this really vacant? Who is looking? What notices this “no-self”? Look, and try to find from where you see all this. You will find that there is no object there. It will begin to feel that what you actually are—more than anything else—is the present seeing or awareness. 

Over time, there will be brief or extended periods of “waking" during which the sense of being the body or sense of “I” vanishes, and you feel your existence as simply present, alive awareness. Thoughts may cease completely, and awareness may seem to expand and fill the space around you, accompanied by energetic sensations, bliss, joy, and a deep sense of connectedness to all life. Usually, this is a pleasant or emotionally neutral experience. However, on occasion, the various sensations may feel overwhelming. If the experience becomes uncomfortable, just relax, breathe, and take a break from the exercise until you are ready to resume. My experience is that uncomfortable feelings or energies are quite rare and subside quickly. Eventually, all strong sensations, whether blissful and unpleasant, become less. Clear seeing of the way things are becomes the new normal. As we will discover, however, it is not “normal” at all. 


The DSI Question/Perception/Answer Format


Unlike other forms of investigation we might engage in, Deep Self Investigation does not involve analyzing our experience. The majority of the time spent doing DSI involves simply perceiving or noticing what is actually present in regards to the sense of self. Initially this takes the form of “question-notice-answer" format. You might ask, What is this sense of me?, then locate in perception the direct experience of the sense of me. You can now formulate a response describing what is noticed, such as, I seem to be here in my head. This answer is followed by a deeper probing question, Is this sense of me in my head what I am?, followed by perceiving or noticing what is there, and then completed by describing what is observed, after which we form a new, deeper probing question, look to see what is true, then form an answer, and continue repeating the process. Often what happens during the process is that attention gets drawn off into some unrelated form of thinking. When this is noticed, we simply resume the self investigation. However, as we progress, there will be periodic experiences of no-self or selfless awareness. At this point, questioning may cease naturally with this deeper level of clarity. Initially these moments of clarity will be fleeting, but in time they linger for longer periods of time.

During the early stages of practice, the question/perception/answer steps are relied on heavily to help direct attention to the strongest locale and appearance of our personal existence and away from discursive thinking. But as we become more familiar with the inner terrain and locale of the I-sense, the thought-based question and answer approach will often give way to more of a feeling/perceiving of the sense of self in the moment, and the background to this personal appearance.


The Power of Strong Questions


In the culture of spiritual opinion, it’s easy to get the idea that waking up to the reality about your “self” is mysterious and complicated. I don’t find it this way at all. The issue could simply be reduced to mistaken beliefs taken to be true. If you are confused about your identity and feel the desire to know the truth about what you actually are, then you must question the assumptions that underlie what you believe yourself to be. Knowing the truth of what you are not, and what you actually are, is really the point of “waking up.” DSI involves learning the truth by methodically questioning these assumptions which are the basis of beliefs about you.

Attention can also explore awareness (what you are); however, this process is different because awareness cannot be located as an object, like thoughts or body sensations. Direct exploration of awareness is more like open attention “sensing” itself, noticing wakefulness, presence, or simply “being.” 

Eventually, there comes a point where investigation reveals that the combination of any belief in being an individual self, along with sensations, emotions and so on, are nothing like a “person” at all. The person is a cluster of independent, impersonal appearances. This results in a type of shock wave in understanding. With awakening, there is a clear and final understanding that there is no individual self or “me” anywhere. Without self-referencing beliefs dominating attention, identification with thoughts or sensations in the body/mind opens into free attention. There may be an immediate recognition of what you are at this point, or this may reveal itself over a period of time. 

The reality of “no-self” is recognized when beliefs in “you” are seen through.There is a realization that you do not exist as any thing—and yet a sense of existing—or aware presence—remains. Not your aware presence, just impersonal aware existence. Awareness and attention move freely in this condition. DSI is no longer necessary. Seeking of teachers and teachings ends and life becomes more a process of childlike exploration and discovery.


A Sample Round Of Questioning

Start by taking a few deep breaths and notice what is going on in your present experience. Turn attention to where you feel the strongest sense of “I” or “me.” Below is an example of what a DSI session can look like: a series of questions, answers to those questions, and then questions about the answers, and so on. What is not evident in this script are the pauses to allow perception to do its work, but try to imagine them between statements as you read along. Remember that this process is mostly perceiving rather than thinking.


Who is having this present experience?…… I am. 


Where is the sense of “I” located…?…… It's always right here.…… hmmm? Where to look? I’m not sure, seems like that sense of me changed...


Well, am I here or completely gone?…… I'm here…yeah, definitely feel present somewhere... not sure where. Looking…… Wait!, go back one level...


Who is doing all this stuff I'm doing?…… There does feel like a “me” is here, now, in or behind all my actions doing these things… 


What is that feeling of being here?…… Somewhere around the upper body... or mind space…… looking around, feeling around. 


Where do I feel located the most?…… I feel this “me-ness” now, here, riding high in the body……okay …… locked in it, kind of nebulous in the upper part of the body, now I'm looking into that ….. hmmm?…… can’t find anything… No, there it is, very subtle…like smoke, a feeling of location…… gone now… 


Does that feeling of being here actually prove anything?…… Now it seems I'm still here watching all this stuff. 


Is there another sense of “me,” the watcher?…… Sometimes I think I find the “I,” then it moves or changes or……?……


What is watching as me?… (looking)…… I now have a feeling that I'm the watcher somehow, seeing from somewhere…Feels like I’m around the eyes…… is that true? No, behind the body…… yes, up above the head … 


What is that exactly?…… Need to look closely…… a sense of “me” there, watching……


Is that true, am “I” there?…… Yes, it does seem like I am there…… seems I am positioned there…… checking it out………… yeah…… there… keep checking it out……

The key is to keep the tempo up: ask a question, notice what’s happening, answer, notice again to verify, then ask a deeper probing question and explore that. Move back and forth between questions and answers, all the while staying grounded in your direct perceptions. Just notice what is true. Notice what direct experience—just what you are aware of now—presents to you as the answer. The answer is not what you think it should be; it’s what reality reveals to you. 

Early on, attention will slip back and forth between direct perception and thoughts about what is happening, without being aware of this shift. DSI involves simply looking and reporting what is there, where you expect yourself to be most present. What is at the center of this I-ness? It seems like I am there. Is this true? Do I actually reside there? Am I experiencing life from there? Am I identical to that? 

Vary the questions. Most will drill down into some specific assumption about the self, challenging a belief. Sometimes a question will go to the wider view: Who is walking on the road? or Does it feel like I am working on this project? Watch for the sense of a doer, a you behind the actions. Try using questions that trigger an emotional response—something that triggers a personal feeling or sense of “ownership”—and then look for the personal me in it. What does “me” refer to in experience? As the process gets refined, look for very subtle assumptions about your identity: Is there any “I” here at all? Be ready to see if there is a recognition of “no-self.” 

It’s important to be persistent and keep at self investigation in every area of your life. It can go on for a minute or two, or for longer periods. In my case, I rarely planned to do DSI. For example, I didn’t schedule a daily time, but eventually I practiced every day in many different situations, whenever I remembered to look. There are literally hundreds of opportunities throughout the day to look for this separate person that you seem to be. As you progress, you will notice new perspectives on the sense of a separate self. All of life becomes more like a stage play that you simply observe from outside the performance.


Making Use of Potent Statements

Another DSI tool is to make strong, sometimes even speculative, “statements” to check your assumptions for truth, accuracy, and validity. These kinds of statements can guide attention deep into experience. An example of a potent statement is, There is no one here. Is this true? Then explore that experience through perception. Follow with questions like, How do I know it is true? Or, Is this statement false? How do I know it is false? Keep looking for evidence and move toward clarity and certainty. Other potent statements are: There is no you, only this. Is this true? Look at your experience and see if this is true. I am this awareness. Is this true? How can you confirm it? What is awareness? Find awareness in your experience. Get a feel for the obviousness of being consciousness. It may seem very subtle, but keep trying to sense that it is here, now. Is this awareness (that which allows me to experience what is going on) what I am ultimately looking for? Look and search throughout the body, mind, and the experience of the world around you to confirm if there is any present evidence to support or contradict any of these statements.


Finding I-Sense Through Issues

Begin by recognizing any concern you have in the moment and make it into an “I-statement.” For example, “I am worried about finding a new job.” Notice what the word “I” in the statement represents. Question what this term “I” represents in your experience. Is it what I am? Is it a person? Is the “I” something? See that the “sense of I” is only that: a thought interpreting other appearances and stating, This is me! The sense of “I” is not a person, not what you are, not an actual “I." When this sense of “I” is seen as just what it is, what remains of you?

Alternatively, notice that this present awareness is aware of the I-cluster. What is it that knows this sense of you with its various elements? Does it seem like this present sense of you is what you actually are, or is it simply another appearance to what you are? Feeling/noticing the sense of being awareness, rest in its simplicity. Notice this condition is devoid of: being a separate person, future or past, thoughts, concerns, and suffering. 




Exercise 1: Timeless Awareness

Notice that you are aware now. Remember some situation, such as on a playground, when you were a child. Consider that the awareness that witnessed your child body and mind there on the playground is the same as this present awareness.  That is, it appears to “see” in the same way, and unlike the body and mind having changed dramatically since that time, it appears virtually the same. There is not “child awareness” different from this present “adult awareness." Notice which of these appears to be more what you are, the changing body and mind, or the unchanging awareness here now?


Exercise 2: Noticing Where You Are  

Notice the room around you. There is awareness of this room now.  Close your eyes and notice that what awareness is aware of changes, but the “seeing” of the darkness is the same “seeing” of the room. Awareness did not change during the transition. Sense the presence and nature of this unchanging awareness. Notice that, as scenes and events change throughout the day, this awareness remains the same.


Exercise 3: This Experience Without You

Imagine what this experience would be like without you.    

Everything here just as it is, but you are not present, only the awareness of the experience without someone who is aware.   


Just this.   


All sense of personal is gone.  


No story about you ever having lived.      


Imagine that what you are has always just watched everything.  


Not you watching, only watching happening.  



Exercise 4: No You, Just This One Being  


This exercise is experiential; it’s about looking right now at what experience is like as you consider this story. 

Imagine there is a hyper-intelligent being that exists. You could call it God, or Supreme Intelligence, but we’ll just call it the Awareness. It’s neither singular nor multiple. Let’s consider that this Awareness is present as you now. This is your actual experience. What you experience, the actuality of what you are, this present consciousness—is that being. And right now, it is using this character, this body/mind, as a vehicle to have this experience. This that you are, the very presence that you feel here, the existence that you feel here, is that hyper-intelligent, infinite, omnipotent, being-ness manifesting right now. And everything that you think you are—everything that is thought to be your separate self—is really just that vehicle. Being a vehicle is not bad; it’s actually good. The vehicle is awareness manifesting as a person. When you’re paying attention and you’re seeing beyond the sense of self—when you’re experiencing that sense of alive awareness—you may recognize that which you actually are. Not “a being,” just being-ness. The character that you seemed to be is recognized as just another appearance, like a tree, or a dog, or a stone, or a trash can. 


Exercise 5: Self Investigation While Walking


One of my favorite practices was to find a trail and work with DSI while walking. You can combine strings of questions like those presented earlier in “A Sample Round of Questioning” (pg. *) to keep the inward-directed attention going, or keep repeating the same question, looking for the answer. 

Find a place with safe paths where you can easily walk without tripping or negotiating around things, and won’t see too many other travelers. 

Walk at a moderate, comfortable pace. Relax your gaze as you both watch your body moving on the path and the surroundings, and also watch what is going on inside your body and mind.

As your body walks on the trail, become aware of the inner spaces in the body and mind and any sense of you being there in the body, in any form. Find the strongest sense of you, wherever it is. As you sense a location, an “I” sensation that you believe is you, begin to investigate this using your favorite DSI questions. Or you can ask, Who is walking? Where is the I? Alternatively, you can just look without asking questions and sense whether you feel that you’re anywhere in the body. What you will find, even if you start with many questions, is that the mental questioning will slow or stop. You will be just looking and noticing what is there. 

Continue walking and looking inside, scanning the body for any sense of you, holding attention there as long as possible. If you drift into thought, just come back to looking for the I-sense when you notice you are not investigating any longer. If you can’t find any sense of I in the body, notice this state of “no I.” Question it: What does this mean that there is no “I” here? What is it that is here? As noticing continues, allow the actual condition of experience to sink in. What is the nature of the noticing? Is there a “noticer”? What is the relationship of noticing to that which is noticed? Does noticing seem localized or simply like an “atmosphere” of awareness? Awareness can begin to become obvious and pervasive in experience at this point. Continue to notice whatever happens.


About Dan Kelso

Dan has worked for over 30 years refining techniques in self inquiry into an approach he termed "deep self investigation." He has studied with many of the well known non-dual teachers along the way. About ten years ago he experienced a permanent shift in the sense of identity, from the appearance of a separate self to boundless, living awareness. Since that time, Dan has been involved in guiding others to awaken through his writings, videos, and personal instruction.