Are You Staying in Inquiry or Drifting Out of It While You Work?

The road of inquiry can be followed strictly or loosely, like the tracks through this green field. It's up to you.
Sometimes the difference between being on the road and off the road is very subtle.

What Does It Mean to Be in Inquiry?

Twice in the last week, clients have asked me to tell them if they are staying in inquiry or drifting out of it while doing The Work of Byron Katie. What a valuable question! Because The Work only works when you answer the questions.

So what does it mean to be “in inquiry”? Let’s say I’m questioning the thought, “She doesn’t like me.” If I’m working with a facilitator, my facilitator will ask me, “She doesn’t like you, is it true?” To be in inquiry would mean to contemplate this question, considering all aspects of it until I can land on a yes or a no. In other words, my entire focus is on answering this question, “Is it true?”

On the other hand, to be out of inquiry can mean several things. I can be out of inquiry by getting distracted by other thoughts (forgetting the question). I can be out of inquiry by defending my original stressful point of view. I can be out of inquiry by explaining why I think I’m right, or why it’s not fair, or why this isn’t a good question. And I can be out of inquiry if I get pulled into my story and my emotions so strongly that I forget what question was even asked. 

Inquiry Is Challenging Myself to See Things Differently

When I’m in inquiry, I’m answering the question given and challenging myself to look at things differently. When I’m out of inquiry, I’m defending, justifying, explaining, feeling overwhelmed, or getting distracted. And that means that I’m staying in the same line of thinking that is stressing me. As a result, I’m missing out on seeing things differently.

Of course, this is fine. There is no rule that says that you have to do inquiry. You never have to answer the questions. Like the road above in the grass, there are many places you can drive. There is total freedom to go in any direction. But the road shows an efficient way to reach a particular viewpoint. You don’t have to take it, but it can be rewarding if you do.

Different Facilitators Will Hold You More or Less Tightly

As you work with different facilitators, you’ll find that each one has his or her own tolerance level for people being out of inquiry. Some will bring a client back if they even start to go off the road. Others will let the client explore going off road until they realize on their own that they are off and come back naturally. 

It’s a balance between staying in inquiry and not making the client feel boxed-in, or wrong, during inquiry. Basically, each facilitator has a different style. Some are more loose (like me), while some are more strict. And both ways are good. 

I may err on the side of not making the client feel wrong, while another may err on the side of not letting the client get away with anything. These two extremes are like the two shoulders on the road; the sweet spot lies in the middle. And finding and adjusting to that ever-changing sweet spot is the art of facilitation. 

The Important Thing Is to Know the Difference

Whether you allow yourself to wander in and out of The Work, or hold yourself tightly to The Work is a matter of personal preference. The main thing is to be aware of what you’re doing. For this, I suggest the following exercise.

Ask your facilitator to take notes as you do your work (this is not normally done in facilitation). Have them write down pretty much everything you say. Then go through it with them after the session and evaluate each statement. Were you answering the question there, or not? This can bring a lot of awareness to your inquiry.

You may still decide to give yourself the freedom to wander a bit in inquiry, but with this awareness, you know what you’re doing. It’s like saying, I know I’m headed along the road to the vista, but I’m want to put that on hold for a minute while I check out this side attraction. There’s no harm in it. I just know that it will take me a little longer to get to the vista, and I’m fine with that. 

But, with awareness, I may also find that I just want to keep moving towards the vista. I’ll check out the side attractions on the way back, or maybe not at all. This awareness of the difference between being in inquiry and being out of inquiry gives options. And options give a feeling of freedom. But they also can lead to more efficient action. 

So Test It for Yourself

Only you can know for sure if you are wandering, defending, getting lost in your story, or not. And the more aware you are of what you’re doing, the more efficient you’ll become at doing The Work. 

Join us for my online course, The Work 101, and learn more of the nuances of this meditation practice,.

Have a great week,

“I’m a lover of truth. And when someone sits on this couch with me, I am clear that he is, too. I love you. I want what you want. If you want to keep your story, that’s what I want. If you want to answer the questions and realize what’s really true for you, that’s what I want.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further Reading: Do You Find it Challenging to Facilitate Other People?