The sharp split in our experience between subject and object— between observer and observed— leaves us with the enduring mystery of what is inside and what is outside. A 1997 book stated the dilemma this way: is reality a figment of the mind, or the mind a figment of reality? (Stewart & Cohen, 1997).
But this is a trick question, really, because the very form of the question presupposes a dualism which is false to begin with. Mind and reality cannot be separated; mind should not be conceived as being in opposition to a universe of which is it an inextricable part.
And yet, it is hard for us to directly discern even under the best of circumstances that the world we experience is a state of mind. This has been termed the “root delusion” of mind. It is similar to the idea of ignorance (“avidya”) in Buddhism, and stands in contrast to the wisdom of a non-dual view.
“Man’s mind mirrors a universe that mirror’s man’s mind” (Joseph Chilton Pearce).
The method of inquiry is an awareness practice. When we find ourselves stuck in a subjective hole, we can frame a question… hold it in Presence… and then metaphorically release that mental “?” out into subjective space. In this way, inquiry can be likened to throwing a boomerang: We frame a question and then listen for answers which come back to us in the form of thoughts, insights or happenings.
Zen Roshi Richard Baker told the following story that beautifully illustrates how this process works:
I dreamt I was trying to solve a problem. A brown phone kept ringing in the background, distracting me. Finally, annoyed, I picked it up. The voice on the other end told me the answer to the problem.
In the mystery of unconscious process, it feels as though life is alive and responsive to the questions we ask, and that answers are summoned by our intention to discover something.
[While the roshi’s teaching story conveys the idea of inquiry, it is important to remember that our own answers come in their own time and their own way, and sometimes become known to us only in hindsight and in the light of self-reflection.]
The quality of Therapeutic Presence which is cultivated in mindfulness practice (either therapist’s practice or client’s) is instrumental in deepening therapeutic intimacy. By relaxing into stillness and focusing attention on the felt sense of the now-moment, the healing potential of the therapeutic encounter is amplified. We may think of such presence as the basic experience of being alive and aware, Together.
Presence facilitates the occurrence of “therapeutic now moments”. In my book (cf https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01N24V17T) , I also call such healing moments “blood moments”, borrowing a metaphor from the Native American ritual in which tribes mixed their blood in a celebration of bonding.
In therapeutic blood moments, new aspects of self come into being.