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.]