Organising an Enquiry Group
As I have explored in the book Understanding Me, Understanding You and on this website, hidden from our awareness, the human mind functions in similar ways in all of us. We think we are unique, because we identify with the content of our memory, which is always unique. In the background though, our minds function in similar ways - just as computers run the same operating system even though they have different contents stored in their memory. For example, the fear we experience, its mechanism, and its effect on our lives is the same for us all, even though we may be afraid of different things.
Because our minds function in similar ways we can explore it together, by asking questions and through self-awareness. Discovering the truth of something for ourselves is far more important than just reading about it and has a far greater impact on our lives, because it results in effortless change.
An enquiry group is a place for serious people to gather and explore this mind we all share. I have participated in these groups in Jersey, Australia, Hong Kong and in the UK.
Understanding ourselves and the way our mind functions helps us to understand others better and that brings harmony to our relationships. This understanding also allows us to live with intelligence, wisdom, compassion and a sense of inner peace.
There is no fixed number, but each person must have a chance to contribute. I’d say if its more than 10-12 people, it is difficult for everyone to participate.
Groups where there has been a facilitator have usually worked better and they can help the enquiry in several ways:
- Ensuring everyone has a chance to speak.
- Introducing the question for the day.
- Bringing the discussion back to the question being explored.
- Asking questions that deepen the enquiry.
- Ensuring that no one dominates the proceedings with their opinions.
- Trying to see that there is a thread to the enquiry.
- The emphasis is to uncover how the mind works in the background, and the implications of that in our lives- rather than repeat some opinion or philosophy.
- Dominating the conversation.
- Being insensitive to the needs of the participants. Some may be shy and need some encouragement to speak.
- Pushing a particular view point or opinion or steering group towards one.
- Being rude/dominating/thinking they have some authority.
- One way to avoid this is to rotate the role of the facilitator in the group.
- Starting from a position of ‘I know and they don’t’.
- I’ve done different things. I’ve advertised in the local paper and library, run a group in a university by calling and asking if they would be interested, and also in a local school by calling and asking them.
- The group is also a social event and friendships can form. Nurturing that is important.
- I usually allow 2 hours for a meeting
- Frequency of meeting can be decided by the group.
- Why have we gathered here? Are there some hidden needs we hope will be met?
- How do we listen? What is involved in listening?
- Opinions- how do they form, why are they different, how do they impact our lives?
- Relationships. What are our needs that we hope relationships will fulfil?
- Belief – its origin and impact on our lives
- Stress/Sorrow/Sadness- the origin of that feeling and the mechanism behind it
- Fear- the mechanism behind it and the impact on our lives
- Conditioning- how does the environment and our past influence our present?
- Ambition/Success. What is behind that feeling of wanting more, and the implications of that.
- A fuller list is available here
Sometimes after a meeting there is a special feeling in the air, a sense of grace, that we somehow stumbled upon a shared truth, or made a discovery. These are some thoughts about that process:
- When a question is asked, does the answer come from our memory, or from holding the question in the present? If it comes from my past it is an opinion and lacks that freshness of discovery and the answer has a different quality.
- The energy in an enquiry group is based on more than what is said. It is the quality of the awareness and enquiry that people bring that makes a difference.
- If a universal truth is discovered in the moment, it has a far greater impact than just repeating something we have read or heard.
- If each person holds the questions, and pauses, and reflects on what rises in their mind before speaking, it has a different quality.
- An awareness of one’s own self-interest operating in the background is important, to stop it corrupting the enquiry or hijacking it for our own needs. See the book chapter on self-interest for more on the subject.
- If the enquiry stays focussed on the question for the day and is not just a talking shop for people to meet their need to express themselves. It thrives if people actually hold the question in the moment and dig deeper.
I showed a powerpoint presentation to the whole class, explaining what the enquiry group was all about. Those who were interested then joined the group. Some left after they joined leaving a core group of about 10-15.
- We met weekly for a period of 6 weeks- just to keep their focus, and not too long that they lost interest.
- The aim was just to introduce them to the process of self-enquiry and then they could carry on, on their own.
- I made it clear that in the enquiry we were the same and there was no ‘teacher’ because we all shared the same mind.
- I found that if the right questions were put to them, they were able to grasp it straight away.
- It's important to set the background for the enquiry group, otherwise it just becomes a talking shop, with a lot of opinions expressed but no illumination.
- I emphasized that a ‘discovered’ truth had far more impact that one received as a piece of knowledge- using an analogy that to truly understand what water tasted like you had to drink it and no description would be a substitute – or quench ones thirst.
These are just snippets from my own experience and your own group will evolve to its own shape
One of the goals of the Human Enquiry Project is to bring this ability to look within and understand the many hidden ways the mind works, into education worldwide. At present we are taught about the world around us but not about ourselves and this is responsible for our many problems. Eventually I hope young people will be taught this alongside their Maths and Science, as equally if not more important. So please share your own experience of organising an enquiry group, and anything that you think may help others. You can email email@example.com – thank-you. We will add that to the website.