Questions for Enquiry

The right question is often the key that opens the door to our understanding of ourselves and how our minds function. Here you will find a series of questions, grouped under different topics that you can use for self-exploration, or in a group. If you have any suggestions please get in touch.

Questions for Self-exploration

  1. What is ambition?
  2. Are you ambitious for yourself? For your children? For groups you identify with?
  3. What is the energy that drives an ambitious person? What happens when you achieve what you set out to do?
  4. What happens when you don’t get what you want?
  5. Why are we ambitious? What do we hope that will bring us?
  6. What is involved in ambition?
  7. Does an ambitious person live with love, compassion, goodness?
  8. What does it mean for the world if we are all as ambitious as each other?
  9. What is success? What are the yardsticks that societies the world over use to measure it?
  10. How do you measure success in your life?
  11. Why do we want to be successful?
  12. Why do we want to be wealthy?
  13. Is it possible to be successful and not be ambitious?
  14. Is it possible for the love of what we do to be the energy that drives our work?
  15. Why do you think success sometimes makes people feel unhappy and unfulfilled?
  16. Is there an alternative to a life of ambition?
  1. When was the last time you were angry. What caused it? How did you feel?
  2. Is anger the same in all human beings, or is it individual to each of us?
  3. What happens when you get angry? Did you spot the hurt or indignation or sense of being attacked that you felt just before the anger came?
  4. Could you see your anger rising in you, or did it explode before you were able to stop it?
  5. Do you think your anger is always the other person’s fault, or is it something that starts in you?
  6. If it starts in you, should you be taking responsibility for it?
  7. How do you think your anger makes the other person feel? 
  8. How do you react when someone is angry with you? Do you think others react in the same way to your anger?
  9. What could be the effects of anger on your body?
  10. When you say ‘I should not be angry’- does that ever stop you being angry?
  11. Think of a situation when someone got angry at you. Were you aware that you were going to make them angry? Or was it unintentional?
  12. What might the best response be when someone is angry with you?
  13. What is the best way of dealing with a situation where you are angry?
  14. Is there a certain sense of pleasure in getting angry, at letting go and losing control?
  15. Is it possible to live with intelligence, so anger has its place, and is not a destructive force in our lives?
  16. Is it possible to live with that sensation that rises in us and not label it as anger? What happens when we are able to do that?
  17. If we all understood the roots of anger, would that lead to a more peaceful world?
  1. What is perception? What happens in your brain when you see something in the world outside you? What is the process behind it?
  2. Have you noticed how your view on a situation can be completely different to another person, seeing the same set of facts? Why do you think that happens?
  3. Do you notice that your perception of a situation directly affects your feelings about it?
  4. Do you notice that your perception of a situation affects the action that follows?
  5. Have you ever paused to ask yourself if there is another way of looking at the same situation? Do you notice how your feelings change when you do that?
  6. Has your perception of a situation or a person changed over time? Do you think the situation or person changed, or did you? What does this tell you about how perception works?
  7. Do you know people who are mostly optimistic and others who are mostly pessimistic? What do you think is behind that?
  8. Do you think that our different views of the same situation create disharmony between human beings? How could one consider dealing with that disharmony? Would an understanding of the process behind our perceptions help?
  9. Do you see that your perception is based on the particular content of your memory and is a response to that? Do you see that other people's perceptions are based on a response to their memories?
  10. Does this understanding help you to deal with their reactions differently? Perhaps with more empathy?
  11. What situations can you think of where there is no gap between perception and action? And think of situations where action or change does not follow perception. What is the difference between the two situations?
  12. What is intuition? Have you ever had an intuition about something?
  13. What is self-awareness? How is it different from perception?
  14. Have you noticed there is always a 'me' recording everything?
  15. What happens when your awareness includes what you are thinking and the ‘me’ who is recording everything?
  16. What happens when we integrate our perception of what is happening in the world outside, with an awareness of our body, what we are thinking and the ‘me’ recording it all?
  1. What is belief? How is it different from fact?
  2. What are the different types of beliefs?
  3. Give examples of beliefs people in your family hold. What beliefs do you think you have?
  4. Why do you think we get attached to our beliefs? Are you attached to any of yours?
  5. What are the implications of being attached to a belief system?
  6. What are the benefits of belief?
  7. Do beliefs divide people from each other? If yes, think of examples of these.
  8. What internal beliefs do you have about yourself, your abilities and things you cannot do?
  9. Can belief be a cause of war?
  10. Why do you think we need to have beliefs? Do we consciously go out and acquire them (like a book or a piece of music), or do they seep into us from our environment?
  11. Is it possible to change another person,s belief system?
  12. Is it possible to live without belief? What would happen if we could?
  13. What do we need to do to live without belief?
  1. Do you recognise this activity of comparison in yourself?
  2. What are the many different ways in which this process of comparing works in our lives?
  3. Is which ways is it essential for life?
  4. And in which ways does it cause problems?
  5. What are the range of feelings that comparing yourself with others can generate?
  6. Can this affect one’s actions? In what way?
  7. How can the process of comparison affect our relationships?
  8. How does comparison affect our children?
  9. Is comparison behind our feelings of envy? How does it affect you?
  10. How can this process affect our life choices?
  11. Does the process of comparison make us want to imitate others?
  12. Does comparison result in stress? In what way?
  13. Can you ‘stop’ comparing if you want to?
  14. Does comparison blind us to the beauty of the world and stop us seeing people freshly?
  15. When groups and countries we identify with compare themselves with each other, what are the results of that?
  16. Is there an alternative to the whole process of comparison with others?
  17. Is it possible to live with an awareness of how the process of comparison operates in the background and affects our lives?
  1. Think of a close friend or family member. Can you think of a pattern of behaviour or thinking that may have been influenced by their past?
  2. Now ask yourself the same question.
  3. Do you see patterns of behaviour and thinking repeating in your life?
  4. What is the origin of that pattern?
  5. How does the process of conditioning, where we are influenced by our past, actually work?
  6. How much control do you think we have over our thoughts and actions?
  7. How much control do other people have over their thoughts and actions?
  8. Is it possible to break the link between our past and our present?
  9. Think of an example where you were able to spot this and change.
  10. What are the various conditioning influences in your life? Are they similar to everyone else?
  11. Next time you are critical of someone else, ask yourself if you would have been very different if you’d had the same past as them.
  12. Does this understanding of the conditioning process lead you to better understand others and have more compassion for them?
  13. Besides our past, what other conditioning influences operate in all human beings? What is genetic memory?
  14. How does the media and advertising influence us? Think of an example in your own life where you have been influenced by the media or advertising. Did you realise it at the time?
  15. Why is it so easy for others to influence our thinking and actions? Do we realise we are being influenced?
  16. How does conditioning affect our relationships?
  17. How does it affect the food we eat? And our career choices? And our choice of romantic partners?
  18. How does conditioning affect our beliefs and opinions?
  19. How many of the problems that young people face could be solved you think, if they understood that they were conditioned?
  20. What other world problems could be solved if we all understood that we were conditioned?
  1. Do you think about the death of loved ones? How does that make you feel?
  2. Has someone you loved, died? How did that feel?
  3. Why do you think the death of a loved one makes us feel so sad? What is behind that sadness?
  4. Do you ever reflect on your own death? What arises when you do?
  5. Why do you think human beings are afraid of death?
  6. What is it that we are afraid to let go?
  7. What belief systems and fables have human beings created about life after death? Why has every society for thousands of years done this? What do you think happens after death?
  8. Do you feel connected with the Universe where everything that is born ends one day? No? Why do you feel separate from it?
  9. Is it possible to become comfortable with the fact of death? What would it take for human beings to do this?
  10. Does complete acceptance of a fact and its consequences take away the fear associated with it?
  11. Is it possible to prepare for death? Will that help enhance the life we live?
  1. What is desire? How is it different from need?
  2. How is desire born? What is the process behind it?
  3. What are the different desires operating in your life?
  4. Think of a time when a desire was fulfilled – you got what you wanted – how did you feel?
  5. How long did that feeling last?
  6. Think of a time when you did not get something you really wanted- how did that make you feel?
  7. Think of a desire that you may have that is not obvious at first glance.
  8. Do you find that the objects of your desire seem to get bigger over time?
  9. Has desire set up any patterns of behaviour in your life or in the people around you?
  10. Have you ever done things you regretted, driven by desire?
  11.  When the feeling of ‘wanting something’ is active in you, are you able to consciously stop doing something that you feel is wrong?
  1. Can you try and describe fear?
  2. What are the things you are afraid of in your life?
  3. How does fear come about? What is the mechanism behind fear?
  4. What effect does fear have on you?
  5. What effect does it have on others?
  6. Are some fears hidden? What are your hidden fears?
  7. Do our fears shape our lives in ways we are not aware of?
  8. Are prejudice and racism linked to fear?
  9. Is there a link between fear and thinking?
  10. Is fear individual or common to all human beings?
  11. Can fear be controlled or stopped?
  12. Is there a relationship between fear and worry?
  13. Is fear a reaction to negative events in our lives? Could you give an example?
  14. Can fear make us aggressive? Can that translate to a national level? Can fear lead to war?
  15. What effect does acceptance of the facts have on our fear?
  16. Is it possible to live a life without fear? What would that life look like?
  1. What is a habit?
  2. What is an addiction?
  3. Are they different?
  4. What habits do you have?
  5. Do you have any addictions?
  6. What are the different sorts of addictions you know of?
  7. What is the cost to the individual and society of these addictions?
  8. What is the mechanism behind the formation of a habit?
  9. Why do we get addicted?
  10.  What is the process behind our addictions and our habits? What is that feeling before you give in to a habit or addiction?
  11.  Is thinking a habit?
  12. Is the search for pleasure behind all our addictions?
  13. Why is the human mind constantly chasing pleasure?
  14.  How is one to escape a habit or an addiction?
  15. Can habits and addictions be prevented from forming? How could we do that?
  16. Is Obesity linked to our habits around food, which we use for pleasure?
  1. What is happiness?
  2.  How can we begin to explore the subject?
  3. What are the things that make us unhappy?
  4. What are the things that make us happy?
  5. Is happiness linked to our attitude? In what way?
  6. If we change our perception does it affect our state of happiness?
  7. Is happiness linked to our expectations?
  8. Is happiness pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure?
  9. Does the pursuit of pleasure increase the risk of being unhappy?
  10. What is behind wanting to be happy? What is that feeling in me that ‘being happy’ will get rid of?
  11. Is happiness linked to being content?
  12. If we understood and avoided the many things that make us unhappy, would we be happy?
  13. Is our unhappiness a creation of our own thinking? If it is, can we take responsibility for it?
  14. Why are human beings so discontented?
  15. What are the habits of happy people? Are there things we can do to be happier?
  1. What are the different things you identify with? What is it that defines 'You'?
  2. Have you noticed the process of identification at work? How a bicycle changes from being 'the bicycle' to 'my bicycle'? Or from 'a phone' to 'my phone'? 
  3. Do you identify with some ideas and beliefs you have?
  4. What achievements of yours do you identify with? What talents?
  5. Does the process of identification sets you up for the cycle of pleasure and pain?
  6. What happens when an object you identify with is damaged or stolen?
  7. What are the different problems associated with identity?
  8. Are you the same person when you meet different people, or slightly different with each person?
  9. Why do you think that is?
  10. What do you think that suggests about the structure of the 'I' or the 'Me'?
  11. Do you experience the 'Me' as a separate entity?
  12. How do you think it has come into being?
  13. Does the experience of patients who have Alzheimer’s disease and lose their memory provide any clue?
  14. Could the sense of 'I' be an illusion, created by our thinking process?
  15. Have you ever felt lonely? Could that be connected to the 'I'?
  16. What are the features of this sense of 'I' and 'Me' that are common to all human beings?
  17. If you look for the 'I' inside yourself, can you find it?
  18. Is the 'I' there during our sleep? What does that indicate about the nature of the 'I'?
  1. What happens during the process of listening?
  2. Have you ever felt deeply listened to? How did that feel?
  3. And have you felt no one was listening to you? How did that feel?
  4. Why do think listening is important?
  5. Do we compare everything we hear to something we already know?
  6. How well do you listen? Why do human beings listen so poorly?
  7. Think of an example where someone misunderstood what you were saying. What were the reasons behind this?
  8. What is non-verbal communication? What are the different ways we communicate non-verbally? How important is that?
  9. Are we constantly scanning a conversation and 'agreeing' or 'disagreeing', being 'bored' or 'interested'? Why?
  10. Are we always scanning a conversation to see how our self-interest could best be served?
  11. In a conversation are we always itching to say something and sometimes interrupt the other person to speak? Why is speaking more stimulating than listening?
  12. Is it possible to listen to something without the response of thought? Like listening to a bird singing without thoughts arising like, 'What is the name of that bird?' or 'Isn';t that beautiful?'
  13. What happens in an argument? How is it different from a discussion? Is it possible to avoid an argument? Is listening well, with an open mind the best way to avoid an argument?
  1. Have you ever been lonely?
  2. How did that make you feel?
  3. What was your response to it?
  4. What are the many different ways in which humans respond to that feeling?
  5. What do you think causes us to feel lonely? What is behind that feeling?
  6. Are you always aware that you are lonely? Does it act in ways that are hidden from our awareness?
  7. How does loneliness affect our thoughts and actions? Does it act from behind the screen of our awareness?
  8. Does it make us do things we may later regret?
  9. When you answer these questions where does the answer come from? From your memory or a fresh perception?
  10. Are boredom and loneliness linked in any way?
  11. What happens when one stays with that feeling of loneliness, without naming it, and without trying to escape from it (or rather observing all the escapes thought comes up with).
  12. Can loneliness be dissolved?
  1. What do you think love is?
  2. Why are we always looking for love? Why are our hearts empty?
  3. What are the features of a loving relationship?
  4. If you were asked what love is not, what would you say?
  5. Are there different kinds of love? How are they different?
  6. How does being loved affect us?
  7.  And how does loving someone affect us?
  8. Is love based on the objects that bring us pleasure/pleasant sensations? being?
  9. Have you ever been attached to something or someone you loved? Have you ever experienced jealousy? Why does that happen?
  10. Is jealousy and possession love?
  11. Is there a difference between being in love with someone and loving someone?
  12. What happens when love ends?
  13. Can love turn to hate? Give an example. Why does that happen?
  14. Have you experienced or seen people trying to control each other’s actions in the name of love? Why do we do that?
  15. Do you think the word love can be manipulated and allow people to behave in ways that are not loving? Give an example.
  16. What are the phases of romantic love?
  17. What is involved in loving oneself?
  18. Do we only love the people/things that we identify with? What is in that list in your life? What does that tell you about the nature of love as we know it?
  19. How can we be more loving in our lives?
  1. What do you think the challenges to self-enquiry might be?
  2. How do you react when your opinions and the way you think and act is challenged or questioned?
  3. Why do you react in this way?
  4. What arguments have you found yourself making to justify your status quo and resist change?
  5. Why do we find it difficult to accept ourselves as we really are?
  6. Is it possible to look at anger without naming it as anger?
  7. Why have all the world’s religions, with their instructions on how to lead a good life, not been able to transform us human beings or prevent conflict and wars? Even if people are religious and try to follow a set of rules, they do not change. Why?
  8. Can lasting internal change occur as a result of effort? Think of an example.
  9. Is it possible to look at something without language?
  10. What are the different ways in which we dissipate our energy?
  11. How can we discover that intensity we need to enquire?
  1. What is an opinion? Is it a fact, or a perception of a fact?
  2. Why do different people have different opinions of the same book or movie?
  3. How are opinions formed?
  4. What are the factors that influence the opinions we have?
  5. Think of an example of where you found yourself defending your point of view, or trying to convince another of your point of view. Why do you think we do that?
  6. Why are we attached to our opinions?
  7. Do we ever doubt our opinions?
  8. Does having an opinion strengthen the 'me'?
  9. What are the implications of being attached to our opinions?
  10. Do you find yourself wanting to be with people who share your opinions on subjects that are important to you? What are the implications of that for the world?
  11. As an exercise why not try defending another person’s point of view and get them to defend yours?
  12. Try exploring a long held view you may have of a friend or relative and ask yourself, 'Is there another way of looking at the same situation?' Asking that question is so important because the brain assumes that its conclusions are always correct.
  13. Is it essential to have an opinion about everything we encounter?
  14. Are there any disadvantages to having an opinion?
  15. Have your opinions on a subject changed over the years? What was the process behind that?
  16. IS it possible to discuss a subject with a group of people from many different angles, without having a fixed opinion?
  1. What are the different types of problems human beings encounter?
  2. Does everyone who reacts to the same situation think there is a problem? Why is that?
  3. How much does our reaction contribute to the problem?
  4. How do problems affect us? What happens to us when we are faced with a problem?
  5. Where do the solutions to our problems come from?
  6. Why do we live with problems, sometimes for years and not resolve them?
  7. Is our approach to a problem fragmented? Do we see all the implications of a problem straight away, or do we react differently to each facet of it? Why is our response sometimes confused and full of contradiction?
  8. Does a solution to a problem sometimes have within it the seed of a new problem? Why is that?
  9. Does thinking contribute to worry? What happens when we are distracted – is the worry still there?
  10. Do some psychological problems have many layers? Give an example.
  11. Are some of our problems imaginary and not real? Do they exist only in our imagination? Think of an example.
  12. Can psychological problems like fear and sorrow be solved by thinking about them?
  13. What effect does stress have on our body?
  1. What are the different causes of psychological pain in human beings (sorrow, hurt, grief, stress, disappointment)?
  2. Are sorrow, stress and hurt similar? Are they both part of the spectrum of psychological pain?
  3. Have you ever been hurt? What does it feel like, being in pain? How did you respond?
  4. Do you think sorrow is unique to each of us, or common to all humankind? What similarities do we all share? What differences to we exhibit?
  5. What are the different ways in which human beings respond to being hurt?
  6. How does sorrow change our personality and behaviour?
  7. Does sorrow make us more self-absorbed and less sensitive?
  8. When we are hurt, is it always the fault of another person or situation outside us? Or does the cause of the pain lie in ourselves?
  9. Can we take responsibility for being hurt?
  10. What is the entity that gets hurt?
  11. Is it possible to live a life free of sorrow?
  12. Is it possible to not allow our sorrow to condition us? Would that lead to a more peaceful world?
  13. Does anger and violence begin first by us feeling hurt?
  1. What are the different types of relationships we have?
  2. What do you think are the common themes behind all human relationships?
  3. Would you agree that all our relationships are based on utility?
  4. What are the psychological needs we have, that we hope relationships will fulfil?
  5. How do humans respond to being hurt?
  6. Do we automatically assume it is the other persons fault?
  7. How do we respond when someone says we have hurt them?
  8. What are the factors that can strain a relationship, or result in its break down?
  9. Do you have a relationship with Nature? Is it based on utility or do you feel connected to the natural world?
  10. What relationship do you have with your ideas, beliefs and possessions?
  11. What sort of relationship do you have with your body? Do we use the body to meet our psychological needs?
  12. What are the common causes of the problems we see in human relationships?
  13. Are attachment, jealousy and fear inevitable consequences of being in a deep relationship?
  14. Is our self-interest at work, behind the screen of our awareness, in all our relationships?
  1. What images/opinions do you have of yourself? How accurate are they?
  2. Think of when you were praised for an image you hold – how did you feel?
  3. And when you were criticised for an image you hold of yourself, how did you feel?
  4. How are images created?
  5. What images do you have of your best friend? Or someone you don’t like?  How accurate are they? What are they based on?
  6. Does your image of a person get in the way of your connecting with them freshly in the present?
  7. What images do you think people have about you? Are they accurate?
  8. Do you find yourself trying to manage and influence what other people think about you? Why? Does it bother you?
  9. Do you find yourself trying to enhance the images you have of yourself?
  10. Are you concerned about how you look? Do you do something about that? What is behind that? Is it a sense of insecurity?
  11. Does that feeling of insecurity ever leave you? Why?
  12. Are you more likely to join a group or surround yourself with people who agree with and reinforce your images of yourself? Why?
  13. Are our images responsible for us feeling hurt sometimes? How?
  14. Is it possible to live a life free of images? (This is a question that does not have an answer. The question itself is the key that may unlock the door)
  1. What is self-interest?
  2. What are the different ways in which it operates in our lives?
  3. Do human beings always operate from self-interest?
  4. What is it we hope to gain? What is behind it?
  5. Are we always aware that we operate from self-interest, or is it hidden from view? Think of an example.
  6. How does it affect our relationships with other people?
  7. What are different negative ways it impacts my life? And positive ways?
  8. Is the crisis in society and the environment due to the pursuit of self-interest?
  9. When you realise that you operate from self-interest, what is your reaction to that fact? Do you accept it, or reject it?
  10. How have human beings tried to modify this self-interest?
  11. As you explore this subject and ask questions, what are the reactions you notice in yourself? Is there a resistance? Fear? Why is that?
  12. Is it possible to live in a way that is intelligent, and not always at the mercy of your self-interest?
  13. Does our hidden self-interest corrupt our intentions and our lives?