Authentic Inquiry and Radical Open Listening as a Practice for Transforming Identity

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

A Transformation in Identity is Possible

It seems that authentic inquiry and radical open listening are closely related. Each involves self-reference, and in each, there is a transformation that occurs whereby something in the domain of identity is set aside in order for the transforming experience to occur.

We have a deeply conditioned way of experiencing a feeling and sensation of "I", which we also call ourselves.  This is identity, and it seems it is always present, though it changes constantly in different circumstances. We experience it only in the present time, as it does not exist in the past or in the future. However in the present, it is familiar, and we expect it, so it references both the past and the future.  We do not readily give our identity up. Even if we wanted to, we actually have no clue how to give it up.  Thus identity is persistent.

Experiencing Essence Beyond personal Identity

On a higher level than everyday identity, we sometimes can recognize a capacity to observe that is reflective. It cognizes the fact that what is observed is not what is observing. In language, this is where we distinguish objects and acknowledge the subjective nature of being an observer. The subject is the one who has the experience of observing.  For this reason, there is a capacity to observe the action of observing.  This capacity exists at a deeper level than any identity that constitutes what we refer to as our self.  It is a quality of being in essence that is the source of mystical experience which has the experience of Self. It can observe itself like an object.

A Method of Transformation

An authentic inquiry has the quality that we are altered by what we learn.  Something in identity is given up so that we experience the plasticity of self as it adapts to experience. For authentic inquiry, we must be able, willing, and ready to be transformed in a moment.   Always ready, always prepared for transformation, always being willing to be shaped by it. That ability, intention, and availability for transformation are what makes it authentic. Otherwise, our explorations are only an intellectual pursuit, which while interesting is not transformative.

Radical open listening is also transformative. It has the quality of listening without including the identity or knowing. That is without contaminating the experience of listening with the content of our personal or cultural historicity.  Like authentic inquiry, in radical open listening, something must be given up. That something, which includes certainty, also includes all subjectivity. We approach listening from the greatest degree of emptiness we can personally access. One that involves setting aside identity. A difficult state to maintain, but one can continuously return to it.

Both involve an experiential practice of relaxed unknowing, and it is easy to simply intellectualize if we fall into talking about them rather than doing them. A question to inquire into is how to practice these. My sense is that this is not just a cognitive practice but also involves the emotion and body. Perhaps we can discover more through an effort to bring both practices into the application. Of course, that implies that there could be a technology involving both.  A quantum between open and conditioned listening in a practice that might offer greater capacity in both ways of listening. That would be a worthy thing to discover.

© Copyright 2014 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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