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What is Meditative Inquiry?

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The way of meditative inquiry is not new; it has always existed. It implies our existential quest as human beings from time immemorial to ask fundamental questions about the meaning, origin, and purpose of life. The individuals, traditions, and communities from different parts of the world, who focus on exploring truth, beauty, and sacredness, from deep within, are all flowers of this quest.

Meditative inquiry is the name that I have used to describe all that this quest entails based on my own existential, spiritual, academic, creative, and pedagogical explorations. In meditative inquiry, it is not enough to read and quote what others have said before, no matter how compelling their insights are. While one can read and reflect on what others have said – I have done so myself by delving into traditions and philosophies from India and other parts of the world – the understanding only deepens and takes root in one’s being when the search goes deeper than mere cognitive levels.

Meditative inquiry is the art of understanding oneself and one’s relationship to people and the world. It is an existential process through which each one of us discovers our own truths through living life wakefully, meditatively, and creatively as we interact with people, knowledge, and the world within and around us.

Meditative inquiry is holistic in nature and expansive in its scope because it covers a range of questions and themes that touch philosophical, psychological, spiritual, cultural, ecological, aesthetic, and political dimensions of exploration. Many people jump to the conclusion that meditative inquiry means meditation practices and mindfulness-based activities. While meditation practices and mindfulness-based activities can be helpful, meditative inquiry invites us to go beyond them. It is not simply about finding methods and techniques to reduce stress and improve mental health with the ultimate goal of fitting into the social and economic system. This emphasis on stress reduction instead of deeper inquiry has become a cornerstone of contemporary approaches to wellness and well-being like yoga and mindfulness.

While meditative inquiry can help with reducing stress, easing the impact of trauma, improving concentration, and enhancing mental health and well-being, it does not do so through the superficial practice of certain methods and techniques. The goal of meditative inquiry is not to meet the expectations of capitalist culture and its focus on productivity and performance. Rather, by awakening our awareness and intelligence, meditative inquiry enables us to engage with internal and external conflicts and challenges profoundly and holistically. Meditative inquiry implies meeting life with a sense of deep and existential awareness, an awareness that is rooted in freedom, creativity, and dialogue.

 

Meditative Inquiry has seven key principles:

Questioning deeply about everything without fear

Critiquing social injustice, oppression, and discrimination

Celebrating the freedom to think, to observe, to express, and to be

Cultivating awareness of the ways one thinks, feels, and acts

Partaking and rejoicing in the creative flow of life

Understanding relationships and connecting with people and nature deeply

Participating in dialogue with oneself and others honestly and authentically

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Seeking understanding through meditative inquiry is not, and does not have, a particular technique or systematic method that one can follow or practice to achieve preformulated outcomes. Meditative inquiry defies technique-oriented, outcomes-based, capitalistic, and instrumental approaches because they reduce teaching, learning, and living to measurable, commodified, and sellable entities instead of holistic, transformative, and creative experiences. Meditative inquiry is an emergent process of learning and discovery that unfolds organically when one lives attentively.

 

Kumar, A. (2022). Introduction. Engaging with Meditative Inquiry in Teaching Learning and Research: Realizing Transformative Potentials in Diverse Contexts (pp. xix, xxi, xxiv). Routledge.

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