self inquiry techniques

Three techniques of Meditative Inquiry for Meditation Students

3.5 min read – Last week we highlighted our newest elective, Meditation Inquiry, authored by our very own ACMM coach, Tim James. This week, Tim takes us into a deeper look into the techniques and teachers of this transformative meditation discipline.


There are numerous Meditative Inquiry and Self-Inquiry techniques. Within the course that is offered by the Australian Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness (ACMM) we dive into various approaches.


What are some of the techniques of Meditative Inquiry?

In this blog, we will expand a little bit more on these three:

  • Mindfulness
  • Neti-Neti
  • Ramana Maharshi’s Self-Inquiry


# 1 Mindfulness and Meditative Inquiry

Mindfulness provides a supportive foundation for meditative inquiry and self-inquiry.

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you are being attentive to what is happening around and within you, without judgement. It supports a slowing down and observing what is here right now, without the story. It is being present and aware to what is.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” – Alan Watts

From this mindful space of observing without expectation, without needing an answer, we can bring in a question or inquiry.

This is where you’ll bring some of those questions just to help you navigate life, and even some of those big questions.

And, from this space, we may even rest in, or look deeper into, the nature of who we are.

On first discovering this approach I was always tapping into it for support navigating the everyday. Whether I was working on a challenging project as a consultant, or when writing a book and feeling blocked for words.  For example, I might ask myself ‘How do I move forward?’, or ‘What’s the next step?’. Or, I may even simply bring in the feeling of ‘I trust the path will be shown to me’. Each time the answer would arise, or the path ahead would clear.

The great interest for me though was the deeper more expansive questions, such as ‘Who am I?’ and so my search for other approaches or extensions of this led to Neti-Neti and Self-Inquiry.

self inquiry path of light


#2 Net- Neti… Not this, Not that

Neti-neti is a technique for inquiring into the self, self-inquiry.

Neti-neti is a practice of seeing clearly that which we are not, allowing us to see what remains. What remains being what we are. It supports realizing a feeling understanding of the nature of who we are.

Futhermore, Neti-neti is a supportive step in self-inquiry practice as it helps to create some space or distance between objects such as thoughts, emotions and That which is aware of the objects.

From this space, self-inquiry can deepen to explore the nature of That which is aware.



#3 Ramana Maharshi’s Self-Inquiry

Self-Inquiry has its roots in early Buddhist and Hindu teachings. However, it was clarified in the early 20th century by well-known Indian Spiritual Teacher Sri Ramana Maharshi. He taught that the individual self is nothing more than a thought or an idea. His technique of self-inquiry supports seeing beyond the individual self and the returning of our attention to, or ‘resting back as’, the subjective feeling of ‘I’ or ‘I Am’. His techniques involve bringing in various questions to inquiry including the question, ‘Who am I?’.

Self-Inquiry is very different to other meditation techniques. It is a subjective (or direct) practice

One way to categorize meditation techniques is using the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’.

Most meditation techniques are ‘objective’. They have an object that is focused or concentrated on, coming back to the object when we notice we’re distracted, which can lead to a quieting of the attachment to thoughts and emotions. As this attachment reduces there may be an opening to stillness, peace and calm, to the nature of who you are.

A ‘subjective’ approach brings awareness directly to the subject, or, ‘who it is that is aware’, directly to the nature of who you are.

Subjective techniques such as self-inquiry meditation are regarded as a direct passage to stillness, to your inner self. The technique is a turning inwards to the subject rather than outwards objective looking.

spiral inwards

Sri Ramana Maharshi puts it this way,

“When one turns within and searches, whence this ‘I’ thought arises; the shamed ‘I’ vanishes – and wisdom’s quest begins. Where this ‘I’ notion faded, Now there as I, as I, arises The One, the very Self, the Infinite.”

Over the years of wondrous meditative experiences, including the sweat-inducing Osho dynamic meditation, I have recognized turning inwards, self-inquiry, to be an ever-deepening, ever nourishing wellspring of insight, stillness and connection.



Who are some of the well-known teachers that practice Meditative Inquiry?

There are many teachers sharing self-inquiry practices and teachings.

Some of the most well-known alive today are Rupert Spira, Gangaji, Adyashanti, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie and Mooji.

Gangaji writes this about the nature of who you are.

“Under the anger, under the fear, under the despair, under the broken heartedness, there is a radiance that has never been harmed, that has never been lost, that is the truth of who you are.” – Gangaji

Some of the well-known teachers past include Sri Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Alan Watts, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ram Dass, J. Krishnamurti. And there are many more before them.



Why choose Meditative Inquiry as part of your studies to become a Meditation Teacher?

Meditative Inquiry is a practice that takes you on a deep inward journey to learn more about who you are, and who you are not. It cultivates an awareness that opens up a healing and expansive passage of self-acceptance and self-love. This is a wonderful understanding to cultivate as a meditation teacher. It will help you to guide others through their own inner landscape.


How can I study Meditative Inquiry?

This new elective can be studied through the Certificate/Advanced Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation and Mindfulness. There is a pre-requisite to complete up to Sessions 8 of the core subjects.

Please leave any comments or any questions you might have about this amazing new elective, and we’ll be sure to answer them!

Thanks for reading,



Tim is a certified meditation teacher based in Adelaide and a coach at ACMM. His business, Meditation Life, specialises in mindfulness and self-inquiry practices for groups, corporate and one-on-one.



  • Jaine Alston

    Awesome blog, Thank you Tim, I love the Gangaji quote beautifully put

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