Monday, August 29, 2011

The Importance of Inquiry

I have recently finished Geneen Roth’s book Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything and it has definitely gotten my wheels turning. I particularly enjoyed her discussion of what it feels like to truly inquire about what you’re feeling- and the process of relating to your feelings, instead of from them.

Roth writes:

“Inquiry is body based; it is not a mental process. You sense what it feels like to be inside your skin, your arms, your legs. You notice the sensation and you notice the location of the sensation. Sensation, location, sensation, location. If, for instance, you are feeling sad, you ask yourself where that feeling is located in your body. You notice a gray heap of ashes in your chest, and up pops the belief that ‘love exists for other people but not for me.’ You become curious about that belief. How old were you when you first learned that? And what were your feelings at the time that never got noticed or felt or understood?

It’s good to ask some questions that allow you to focus on the sensations themselves. You can ask yourself if the feeling has a shape, a temperature, a color. You can ask yourself how it affects you to feel this. And since no feeling is static, you keep noticing the changes that occur in your body as you ask yourself these questions” (Roth, 104-105).

With the stress of everyday life: work, school, family, it is so easy to become detached from the body. We become ‘talking heads’ only thinking instead of really feeling. The exercise of reconnecting with the body and seeing what a particular part of it feels like in a stressful, sad, exciting, or joyful situation can be very eye opening. This allows for an exploration of the body that doesn’t involve food or weight, or self-criticism, simply curiosity. Curiosity that can lead to real self discovery. It also allows for small increments of success. For some, the task of focusing inward on body sensation for five minutes a day may be enough at the beginning, for others it may mean an hour long meditation on each area of the body and the feelings that may be harbored there.

I really love the steps involved the process Roth describes above. Starting with curiosity eliminates judgment; the act of exploration eliminates the ‘talking head’; and the experience of the feeling in the body allows for a refreshing openness and understanding to wash over your heart.

Women, Food and God is a wonderful book full of wisdom and I would definitely recommend it. But, if you don’t have the book, try inquiring about your body and your soul and see what it feels like to reconnect with yourself and the world around you.


Claire Jolly

Claire Jolly was a summer intern at The Awakening Center. She is a student at Centre College in Ohio.


  1. While I agree with what the author of this book is saying, I think the most difficult part for me is allowing myself to become curious without an instant drive to criticize or judge myself. I do, however, believe that this is a work in progress and once we learn to separate our curiosity from our judgements we will allow ourselves to really learn from within and understand the strong connection that exists between our feelings and our bodies.

  2. Centre College is in Kentucky, where Claire is a newly minted senior!

  3. Geneen Roth's description reminds me of how much I learn whenever I use drawing,color,art as a means to get closer to my spirit.

  4. To Anonymous -
    Thanks for the reminder. We have two art therapy groups at The Awakening Center - the Tuesday group is focused on Body Image and the Thursday group is open to all. Call (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.
    Amy Grabowski

  5. I love that Geneen talks about our eating being a window into a dazzling universe!!