Self Inquiry

A Daylong Retreat with Shinzen Young

Sunday Jan 31, 2016


Santa Monica


How many fundamentally distinct meditation strategies have been discovered? I would argue that there are five: Observe, Nurture, Do Nothing, Turn Back, and Bounce. Observing practices are things like Focus In, Sweep the Body, Note Everything, and so forth. What characterizes the techniques in this family is that you passively observe what is. Nurture refers to techniques like loving kindness, where you intentionally create and foster positive states. Do Nothing involves the dropping of the intention to control attention. Bounce refers to training spontaneity in body movement, speech, and thought. This innovative approach is associated with the Rinzai school of Zen. The last strategy, what I call Turn Back, can take one of two forms. You either attempt to be aware that you are aware or you pose a question like “Who’s aware?” or “What am I?” or “Who sees, who hears, who feels?” and so forth. As you can see, these five approaches are really quite distinct and contrasting. Yet each one has the potential to bring about liberation if practiced under competent guidance for a long enough time.

In this program, we’ll explore the Turn Back approach. This approach has been discovered and re-discovered throughout history and across cultures. It exists in Hinduism in the Non-dual/Self-inquiry tradition. In Zen it’s the theme in numerous koans, and it’s part of the Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra systems. Occasionally the “Aware of Awareness” version is used by Theravadan teachers such as U Tejaniya. In fact, it was even discovered within the Christian tradition in the Middle Ages; it appears in the classic 15th century contemplative manual called The Cloud of Unknowing.

Shinzen will guide you through both basic versions—Ask a Question and Be Aware of Awareness—and then respond to your feedback and experience. Shinzen has found that different people have very different experiences with this approach but it’s almost always interesting, productive for growth, and conductive to insight.

Sliding Scale: $35-$75 for the workshop plus dana to the teacher (teachers receive no portion of the reg fee). Please pay at the highest level you can afford to support our programs and those who have less. Some scholarships and work-study are available. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

$100 Plus Monthly Supporters attend for no reg fee. Please CLICK HERE for more info on our Monthly Supporter program.


Shinzen Young became fascinated with Asian culture while a teenager in Los Angeles. Later he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Eventually, he went to Asia and did extensive monastic training in each of the three major Buddhist meditative traditions: Vajrayana, Zen, and Vipassana. His specialty is linking Eastern internal science and Western technological science. More information can be found at and

 This Daylong will be held at 1001a Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, 90401