Four conditions must exist if you want to find reality: Contentment, Inquiry, Self-awareness, Strength. Four ordinary, somewhat innocuous words.
Contentment. This is the quality of restfulness in the mind. Someone who is content exists without doubt and fear. Doubt is a constant reminder that there is no answer to the mystery of life, or that all answers will turn out to be untrustworthy. Fear is a constant reminder that you can be hurt. As long as either of these beliefs exist in your mind, resting easy in yourself is impossible.
Inquiry. To get real, you have to question the unreal over and over until it disappears. This process is a kind of peeling away. You look at something that seems reliable and trustworthy, and if it betrays your trust, you say, “No, this isn’t it,” and throw it away. Layer by layer, you keep inquiring until you reach something that is completely trustworthy, and that thing must be real.
Self-Awareness. This quality tells you where to conduct your inquiry–not outside in the material world, but in yourself. Turning inward doesn’t happen as a single step. For every challenge there are always two solutions–inner and outer. Only by working through every reason to look outward are you left with why you should look inward.
Strength. Because you are looking inward, no one from the outside can help you. This implies a kind of isolation and solitude that only the strong can accept. Strength is not a given. Your inner strength grows from experience. You test what you find out until it feels secure. The journey itself makes you strong.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).