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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Attention?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Attention

As Our Attention Collects from Being Dispersed in Outer Activities and Forms Into the Inner Subjectivity Our Value System Changes

Before we can live the totality of our realization, our practice needs to become continual and needs to become clear about itself. Why do we practice anyway? Why do we bother to take the time, the trouble, the expense, and spend the energy to practice? This is always a big question for us as we begin to engage inner work. As our attention collects from being dispersed in outer activities and forms into the inner subjectivity, into the inner atmosphere, our value system changes. We practice because we want to live fully, we want to be free, we want to discover the mysteries of existence, we want our life to fulfill its purpose. We can see our motivation in many ways. It’s a natural process. The journey commences for some sooner than for others, and for some more intensely than for others. We are fortunate if it has commenced at all. We are lucky that we are willing to dedicate so much energy and effort to it.

At Each Moment We Have to Exert Utmost Attention to be Real

Human beings who really live the true life have to put themselves on the line. That’s how our true resources come forth. Our true nature comes forth when we value truth above all else, when we live it. We cannot cheat our soul, our essence. We have to be sincere with ourselves. We can’t decide to postpone reality for ten years because we’re afraid of taking risks. We can’t decide to kiss people’s asses for a while to make ends meet and stay comfortable. If we spend ten years doing that, we’d lose all self-respect, all confidence, all value. We have to gain our own respect, our own value, and our own love. At each moment, we have to exert utmost attention to be real. We have to do that every minute. We have to put ourselves on the line every second. The moment we’re not doing that, we’re failing ourselves, we’re failing our potential. Can you really respect yourself, love yourself, or value yourself if you’re scared to tell the truth because you’re afraid somebody’s not going to like it? You might lose some money or experience some discomfort, but if you fail to tell the truth, you’re sacrificing something precious for something temporary. We only feel fulfillment if we are genuine, if we deal with things in a genuine way, if we don’t run away from our difficulties. And even with pleasures and successes, we tend to like ourselves more when we deal with them in a mature rather than in an indulgent way. Forget about superego judgment and what other people think. We’re talking about you in your own heart, your own inherent sense of value, how you feel about yourself and your life. The morality of the superego developed from this core, from the way that human beings actually work. The sense of gaining value through right conduct has a true origin. If we are who we are and do what we are capable of doing, we tend to like ourselves, appreciate ourselves, and respect ourselves. 

Being Both the Infinite and the Individual

As the individual is accepted, loved and welcomed by the universal Love one starts feeling oneself again as a person. One starts becoming conscious of a subtle sense of being an individual. It is similar to the ego sense of individuality, except that there is no contraction. It is a fullness that encompasses all the body, and more. One realizes that one’s whole body is suffused by the tender softness of the conscious presence. Here one realizes one’s personal relation to the Cosmic Consciousness. There is the definite experience of being an individual rooted in the loving presence. There is no sense of boundaries. One is a presence, a personal presence, but with the quality of the Loving Light. Not only does one feel and see the personal loving presence as directly connected to the boundless Cosmic Consciousness, but one also feels oneself to be a personal expression of the divine presence, and still part of it. When there is focus of attention on the personal presence one feels oneself to be an individual continuous with the cosmic presence. When the attention is focused on the cosmic presence one feels oneself to be the divine infinite presence. One is both the infinite and the individual. This is a very beautiful and fulfilled state. One feels oneself as a fullness grounded in the boundless presence. The mind is crystal clear, and one is a rounded fullness, bathed in the delicate tenderness of the conscious Cosmic Presence, and connected to it from one’s depth and center. One feels connected to the Cosmic Presence, supported by it and enveloped by its lovingness. This clarifies in a very singular way, more distinctly than ever before, some of the differences between the ego individuality and the Personal Essence, which is here experienced on the level of Loving Light:

Coming to Know the Optimizing Force of Being

Being is always inherently optimizing our experience. The optimizing force is aware and intelligent, trying to go around obstacles or go through them, whichever way will allow the optimization to continue. Realizing that our experience, both inner and outer, always reflects the action of our Being’s dynamism means that, in principle, it is always possible to know whether we are aligned or not with the optimizing force of Being, to discern whether we are progressing, backtracking, or on idle. We don’t need someone else to tell us. All the information we need is in our experience at each moment if we can perceive it clearly. How do we come to know our relationship to the optimizing force? It is not enough to simply pay attention to our thoughts, or our thoughts and feelings, or even our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We must open to all dimensions of our ongoing experience, which might include sensations, beliefs, attitudes, judgments, preferences, patterns of attention, and so on. Our awareness of all these dimensions will clarify the nature of our soul’s unfoldment in the moment and also reveal the degree of our alignment with the optimizing force that is moving us—that is, whether we are evolving, devolving, or stuck, the only three possibilities. In other words, if by opening to an awareness of the totality of our experience, we see that our soul is actually moving in a direction contrary to openness and luminosity, then we recognize that we have not been aligned, that we have in fact been distorting our unfoldment by being out of touch with the optimizing force.

Focus of Attention on the Conflict Between Essence and Personality

As an aspect of essence pushes forward toward consciousness, it acts on the personality. Essence is a force, and the sector of the personality related to the emerging aspect of essence becomes stronger and more forceful in order to be able to resist the emerging essence and to keep it out of consciousness. The very existence of the personality depends on unconsciousness, on maintaining its established patterns and conditioning. The personality does not want to change. As essence emerges, the conflict between essence and personality will be magnified and become more obvious. The conflict between the unconditioned part and the conditioned part becomes the focus of attention. The relevant sector of the personality will manifest more and more strongly now in consciousness, until it becomes imperative for us to look at it and deal with it in a real and effective way. It becomes necessary for us to understand and resolve the issues related to this part of the personality. To avoid or ignore the issues becomes more difficult than to face them. Here, essence acts as a perfect teacher. It does not, like most systems of teaching, try to make us deal with sectors of the personality that we personally experience as syntonic to our wellbeing. It actually disrupts our habitual equilibrium. Forcefully but gently, and in a balanced way, it reveals each sector of the personality as alien and contradictory to our best interests. No human teacher can be so exact, so effective, and so appropriate.

Having Our Attention on the Ground of the Mind . . . . the Objects in the Mind Become More Transparent

Once we learn that our being is pure consciousness, it becomes possible for all discriminations to disappear. We abide in pure consciousness so fully that we do not differentiate between essence and ego, between physical and not physical. Consciousness is simply consciousness, independent of all objects, essential or otherwise. In the beginning of the work, our discriminations are so opaque that we need to refine our perception to penetrate that opacity. When we have our attention on the ground of the mind, and at the same time become aware of it without completely identifying with the content of the mind, the objects in the mind become more transparent, until there is only transparency. This transparency reveals to us the state of pure consciousness in which all objects that we have deemed coarse or impure, all that we have felt we had to leave behind, we perceive to be of the nature of consciousness itself. But for the purpose of our discussion now, when I say “consciousness” I don’t refer to any refined state. I mean simply the fact of being conscious of something. For example, when you pay attention to yourself, you notice sensations in your body. These sensations are actually consciousness. The presence of sensation indicates consciousness. If you have sensations in your knee, you are conscious of your knee. If you shift your perspective from a consciousness that is conscious of the knee and consider the sensations themselves as consciousness, the experience undergoes a subtle change. You become aware that a sensation is itself the consciousness of the sensation.

How Can Washing a Window be Intrinsically Valuable?

Whatever task you’re doing is like an immediate experiment in how your life can be. If you’re washing a window, how can you wash a window and be living? Living is not only when you’re in bed with your husband or when you’re seeing a movie. Living continues when you’re washing a window. How can washing a window be intrinsically valuable? That has to do with the quality of your attention. If you don’t see that you are the preciousness, that your very presence and the quality of care you give the task are what makes it valuable, then the rest of your life will be equally meaningless. Without that sense of precious attention creating your life, most of your activities will be boring and unfulfilling. You can learn to wash a window and be present, to give it the attention and the care that come from knowing the preciousness of who you are. You can learn to wash a window with the understanding that you are essence, that you are goodness, that you are love, that you are the source of strength and beauty and clarity and intelligence. Even though you might not feel that way at the time, you could go about your task from that perspective. You could devote the effort, energy, and time to having the attention necessary to do a good job.

Need for Attention

Therefore, as in all systems of inner development, to apply the Diamond Approach, the individual cultivates awareness. The main method is to erase unconsciousness through psychodynamic techniques. However, even to start this process, the person must learn how to pay attention, how to be aware of inner and outer happenings. Awareness is needed to collect observations that can then be used for the psychodynamic understanding. Without awareness, the person will not know what thoughts go through his mind, what emotions fill his heart, or what sensations there are in his body. So there will be no impression, no material for understanding, if there is not enough awareness. The ordinary person has awareness, but it is very restricted, confined, and selective. In awareness training, the individual learns to expand his awareness, to let it not be confined by his habitual and compulsive patterns. As awareness is freed more and more, the powers of observation expand, and the material for understanding becomes more available. Awareness is necessary not just for collecting observations for the process of understanding but really for all aspects of the work of inner development. It is also, of course, necessary for everyday practical living. Awareness is a characteristic of life itself, of all living matter.

Paying Attention in Order to See the Truth

We have shown how objectivity is needed for psychic metabolism, and we have explored the love of truth, for its own sake, as a necessary requirement for such objectivity. Objectivity is the function of the diamond guidance, and hence, love of truth is a necessary requirement for the presence and operation of this indispensable guidance. Another quality, which usually accompanies the love of truth, that of curiosity, is required for purification of the ego. One can have the capacity to be objective, but if one is not curious then one will not have the opportunity to apply it. One must pay attention and be involved in the experience in order to see the truth, and this requires curiosity. Curiosity does not necessarily mean searching for truth. The seeking for truth, realization or enlightenment is a pale reflection of the true quality needed for them. Searching implies desire, it implies an end in mind, it implies preconceptions and assumptions, and hence it is counter to the attitude of love of truth, and counter to objectivity. On the other hand, curiosity involves love for truth, and joy in the truth. True curiosity is a rare quality. It is a quality of Being, and ego usually kills curiosity to avoid exposure of ego’s falsehood.

Putting Our Attention on the Nature and Substance of the Soul Itself Allows Us to Perceive the Actual Process by which Forms Come into Being

Under normal circumstances we are not in touch with the soul herself, with the conscious field of presence; rather we are in touch with the various states and forms that manifest in the soul. When we recognize the soul herself we recognize that her very substance is changing from one thing to another, which then we see as the changes of forms. This perspective allows for our normal experience, of changes of inner states and events, but gives these changes a quite different interpretation. They are products of a more thorough transformation, a morphogenic transformation. Our normal experience is, thus, the perception of the finished products of our soul’s transubstantiation. The perspective that is made possible by putting our attention on the nature and substance of the soul itself allows us to perceive the actual process by which forms come into being. Lest we think morphogenic transformation is a process in time, we need to remember that it is actually a process of manifestation out of nonmanifestation. We experience it as a transforming field, but the transformation is basically a continual appearing, a magical display of potential into actuality.

Sometimes You may Need to Pay Intense Attention for Many Hours in Order to Explore Your Experience

True will displays an intelligent responsiveness to the truth of our situation, including our limitations in dealing with what arises in our experience. Because human beings have inherent limitations, the revelation of human potential is an ongoing process. And as such, it requires patience and steadfastness. This steadfastness, however, is an intelligent expression of the White Essence. How solid, how soft, how hard, or how flexible this expression is depends on the particular situation. Sometimes you may need to pay intense attention for many hours in order to explore your experience. That could include talking with people, reading books, investigating your own history, perspectives, and patterns of behavior—doing everything you can to inquire into your current situation. But after all this activity, the process may require that you relax and let your mind settle. This doesn’t necessarily mean disengaging the inquiry; resting or taking a break for a while is just another part of the process. You have been committed to finding out whatever you can, and for the moment, you know all that you can know. Now it’s time to be quiet, to watch and see what arises in your experience. That is frequently when new insights arise.

The Arrow of Attention Always Points Two Ways

In inquiry, you’re not only inquiring into an issue, you’re also inquiring into the inquirer. The arrow of attention always points two ways: You’re simultaneously looking at the subject matter and at the attitude you have toward it. As you look at your attitude, you will recognize the preferences, judgments, tendencies, goals, and effort you’re bringing to the inquiry. Sometimes even when you recognize all these things, they remain for quite a while, because they have very deep roots. It helps to remember that we are learning an amazing and multifaceted skill in inquiry. Part of learning is making mistakes, getting stuck, being lost . . . . . . . In inquiry, we are learning how to be natural, how to stop interfering and allow our natural intelligence to function. That is the interesting thing about the inquiry: In some basic way, the practice is to simply cease and desist. Then a lot happens. There is no need to push and pull, huff and puff. Just being natural becomes the full realization of Will. And the deepest understanding of Will is effortlessness, which we realize when we have integrated our inner support completely. Inquiry then becomes spontaneous, and unfoldment is natural.

Two Contenders for Your Attention: Essence and Personality

The process of freeing oneself can be seen from two complementary and interconnected points of view. The first looks at the process as self-realization, which is called self-actualization or essential development. The other point of view sees the process as liberation or freedom. Which perspective you emphasize depends on what you are aware of in yourself. There are two contenders for your attention: essence and personality, your true nature and your acquired identity. From the perspective of essence, self-realization means realizing or developing one’s essence. From the perspective of liberation, the process is seen as becoming free from the personality. In our work, these two developments go on simultaneously; they are actually one process. In the past, different systems have emphasized one or the other to the extent that at first glance they may appear contradictory. Sometimes conflicts arise because of the terminology. Those who are on the path to self-realization say, “Just realize yourself, develop your inner potential. What is this enlightenment business? There’s no such thing.” Those who are seeking liberation or enlightenment say, “What is self-realization? There’s no self to be realized. The concept of self is what you need to get rid of.” So far in our work we have not separated the two perspectives. However, we have approached the process of freeing oneself mainly from the perspective of essential development, of becoming more and more your essence. So now we will explore further the perspective of liberation and freedom.

Where We Constantly Put Our Attention

We are a beingness, not a thought following another thought. We are something much more fundamental, more substantial than that. We are a beingness, an existence, a presence that impregnates the present and fills our body. We go so far away from ourselves, but what we are looking for is so near. We constantly put our attention on whether the situation is what we want or don’t want. Is it good or bad? But the significance of any experience is our mere presence, nothing else. The content of any experience is simply an external manifestation of that central presence. So what is the point of waiting? What exactly are you waiting for? Is somebody going to give you what you always wanted? Will a train come from Heaven bringing you goodies? But nothing that could ever happen could be as good, as precious, as who you are. What stops you from being, from being present, is nothing but your hope for the future. Hoping for something to be different keeps you looking for some future fantasy. But it is a mirage; you’ll never get there. The mirage stops you from seeing the obvious, the preciousness of Being. It is a great distortion, a great misunderstanding of what will fulfill you. When you follow the mirage you are rejecting yourself.

Working on Disidentification

Let’s say you are working on disidentification. You have just learned how much you identify with your emotions. How are you going to be impeccable as you learn how to disidentify? To be impeccable as you work on disidentifying with your emotions means to work on disidentification all the time. It means always paying attention and being aware of what’s happening. It doesn’t mean paying attention once and then saying, “That’s enough for today” or “This is too difficult right now; I think I’ll go to a movie. Maybe I don’t really need to disidentify so much after all. Maybe I’ll do some disidentifying later.” No. If you want to work on disidentification, you do it. That’s it—no vacations. No dropping it and leaving it behind. However, being impeccable can mean taking certain kinds of vacations. We all need vacations from what we’re doing, even though we may be doing what is healthiest for us. Let’s say you’re learning to disidentify from your emotions and you’re getting to a place in your work that is difficult. You don’t know if you can handle it any more; you don’t know if you can still give it your full attention. How can you take a vacation and still be impeccable? It is a very simple matter. You don’t just stop paying attention. You make a clearcut decision for yourself: “For the next two hours, it is all right if I don’t work on disidentifying.” You take your vacation, your indulgence, impeccably. Who decides? You, not your indulgence. You are acknowledging your limitations, not excusing yourself. You’re giving your indulgence space, but the indulgence is not running you. You have made a conscious choice. You stay impeccable. 

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