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Connection / Disconnection (Part I)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Connection / Disconnection (Part I)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Connection / Disconnection (Part I)

A Deeper Connection Between Mind and Heart Beyond the Personality

What we call love is the same as consciousness, but it is experienced in the heart rather than in the mind, in the chest rather than in the head. It is also the same thing as will, which is experienced in the belly. Essential presence in the mind is often felt as a diamond, and in the heart is often experienced as a pearl. It is the same consciousness, seen from an objective, clear conscious level or from a personal heart level. If it is perceived at a universal, objective level it is seen as diamond consciousness. In the heart it becomes personal presence, the pearl beyond price, and rather than being seen as consciousness it will be seen as love. Here then we see that there is a deeper connection between mind and heart beyond the personality; in fact they are one. You can experience clear nectar or a clear diamond, or blue nectar or a blue diamond, or golden nectar or a golden diamond, and so on. The diamond form is experienced as consciousness or clarity. The pearl in the heart is experienced as true personal conscious presence. You can experience both at the same time, since they are one; however, within different traditions different perspectives are emphasized. In the Far East the spiritual systems emphasize looking at things in terms of the perspective of the head, of consciousness, and the result is enlightenment. In the Middle Eastern theistic tradition the perspective of the heart is emphasized so it is viewed more as a love affair. It is the same thing.

Can Self-Image Exist Without Its Connection to Personal History?

The sense of oneself as a separate individual, which as we have seen depends upon the development of a cohesive self-image, can be seen as composed of memories, and in fact cannot exist without its connection to memories, to personal history. But the memory of a person is not the same as a person. The memory is of something that supposedly existed at some point in the past. This is another reason traditional teachings say that the individual or ego does not exist. A memory exists as an idea, but not as a presence independent of the mind. In other words, the separate individual has no beingness, no substance and no true existence. Our true nature is an existence which is not based on memory or on time at all. Being is eternal and timeless. We are not referring here to what people call “being in the present,” but are pointing out that we are timeless presence, that our nature is not time bound, as ego is. “Timeless” means that the sense of time is irrelevant to our true nature. “Eternal” means that there is no sense of memory or future in it. There is no concept of time, so there is no sense of present time. When the mind is still, there is just presence, just Being, unqualified by ideas or concepts of time or individuality. Thus when we cease to construct entities in the mind, we see that the ego does not exist. We then simply are. So, to believe that we are the separate individuality is to take ourselves to be something that does not truly exist, and to fail to see who we are, to fail to realize our true essence. No wonder, then, that we are dissatisfied and suffering, just as the Buddha observed.

Child’s Development in Disconnection from Being

By having to react to the loss of holding, the child is no longer simply being, and the spontaneous and natural unfoldment of the soul has been disrupted. If this reactivity becomes predominant, the child’s development will be based on that reactivity rather than on the continuity of Beingness. If her development is based on reactivity to an unsafe environment, the child will develop in disconnection from Being and therefore, her ego will be what becomes most developed. If her development unfolds out of the continuity of being, the child’s consciousness will remain to some extent centered in her essential nature, and her development will be the maturation and expression of that nature. The less holding there is in the environment, the more the child’s development will be based on this reactivity, which is essentially an attempt to deal with an undependable environment. The child will develop mechanisms for dealing with an environment that is not trustworthy, and these mechanisms form the basis of the developing sense of self, or ego. This development of the child’s consciousness is then founded on distrust, and so distrust is part of the basis of ego development. The child’s consciousness—her soul—internalizes the environment it is growing up in and then projects that environment back into the world.

Facets of Unity, pg. 43

Concealed Connection Between Essence and Vision

There is very often a connection between essence and vision, but usually the connection is concealed from the visionary. However, if this connection is seen and understood, then the person can use the vision to contact essence directly. What happens is that the individual experiences a taste of essence but is not directly aware of it. His contact with essence touches him in a deep way and produces deep emotions, which are translated in the mind into religious symbols and images. In some cases the images come first, and seeing the images provokes deep religious emotions. The individual is usually aware only of the images and emotions. But these are simply reverberations in the mind of the contact with essence. The relation of visions to the essential experience is like the relation of dreams to the reality they express. The dreams are distorted and symbolic images of processes that the dreamer is not directly aware of. Obviously, if the person focuses his attention on the images and emotions of a vision, he will miss entirely the true underlying reality, the presence of essence. The visionary experiences will seem unique and special and will not be used to deepen understanding. Often the person feels blessed, and the people around him consider him to be spiritual. The individual actually is blessed, but he is blessed by the contact with essence, not by the vision. In fact, the vision, as we have seen, can be a barrier, a veil over the real essential experience. The vision is not an objective perception. It is very much formed and colored by the particular person's history and present mentality. This is why Christians have Christian visions, Jews have Jewish visions, Hindus have Hindu visions, Buddhists have Buddhist visions, and so on. These experiences, although they might be called religious or spiritual, are not yet the perception and the experience of our true nature, our essence, the truth that is in us.

Connection of the Soul to the Absolute

The Essential Identity functions similarly to other aspects, with the dual function of providing a capacity necessary for the life and development of the soul and connecting her to the Absolute in a specific way that reveals the nature of this connection. The essential aspect of Identity, the point of light and presence, provides the soul with a center and identity necessary for her life, which will at the same time ultimately connect her with the Absolute, as her final and absolute identity. The Essential Identity is the implicit perfection inherent in the Absolute that explicitly expresses in the individual soul that the Absolute is not only ultimate truth, but also ultimate identity. It is the Absolute as identity manifesting within the individual experience of the soul. Therefore, since full self-realization requires the realization of the Absolute as one’s ultimate identity, the realization of the Essential Identity becomes the primary and most important fulcrum towards the completion of the spiritual journey. Realization of the Essential Identity is the expression of the realization of the Absolute, as reflected in individual experience, within the world of space-time. The Essential Identity is the spark of the Absolute within the individual soul, and since the central process of spiritual development is self-realization, its realization begins the realization of the Absolute.

Connection of Your “Point” to Your Capacities, Skills and Understanding

When you are who you are, when you are just precisely yourself, you are your “point.” Just that. This has nothing to do with any qualities, functions, capacities, and skills you may have. It has nothing to do with your status in the world, and nothing to do with living this life in a body or not in a body. It is your nature. The Pearl Beyond Price is the connection between this genuine center and all the capacities, skills, and understanding that are a part of your growth as a human being. It allows your capacities, functions and accomplishments to develop in a genuine way as an outgrowth of your spontaneous unfoldment. It is the result of living in the moment, living in a way that is true to who you are. This is your genuine personal life, your own development, your own growth. The pearl is the actualized individuation of your Soul. So the personal essence is connected with your unique function, your unique work in this life. To actualize your particular unique work in this life means to be your personal essence. It is the essence of all that you have developed and integrated in your soul as you live a real life. Everyone is born with the true self, with the point. Although we feel that the point is unique in each of us, the quality of the point is universal. Then how do people become so different in their personal lives? This is due to the particular development of their personal essence. Your unique contribution, your unique personal actualization of your self, your unique understanding, your unique work, and your unique style of life all have to do with the personal essence. The personal essence is the person, actualized in his or her life, while the essential self—the point—is beyond this life and, in a sense, does not need a body. It is always the same; it never changes. The personal essence, the Pearl Beyond Price, however, is a development; it is something that develops out of the Soul when its center is the true self in this life. It is your actualization of your beingness here. When you experience yourself as your beingness, as your personal essence, you feel that you’ve accomplished yourself—not just yourself in the sense of knowing who you truly are, but by knowing who you truly are you start growing and developing your potential. This is the personal essence—personal, with a sense of beingness. The essential self is the experience of “I”; the personal essence is “I am”—not only my identity and my sense of who I am, but myself as a person, here in the world. That being has many skills and capacities, plus wisdom, understanding, and a certain style of life. The true self can be seen as the source, as the inner God, and the personal essence can be seen as the product or the Son of God. In Christian terminology the true self is the Holy Spirit, and the pearl is the Son. The true self is beyond time and space, but the personal essence is in time and space as embodied Being. They’re two parts of an identity that fit together.

Desire for Connection that is Based on Fear and Deficiency

<p>In our understanding, Buddha’s truth about desire implies that one needs to study one’s desires, instead of believing them or rejecting them. This can lead to their source, and might bring about a discharge of the tension. The presence of negative-merging affect in the personality manifests as many kinds of desires. Since it is a state of painful undischarged tension, the desires are ultimately for discharge, though the objects of desire will vary greatly. And since only Being is a presence without negative-merging affect, then our ultimate desire must be for realizing Being. The second reason one usually reverts to negative merging as a defense against separation is that the fear of separation brings a desire for connection. This desire for connection is based on fear and deficiency, so it is the result of negative-merging affect, and in fact is the same as negative-merging affect. So one activates negative-merging of feet to regain or hold on to connection. But connection associated with negative-merging affect is negative merging. Thus one is caught in a double bind; one desires connection, but the very desire itself prevents real connection. Desire is a movement towards merging with the object of desire. When one is identified with desire one cannot reach the Merging Essence, the essence of the positively merged state. One will only reach negative merging. One cannot merge in a positive way when one starts with desire. Being has no hint of desire in it. Reacting to the unaccustomed and perhaps frightening sense of autonomy of the Personal Essence, an individual might want the positive merged state with mother, or any other love object. One might desire even the Merging Essence itself, if one has experienced it. But although as we have seen, one cannot attain Being by desiring it, this desire can be useful if one studies it deeply and follows it to its source. Then one might learn that there is need for surrender, which is nothing but the Merging Essence.</p>

Disconnecting Us from Ourselves

Nondual absolute presence can become the constant condition of the self, but this cannot be arrived at by pushing the self towards it as if it is an aim or achievement. We stand in our own way when we judge and reject our present experience and try to manipulate ourselves into posited heights of realization. Such attitudes and efforts will only disconnect us from ourselves, and as we have seen, this disconnection is the hallmark of narcissistic alienation. We need from the beginning to respect our humanness, to appreciate our immediate experience, and to learn to simply be where we are. It is in the gentleness and acceptance of relaxing where we experientially find ourselves, and the openness to the present manifestation of our Being, that makes it possible for us to sink deeper into our nature. This open acceptance can express itself in a lighthearted curiosity about ourselves and our experience in the world, inviting the depths of our Being to reveal themselves naturally and spontaneously. When this becomes our way of life, the various human situations we find ourselves in will become the context for our unfoldment, revealing the riches of Being as the natural maturation of our humanness.

Disconnection from Essential Presence is the Fundamental Root of Narcissism

Realization of the whole, nondual but multidimensional self is important for the total resolution of narcissism, because disconnection from any dimension of the self—not only its deepest dimension—creates narcissism. Disconnection from the deepest dimension, that of essential presence, is the fundamental root of narcissism, which gives narcissism its characteristic flavor. Under normal circumstances, the self is more likely to be disconnected from a deeper dimension, and identified with a more superficial one. This is overwhelmingly the most common situation. The reverse can and does occasionally occur, especially for those engaged in a spiritual practice that includes renunciation or abnegation of the surface dimensions of the self (such as the body or the feelings). It is possible to reach deeper dimensions of the soul through some of these methods, but the realization will be incomplete and cannot ordinarily reach the dimension of primordial presence. The dimension of primordial presence alone brings the realization of wholeness. Actually, if the method is powerful enough to penetrate to this dimension and allow a glimpse of it, the practitioner will then have to abandon all suppression and abnegation in order to fully integrate the primordial presence.

Effect of Unconscious Fear on Will

It has been assumed, for instance, that a person needs tremendous will and determination to be able to do the Work. The task does require tremendous will and determination, and in the past, the failure to use sufficient will was blamed on the student. The teacher said that the student was not committed enough, not determined enough, didn’t use his will enough. And this was true. It has always been and still is the case in the Work. So the teachers pushed the students, doing all kinds of things to get them through—tempting them, driving them—whatever might succeed in getting them to use their will and determination to continue working. Now we understand that a person cannot use his will if the will is blocked or repressed. We know that the will gets blocked and repressed for specific reasons. Our work in this group has shown us that one of the many causes of this repression is the fear of feeling castrated. This unconscious fear is well known and documented in the psychoanalytic literature, though its connection with the will is generally not seen. The moment a person tries to use his will, he begins to experience a terrible fear, the fear of castration. It may be sexual castration or the castration of one’s self, one’s energy, one’s will. The person doesn’t even know this fear is there. He only knows that his will is not available, that he cannot act with determination, cannot do difficult things. How is this person going to find his will if he feels something terrible is going to happen to him if he gets close to it? This fear can manifest as feeling that “something’s going to happen to me,” or “I’m going to die,” or “I’m going to have an accident”—things like that. No matter how persuasive the teacher is, the person cannot get close to these fears. It’s not that he doesn’t want to use his will; it’s that he doesn’t know how to—he can’t. Due to repression, his will is not available. It has been cut off because of specific unconscious fears. Because the fears are unconscious, the conscious mind has no control over them. So when you push against the fears, they get stronger.

Experiencing Simple Presence and the Feeling of Loneliness

But why, why am I feeling lonely? There does not seem to be any reason for it. I am still in bed, my wife, Marie, lying asleep beside me. I feel my affection for her, but this does not touch the sad loneliness. The loneliness continues even though I am not alone. I get up, go to the bathroom to wash, the loneliness following me, filling the space of the bathroom with its teary sadness. The question continues to live, while I shave: what is making me feel lonely? Here, memory reminds me of the experience of the last few days, that of the simplicity of presence and witnessing. Reflecting on it, I intuit that there is a connection between the experience of simple presence and the feeling of loneliness. My curiosity intensifies, a throbbing sensation at the forehead begins to luminate. The throbbing lumination at the forehead reveals itself to be a diamond-clear and colorful presence. The more passionate the naturally curious contemplation is about the loneliness, the more alive and brilliant becomes this presence, manifesting spacious and discerning clarity. I recognize the variegated, scintillating presence as the discriminating intelligence, the true nous, which appears as a presencing of the intensification of consciousness, at the center of the forehead, to reveal the meaning of experience. The intensification of inquiry coincides with a greater and more definite presence of the discriminating intelligence, revealing its exquisite sense of delicate precision. The experience now is a field of sadness, loneliness and emptiness, combined with the memory of the simplicity of presence, all opening up to the scintillatingly alive presence of the nous. Insights begin to radiate out from the scintillating consciousness. Perceptually, the operation of the nous appears as a multicolored glittering radiance; affectively, it is a delicate and pleasant expansive clarity; cognitively, it is the spontaneous arising of insight. The understanding unfolds: the sense of simplicity in the experience of presence is finding myself as the presence of Being, totally and purely, without thoughts or feelings about it. There is simplicity because there remains only the purity of presence, with no memory and no mind. This absence of mind, in the completeness of being presence, is tantamount to the absence of everything that mind carries. During the experience of the last few days I saw how the mind creates and carries the sense of familiar identity of the self, which it accomplishes through memory and self-reflection. What I did not see then, but was implicit in the experience, is that the mind carries also the sense of the other—of another person—again by using memory.

Feeling Alone?

As long as your mind is active, full of thoughts, memories, ideas, preconceptions, you are not alone. You acquired these thoughts and memories from other people. The only thing you did not get from other people is an understanding of how things actually are now. Being alone means being without ideas and preconceptions, being present now, without relationship to the past or connection to anything or anybody else. Just you. To be completely you means being alone. When this is experienced, it will bring very deep grief and sadness. You have to learn to say good-bye to everything you have loved—not just your Mommy and Daddy, your boyfriend and your cat, but to your feelings, your mind, your ideas. You are in love with all of these. Letting go of them will feel like a great loss, even a death. It is not you who dies. What dies is everyone else. In the experience of ego death, you don’t feel you are dying; you feel everybody else is dead. You feel you’re all alone, totally alone. You have lost a boundary which was constructed from past experiences. But this boundary never really existed! It was just a belief. When you experience reality as it is, there is no sense of boundaries or of being separate, of inside or outside. These are concepts you learned at a very early age in order to protect yourself. As a six-month old baby, when you felt some negativity, or discomfort, you pushed the bad feelings outside so that you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. That was the original need for the separateness. When there is no mind, you are not thinking, not conceptualizing, not remembering. When you are in the now, there is no feeling of a you separate from something else. There is no sense in the first place that there is a me. There is One. That feeling, that sense of boundary and separateness, is the personality itself. The presence of the personality is experienced as a boundary and that boundary is not different from ideas of the past. When the personality is gone, you feel alone, because the boundaries—your ideas and memories—are your father and mother. The separateness is your memories of your mother and father, your relationship with them and all your past experiences which you’re bringing into the present. Your past experience separates you from the now. That separation from the now is a boundary around you like an eggshell. To let the boundaries go means accepting aloneness. When aloneness is accepted, there are no boundaries. What you perceive then is just lack of boundaries. This will be experienced as a newness, a rebirth.

How Did You Lose Your Connection to Essence?

There is another, more universal, reason why you don’t value your essence. We talk about how much your suffering resulted from the lack of love in your environment. Your environment wasn’t supportive, wasn’t loving, did not respond to you according to your needs, did not see your value. This is true. But we don’t see the fundamental thing that happened. The fundamental thing that happened, and the greatest calamity, was not that there was no love or support. The greater calamity, which was caused by that first calamity, is that you lost connection to your essence. That is much more important than whether your mother or father loved you. You lost your own love because of that. Because your value wasn’t seen, wasn’t responded to, you lost your connection with your own value. Because your joy was responded to with hostility or judgment or disapproval, you had to cut it off, and you lost it. Now you believe you will have it only if you get approval. You think you will have value if somebody sees the value in you. Why should you care whether someone else approves or not? If your essence is going to depend on the approval or perception of other people, then it is not free. We look at what happened in childhood so we can see how we lost our essence and how we can retrieve it. If we continue believing that we have to get what we didn’t get from the outside, we will continue to do what we have done all our lives! And this is what causes our misery and suffering. Because our environment wasn’t hospitable, compassionate, loving, or supportive, we think we can get satisfaction by getting an environment that is loving, compassionate, perceptive, and appreciative of who we are. What we are saying is that we want that positive merging again, otherwise we’re not going to feel good. “I have to have somebody who loves me. I have to have somebody who sees me, who values me.” It is true that this is useful and supportive at the beginning, but if you continue depending on it, this will stop you from owning and being who you are. Being who you are, being your essence, should be completely independent of any other factor, inner or outer. As I said in the beginning, Essence is the life. Essence is the fulfillment. It’s not the environment, not the situation, not the job. It is Essence itself, your essence.

How Does the Child Lose Connection to Being?

The defenses against inadequacy—negative merging, grandiosity, and defensive detachment—are typically resorted to by the child at the beginning of the rapprochement phase, as we discussed in our exploration of the issues of that phase. We saw that the child resorts to these defenses especially when the environment does not respond in a phase-appropriate manner, in order to ward off the sense of helplessness, deflation and dependency that results from two developmental realizations at that time. The first is the disappointment resulting from the collapse of the sense of his grandeur and omnipotence. The second is the realization of his separateness from the mother, due to perceptual and cognitive maturation. Thus it seems certain that ego inadequacy originates in this phase, at the end of the practicing period and the beginning of the rapprochement phase, around age one and a half. At that time the sense of omnipotence and grandeur is lost, as we discussed in Chapter Twenty-One, due to the increasing cathexis of the body. At that time the child has substantially shifted his cathexis from Being to the psychophysical apparatus, as part of the process of ego development. He gains physical and mental wisdom in this way, but at the same time loses his connection to Being. Thus his identity has largely shifted from Being to ego, through the developing cathexis of the body, and also due to the decathexis of the Essential Self. This process is of course taking place through the formation of self-representations. In object relations theory, the sense of helplessness and inadequacy at this critical time of development is seen to be due to the realistic abandonment of omnipotence and the equally realistic perception of separateness. From the perspective of Being, however, this is not completely accurate; these realizations are a result of cathecting the body and identifying progressively with it, and then looking at reality from the perspective of the body and the physical senses. Since at the same time there is a decathexis of Being and a loss of identity with it, the child is no longer perceiving the world from the perspective of Essence with its different capacities.

Illumination of Deep Issues About Early Levels of the Soul’s Disconnection from Love

The Beast is a very specific issue related to the essential quality of Power. The essential Power of the soul is caught up in, and distorted by, the hatred and pride in the Beast structure. When you allow the black hatred is when you may feel yourself become the devil—a giant, black and powerful demon with tremendous pride and destructive hatred. You might tower over the city, looking at it and laughing. You might be filled with a powerful, destructive, cold, calm, and calculating hatred. You might experience the absolute insignificance of everything you see. Allowing this energetic structure to arise, and understanding its origins, illuminates deep issues about early levels of the soul’s disconnection from love. If you are able to feel the hatred without resistance or acting out, the hatred will transform into essential Power. This Power can penetrate the delusions that keep the ego’s reactivity in place and it can allow the soul to become still enough so that the quality of love can affect its state and its perception. This Beast structure is connected with another primitive structure in the soul which results from frustration about early nourishment and love; this structure we call the Jackal and it has to do with the experience of negative merging (see Chapter 20, The Pearl Beyond Price, Almaas, 1988). The Jackal state is a more animal-like sense in which the quality of the soul is deep suffering, burning frustration, and aggression. When this is happening, you are experiencing the actual negativity in the soul that appeared partly in response to frustration and also in response to being merged with mother in the symbiotic stage when she was in a negative state. These structures of negativity become illuminated when the deeply relaxing and opening effect of Loving Light touches the soul. In this way, the structures can be seen and understood, although they are not easy to work through because they have such early, primitive roots.

Facets of Unity, pg. 50

Infant Need of the Merging Essence for Healthy Maturation and Growth

However, our observation is that during symbiosis the Merging Essence is actually present in the infant’s consciousness most of the time, not only after discharge of tension. This is particularly so when the relationship with the mother is basically positive and gratifying. The Merging Essence seems to be needed by the organism at that time for healthy maturation and growth. Its presence brings about the symbiotic connection to the mother needed for survival and psychological development. It is a differentiated aspect of Being, in contrast to the nondifferentiated aspect of oneness characteristic of the normal autistic stage, in which there is no perception of boundaries at all. So it is a step toward differentiation, and part of the perceptual and cognitive development towards the ability to discriminate. It allows a certain limited capacity for discrimination. More accurately, it allows discrimination in perception, but it does not allow the fixation of boundaries and partitions. Boundaries and partitions are perceived but are not seen as fixed; they are fluid and changeable. It appears that one of the first boundaries experienced is that of a common boundary around mother and child, in what Mahler calls the “dual unity.” Perception becomes more discriminative when the Strength Essence dominates consciousness, in the differentiation subphase. It brings to perception the capacity to see partitions as more fixed and stable. Still, even here, partitions are seen as porous, transparent and permeable. The impermeability of boundaries is the effect of ego development, and not that of Essence. We see that the Merging Essence is needed for the development of the perceptual and cognitive faculties, among others, and hence is instrumental in ego development. It is involved in the first inner re presentations, the undifferentiated ones, which arc the basis for all subsequent identifications.

Loss of Connection with the Essential Identity

We usually experience embarrassment and shame when we begin to feel a narcissistic wound. Narcissistic hurt is a doorway to the insight that there is nothing to our conventional sense of self, that it is fake. We may feel ashamed of ourselves, deficient, worthless, not good enough, “found out” in our unreality. We might feel unimportant and worthless because we are empty of anything real and precious. Naturally, we defend against this wound. Typically, the narcissistic wound arises when we feel not seen or appreciated for who we are; we feel the absence or loss of mirroring for who we take ourselves to be. This wound is connected with the original childhood hurt about not being seen or admired. At the deepest level, however, the narcissistic wound results from the loss of connection with the Essential Identity. The wound first appears as a rip in the shell, in the structure of the self-identity, reflecting the loss of a certain way that we recognize ourselves, often involving the dissolution of a certain self-image. As we experience the wound more deeply, we come closer to an awareness of the deeper loss, the severing of our connection to our Essential Identity. We see this clearly in the following report from Lynn W., who had been having a great deal of difficulty establishing her career even though she had finished her studies some time ago. It became clear that part of the difficulty had to do with not knowing what she really wanted and uncertainty about who she really was, which had been manifesting as a need for mirroring and support.

Narcissistic Emptiness Involves Disconnection from Being as a Whole

We have discussed how the development of the self-representation creates the shell, and also disconnects the self from its essential core. Now the dissolution of the shell reveals this disconnection. The emptiness reflects specifically the alienation from the essential core. The shell can be seen as covering up this emptiness, but in fact, the emptiness has always been there in the shell. The normal identity is the shell, empty of essential nature. This is the true meaning of narcissistic emptiness. Feelings of pointlessness, meaninglessness, purposelessness, absence of center, orientation, significance, and identity arise directly from the absence of identity with the Essential Identity. In fact, the properties of center, identity, significance, purpose, meaning, and so on, are some of the experiential characteristics of the Essential Identity, the precious point of existence. Furthermore, since the Essential Identity is the identity of Being, the narcissistic emptiness has another, greater significance. Since the identity of Being is what gives the self the capacity to identify with Being in any of its aspects and dimensions, the realization of the Essential Identity is tantamount to the capacity to simply be. So narcissistic emptiness involves disconnection not only from the Essential Identity, but from Being as a whole. It is the absence of self-realization. It is the gap between our essential nature and who we take ourselves to be. It is the great chasm separating our experience in the conventional dimension of experience from the fundamental ground of the soul. It is the emptiness of narcissistic alienation itself.

Seeing Connections Between Your Emotions and Your Attitudes and Your Actions

In the work here, you begin by understanding some basic things—your emotional make-up and your patterns and their connections. You start by observing and paying attention, and you find out certain things about yourself. As you know, this is not a mental understanding but an experiential understanding. Understanding your emotional make-up does not mean creating a mental description, but experiencing a deeply felt understanding. You experience what’s there, and at the same time you see the connections between your emotions and your attitudes and your actions. This is necessary in the beginning. But by itself it is not enough. Merely understanding emotional make-up will not be enough from the perspective of implicit understanding. Let’s take the example of self-image. You discover you have difficulties and conflicts because you have a certain inner image or concept of yourself. You may see yourself as a weak person, or an ugly person. And if you believe you’re a weak person, you will behave like a weak person. You won’t do things you think only strong people do. So when we identify a previously taken for granted self-image, we are able to see that it is just an image, it is not true. Some people believe that who they really are is a failure. They believe this so completely that they don’t do anything successful people do. The moment they have some success, they become terrified. They feel it’s not them; it’s someone else taking over. If you identify the self-image and understand it, you’ll have some freedom from it.

We are Two Worlds and We are the Connection

We are beings who exist in two worlds at the same time, while believing that we exist in one world, the world we know. But the way we need to live is with one foot in each world all the time. With one foot in the appearance and the other in the reality, we will never forget one or the other. In the world of appearance there is suffering, strife, success and failure, pain and pleasure, life and death. The true reality of things is the absence of all these. There is no birth, no death, no you, no not-you, neither pleasure nor pain. There is complete freedom, complete release. However, when we realize the reality and see that it is actually the ground without which the appearance could not exist, then the world of appearance transforms. It becomes more harmonious. It becomes the world of appearance rather than the world of suffering, success, and failure. It becomes a world which is an expression of love and compassion and goodness and value. The appearance then is an expression of the beauty of reality. When this happens, the two worlds are connected, and the connection is a human being. Who we actually are is the bridge between the two worlds. We are both worlds and we are also the connection. But we cannot be this connection when we take one of the worlds to be reality, and forget about the other. Reality is one. The reality of who we are is the reality of everyone else, of all beings, all that exists. There are no people in reality, there is just reality. The fundamental reality is a complete, unconditional state of oneness, which is a completely nonconceptual way of perceiving and being. If we do not believe anything, if we become completely separate from the mind which is the product of the past, if we become truly alone, then we see how reality is. Then you do not experience yourself as the person who was born to these particular parents. You experience yourself as never being born. You see yourself as undying. You see everything as undying. There is only one reality, and there is no one there to say it is one. Appearance is an expression of this one reality. This reality expresses itself through appearances, which are nothing but the body of the one reality. Your body is not your body; it is part of the one body. This body that I usually think is mine does not belong to me, really. It is incorrect to say that this is my body. Everything that I see is my body, everything that is perceivable. The whole universe, everything that exists in it and does not exist in it, are all the body which is the appearance of the reality.

What's the Relationship Between Trust and Compassion?

We see that in the beginning, the nature of trust has to do with the openness and kindness of the heart. When you’re compassionate, it’s easy to trust. And when somebody else is compassionate toward you, it’s easy to trust. However, as I mentioned before, compassion is a door. It’s a guide to something deeper, which is the truth. That’s when trust becomes connected with truth. Then you have the capacity to trust, and this capacity is objective, based on the truth of the situation or the truth of your perception. It is based on real knowledge, direct perception, direct experience. So, what we’re saying is that the capacity to trust can be there in some people without the presence of truth. On the other hand, some people cannot trust unless there is truth. However, when there is real truth and there is also the capacity to trust, then the trust is stronger. The first person will tend to get hurt more often; the second, less often. Neither is better than the other. So ultimately trust is connected to compassion and truth—the green of compassion and the gold of truth. There are many connections between trust and compassion and truth. Compassion can lead to truth. Truth can lead to trust. Truth can also lead to compassion towards yourself and others. Your conditioning may make it easier to experience one quality while blocking another, so that as Essence unfolds, truth may come before or after compassion and trust. The issue of hurt enters when there is work on the truth. The compassion connected to truth is not just the compassion of wanting to help someone alleviate hurt. Compassion, in this case, means having the green center open and trusting the capacity and willingness to experience hurt in order to see the truth. The objective is the truth. Hurt is one of the things you allow yourself to experience because it is needed to be able to see the truth. So when I am compassionate toward you, it is not because I don’t want you to feel hurt. The function of my compassion is to allow you to trust. The trust then allows you to experience your hurt so you can see the truth. Compassion is needed to generate the trust to allow yourself to tolerate the hurt that will help you be and see the truth. The final point is the truth. Only at the most superficial level is compassion for hurt. It is true that compassion relates to hurt, but it is in the service of truth, not in the service of eliminating hurt.

What’s the Correct Relationship to Spiritual Teachings?

The correct relationship to the teaching is not a matter of blind obedience, although it was called “obedience to the teaching” in the old times. Ultimately, it is a willing obedience to the teaching and to your essence. It is obedience with an understanding of why a relationship of obedience is the one that works best. That understanding happens by understanding your unconscious. Learning to have the correct relationship to the teaching means learning how to be receptive, learning how to be a clear and unimpeded channel for the teaching. This clears the channel for your connection to your essence. The unconscious is what stands in the way. By attempting to understand and actualize this relationship, you will confront all the parts of your unconscious—the feelings, opinions, prejudices, sensations, whatever patterns you have. These issues are to be looked at with disidentification. One way of looking at this process is that you need to understand your unconscious and your conflicts enough to be open so you can receive from the teaching. However, that is not the most accurate understanding of it. Working to understand the unconscious and the personal conflicts that are barriers against openness is, itself, the receiving. That is the giving, and that is the receiving. It is not that you work so that you will receive. The very work you do is the giving you do, and it is what you receive. The work itself is the process of transformation. The Work arranges situations in order to make that process happen. I don’t mean that you are not receiving something besides the actual work you are doing. If you are connected to the Work, you are automatically receiving both in ways that you are aware of and ways you are not aware of. That is happening all the time. Your work makes the flow more steady. The nourishment is there; the substance of the teaching is present and available to you at all times. Your work can catalyze a certain alchemical reaction, the result of which will be the crystallization of certain substances that are your essence.

Who are You Taking Yourself to Be at Each Moment?

One thing that can help our investigation is to connect the feeling of “I,” the feeling of self, to what is called “identity” or “identification.” Finding out who you are is essentially finding your identity. You can see the connection between identity and identification, if you look at your experience of any moment, and see that at that very moment you are identifying with something, you’re taking yourself to be something in particular. You might not be consciously aware of what you are taking yourself to be, but at any moment you are taking yourself to be something, or someone. So we want to investigate what or who you are taking yourself to be at each moment and question it. Is that really who you are? At each moment there is an identification, there is, in a sense, a feeling of self: “I am watching,” or “I am sitting.” When you say “I,” that “I” is attached to something. Is what you’re attaching the “I” to really you? When you are meditating, for instance, who is meditating? Who is sitting at this moment? Be aware of your experience. See whether you can answer that question. What is it you attach the “I” to? Who am I that is sitting? Most likely you’ll see that you attach the “I” to your body. It’s the body that is sitting, so when you say “I am sitting,” aren’t you saying “I am the body”? You’re not taking yourself to be a feeling or a perception, because feelings don’t sit, the mind doesn’t walk. The only part that sits, walks, and moves is the body. We find that the identification with the body is powerful and consistent. It is much subtler and deeper than we usually imagine it to be. Of course, some people can’t imagine anything else—“What else could I be?” It’s not easy to disidentify from the body because all our lives we’ve been taking ourselves to be the body. I’m not saying that you need to do anything to change this; you just need to be aware that this is the case. Are you really aware that you’re taking yourself to be the body?

Without the Connection to Being the World We Usually See is Really Empty

Here one is objectively perceiving the totality of ego identity, and realizing for the first time that it is empty, unreal and, in fact, feels like images or thoughts, which it is. So not only one’s individuality, but the totality of the world that one has been familiar with, turns out not to have the reality that one believed in so unquestioningly. One realizes, for the first time, that the world does not have the richness and gratification that one always believed it had. The world of ego is as empty as ego. This is a stunning discovery for the ego, and shattering to some of its most basic beliefs. One can never forget such a realization. The usual experience of the personality is that one feels oneself as real, full and existing, and the world also as real, full and existing. The usual sense of significance and substantiality of the personality is experienced as continuous with that of the significance and absolute reality of the world that one perceives. But now one experiences the ego personality as an empty shell, full of greed, lust and desire for physical pleasure, comfort, security and power. And this state is continuous with that of the world, including the physical universe, as empty, flat and lacking any real significance and value. The material which has filled this shell in the past, all the past object relations, is no longer there. And the representational world is revealed in its true nature, as empty, as a shell covering a huge, infinite deficient emptiness. Just as the experience of Being finally exposes the self as a shell covering a hole, it now exposes the representational world as a big “cosmic shell,” covering a huge “cosmic hole.” This means that without the connection to Being the world we usually see is really empty, a cosmic deficient emptiness, covered by a shell, which is the content of the representational world. It is this experience that many mystics refer to when they say the world is an illusion. A Christian contemplative relates such an experience, which was a terrible realization for her, as follows:

“Suddenly I was aware that all life around me had come to a complete standstill. Everywhere I looked, instead of life, I saw a hideous nothingness invading and strangling the life out of every object and vista in sight. It was a world being choked to death by an insidious void, whereby every remaining movement was but the final throe of death.” [Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self, p. 42] 

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