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Consciousness (Individual Consciousness)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Consciousness (Individual Consciousness)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Consciousness (Individual Consciousness)

Domination of Individual Consciousness, Alternately, by Essential Presence and Ego Individuality

The realization of the Personal Essence is not the end of its story; in fact, its story does not have an end. It is a continual process of growth and increasing maturity. We divide this process into two major parts: realization and development. Realization means it becomes a permanent personal attainment; the Personal Essence is present whenever its mode of functioning is objectively indicated. One’s life becomes rich with the profundity, beauty and joy of essential life. However, this does not necessarily indicate the complete transformation of ego or the complete disidentification from its structures. At this stage the usual condition is that there is always essential presence, but there is still some identification with ego structures. The individual consciousness is alternately dominated by essential presence and ego individuality. Identity with Essence alternates with identity with ego. One feels there are two parts, in a kind of dialogue—the old, familiar personality with its ego states, and the ever fresh Personal Essence with its essential experience and perception.

The Mystery Needs Our Individual Consciousness for It to Know

It is always through our individual consciousness that we know the mystery, even when we experience ourselves as its vastness, its expanse, its luminosity. It is our experience, not somebody else’s. In other words, this perception is happening through a particular individual consciousness, even though we recognize ourselves as this empty vastness. This demonstrates the implicit presence of individual consciousness, of the individual soul. No experience or perception can occur without this organ of experience, so there is no way to know this mystery from its own viewpoint. There is no claim that the mystery knows itself in a way we cannot know it, for it needs our individual consciousness for it to know. But simply put, the mystery can only know itself through a particular individual consciousness, and hence it can never know itself absolutely without it. The Diamond Approach takes the view that the teachings of different spiritual paths approximate the knowledge of this mystery in different ways, some definite and precise, others indefinite and ambiguous. However, we see no reason to take one as true and the others as false. Different teachings can each reflect objective truth about reality in its purity because of this indeterminability of the mystery.

Being Mistakes the Individual Consciousness to be All of What It is, to be Its Only Identity

In other words, the delusion of the ego perspective is that Being identifies itself with the organ of its experience. That is to say that Being, in its mystery and vastness and magic and indefinable and immeasurable qualities, constrains itself by taking itself to be the organ through which it experiences and perceives. Being mistakes the individual consciousness to be all of what it is, to be its only identity. So the problem is not that there is an organ of perception, that there is individual consciousness. What causes all the trouble —the suffering and discontent and incompleteness and meaninglessness and dissociation and headaches and heartaches—is that we take the individual consciousness to be all of what we are, now and forever. But in reality, we are Being in its vastness at the same time as we are the individual with its uniqueness. This mysterious unity of Being and the individual manifests in infinite kinds of experience and realization, which signal the freedom that is possible for human beings.

Being the Absolute Mystery

I experience myself as a soft, relaxed and ripened soul. I am an individual consciousness which I experience as presence. I am a living presence, free from contractions, identifications or mental elaborations. I am clear and transparent presence, but feel alive and dynamic. As this presence I experience myself as delicate and exquisitely fine. The sense of I or identity springs from within, as an innate self-recognition. It originates from the center of the presence, which I see now as a brilliant point of light. The point of light is alive and scintillating, beautiful and precious. Yet, as both the living delicate presence of the soul and the brilliant point of light, I am inseparable from the nothingness of the absolute, an expression of it that is it. I am the absolute mystery, a vastness that has manifested itself within itself as a transparent sphere of conscious presence, whose center is a radiant point of light. The felt experience is lightness and intimacy, preciousness and exquisiteness, and total personal vulnerability. This is the quintessence of being a real human person.

Descent of a Column of Empty Space Above the Head

What is actually happening in the experience of the hole is that the individual consciousness is in tune with the dimension of space in that area of the head. Since space is experienced as nothing, there is the impression of a hole in the cranium, as if the top of the head has been surgically removed. This is not a hallucination; it is an actual accurate perception of the dimension of space localized in that area. If the person is more sensitive, then he will be aware that the hole is really a part of a column of space which starts at the cranium and goes upward into the space above. This perception is good evidence that the space we are discussing is not the common physical space, since it can be differentiated from physical space by a fine perceptual capacity. Also, more refined perception can sense the onset of the experience of space as a descent of a column of empty space above the head. When it impinges on the cranium, the individual has an impression of a hole. This experience, if the person is not too frightened and is ready for it, will automatically develop as the perception of a column of space extending downward in the head. Now the person will be aware of it more definitively as an empty space, instead of as a hole. The mind is experienced as clear, empty and lucid.

The Void, pg. 56

Individual Consciousness in a Continual Alive Embrace with Presence and Emptiness

In this way, through practice, we deepen back to the source and become a conduit for its expression. What begins as the release of emotional charge at the surface level of our existence becomes the entry into the freedom of continuous energetic renewal of our nature into manifestation. The ebb and flow of our consciousness is the expression of the pulse of life. The more you sense your belly and the more present you can be when you’re having reactions or experiences of any kind, the more any experience can be an opening to the underlying stillness with its intelligent, creative dynamism. The energy that transports and transforms us is the radiance of the silent stillness, which enables our life to take new form. We are born anew each moment, coming forward as radiance and purity, void of the reactive self based on the past. We are free in such a condition. This is a process that continues infinitely—individual consciousness in a continual, alive embrace with presence and emptiness, looping and spiraling as one living vortex, continually clarifying and purifying, learning and emptying, wanting and loving, blending and disappearing and rising again. This process is not a matter of getting to an ultimate end or any particular state, where you say, “Okay, I get to my stillness or the dynamism and I’m done.” No, over and over again, we’re taken in and are birthed into Being once more in novel ways. This potential is true and present within all experience. Whatever your experience is, whatever is happening, there is freedom to be discovered within it. This is the discovery of the life of a real human being.

Potential for the Sensitivity of Our Individual Consciousness

Attunement is a way we use empathic sensitivity; it is an action based on sensitivity to another such that your response matches what is happening with her. You get a sense of where she is coming from and are able to respond in a way that speaks to that. For a relationship to evolve, for the relational field to open up and evolve, we have to first really understand that there is a person, here too, with her own feelings, her own experience. The more present we are, the more real we are, and the more our heart is open and available, the more this sensitivity of our consciousness is able to feel where someone is. And it is possible that our individual consciousness can get so sensitive that we actually feel in ourselves what another person is experiencing, in its totality and specifics. How often have you walked into a room and immediately said to yourself, “Hmm, it feels tense in here”? Then you find out that somebody there is going through a hard time and you’re picking up on it. Or you feel uplifted the minute you walk in—“Oh, it feels really nice in here”—and you find out that something joyful has been going on in the house. We don’t have to actually see somebody and get physical cues to feel what is happening. Our consciousness is sensitive. Our humanness has a sensitivity to it beyond the nervous system. It is more of a gut feeling at first, but it can manifest as an actual set of sensations corresponding to specific emotions and spiritual states of consciousness.

The Individual Consciousness is Actually a Personal Expression of a Vast Ocean of Reality

Yet, from the realized point of view, all experiences, including the physical, are just waves in the ocean. From our limited view, spiritual experiences are miracles that come from some other, invisible dimension, but when we know the ocean—when we know reality directly and fully—we see how much more fundamentally real it is. This exposes the flimsiness of the ideas we have and reveals the truth that the individual consciousness is actually a personal expression of a vast ocean of reality. But to the person who is truncated from her essential ground, it seems like a miracle: “Oh, I had this opening . . . this amazing presence of light came, and I felt so wonderful . . .” We believe that it was an unusual event, that it was something other than what we are. The wave can awaken to her wateriness and the source of her existence in a more complete way. Experiencing the light is one thing. To awaken to it and recognize it as true, and to know it as one’s nature, is quite another. When the wave knows that the ocean is the source, this is realization. When the wave feels the ocean and experiences the wetness without knowing it and recognizing it, this is a spiritual experience that remains unexplainable, unknown, and unrealized. It is still part of the dream. It is not yet an awakening.

The Individual Self Owes Everything to Being

With this realization I begin to be aware of a deep, deep sadness and grief. The depth of the sadness feels infinite, an endless dark ocean of tears. This letting go allows me to see that I must let go of everything because none of it is mine. I, as the individual consciousness, own nothing, have nothing, am nothing. I feel so empty, so impoverished, so lacking that I cannot claim to possess anything, not even existence. This is not a state of ego deficiency or self-devaluation, and there is no sense of self-pity in it. It is a heartfelt, immediate realization of a fundamental truth of the individual soul. It is the recognition of the objective situation: the individual self owes everything to Being, for Being is the true source of everything. It is Being that possesses existence, reality, intelligence, qualities, capacities, and so on. I, the individual self, have these available to me only when I am open to Being. On my own, I am absolutely indigent, totally helpless, completely hopeless, thoroughly inadequate. I am nothing but a limp, empty bag.

When We Recognize True Nature it is Actually True Nature Making the Recognition Happen

The important part about recognizing this dynamism in everyday life is that it is ultimately what moves us; it is ultimately what moves our arms and our legs. In limited situations we might experience the cosmic dynamism of reality as a sense of spontaneity, a sense of flow, a sense of ease of movement. So when we understand something and we have an insight and recognize true nature, we don’t take it to mean that it is my mind doing it. We take it to mean that it is the dynamism of true nature manifesting through my limited mind at that time and revealing itself to itself. We can see the agency happening without anthropomorphizing it into a figure that comes and teaches me something. It’s more that true nature appears within the individual consciousness as a capacity for understanding, for insight, for responsiveness. The dynamism of true nature appears as the functioning of the real heart, the functioning of the real mind, the functioning of real action. These are the ways that the dynamism manifests in individual life. It’s a subtle thing. In our teaching, we see that our normal mind simply does not have the capacity to recognize true nature. When we recognize true nature, it is actually true nature making the recognition happen. From the beginning of our practice, it is true nature that decided to make itself known through the practice. It’s not like we practice and at some point we recognize true nature. True nature is functioning from the beginning. The dynamism from the beginning is what is guiding our work, what is moving the whole process.

You, the Individual Consciousness are the Vehicle Through which True Nature Does its Thing

Many of us might be feeling concerned, and divested in some way. “Do you mean that you want me to give up my love for truth? Do you want me to give up my compassion and my service? If I do that, I won’t do anything. What does it mean that the love isn’t mine?” All this time, you have believed that you are the one who is doing it, and that you’ve got your own motivation to do it, and that you’ve been doing it because of that motivation. As we start to challenge the delusion of motivation, you might be scared and say, “Well, I’m not going to do anything then. The love isn’t mine anyway.” But your fear also expresses that same delusion of appropriation, assuming that you are the center of any action, of any doing or not doing. It is true that the love is not yours, but you also cannot disown it. You might feel sad and think, “But I’ll be heartless if I don’t live from the perspective of love and compassion. I won’t be human at all.” Well, think again! When we love truth for its own sake, it is true nature experiencing its love through you. It is reality expressing its compassion through your particular, individual soul. You—what you take yourself to be, the individual consciousness—are the vehicle through which true nature does its thing, and you have mistaken it to be that you are doing your thing. So, we just want to set things straight! You are not losing anything you have had.

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