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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Constraints?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Constraints

Freedom of the Dynamism of Being to Reveal Its Possibilities Without Constraints is Experienced by Human Beings as the Freedom to be, as Liberation, Satisfaction, and Happiness

As we Understand the dynamic of realization, by utilizing the view of totality to explore how practice is related to realization, we open up and reveal the true condition of reality. We do this so that each of us has more freedom and openness in our inquiry, so that each of us has more freedom and capacity to live authentically and to live in a way that reveals the mysteries of Being. We can’t truly and completely be settled, peaceful, and happy unless we participate in the freedom of the dynamism of Being, in the inherent values of Living Being. In other words, the freedom of the dynamism of Being to reveal its possibilities without constraints is experienced by human beings as the freedom to be, as liberation, satisfaction and happiness. When Living Being is free to reveal and express its possibilities, its inherent true nature, its purity and mystery, it is the same thing as the individual fulfilling his or her design. And as long as we don’t fulfill our design, as long as we are not living in harmony with our design, we are bound to be dissatisfied. Depending on the constraints that limit the dynamism of our being, our dissatisfaction can appear in many ways that reveal old, patterned, and known ways of being. The habitual way that human beings participate in the dynamism of Being is known as the conventional view. We usually participate in the revelation of reality by being a self that exists on its own, among other selves and other objects in a world of linear time and space. This is commonly known as the ego, or dualistic, perspective. As a view, the ego perspective is neither bad nor a problem. Most nondual teachings consider the ego view delusional; they think that the dual experience of reality is false. But reality does appear as ego experience and, as such, it is only delusional if viewed from the perspective of the nondual. The view of totality recognizes it as simply one of many ways that reality manifests. The real difficulty with the ego view is that it obstructs and closes us to other possibilities of Being. The ego perspective limits the freedom of our nature to respond appropriately to the situations in which we find ourselves.

Freedom to Use Knowledge Without Constraints and Without Danger of Reification

In reality, essential guidance can operate with all the dimensions of true nature, for it is the expression of true nature. It can operate with one dimension, or with two or more of the dimensions, in coemergence. Depending on the need of the inquiry, one dimension may dominate, and in the gradual inner unfoldment one dimension after another dominates in its functioning. Thus we see how the dimensions of pure presence and pure awareness function conjointly in the inner guidance. When the soul fully understands and integrates the dimension of pure presence, she becomes open to all knowledge, to all the timeless wisdom of Reality. When she attains the dimension of pure awareness, she goes beyond knowledge, and attains nonconceptual freedom. She is now free from the constraints of knowledge. However, if she has been able to realize both dimensions and integrate them in her realization, she will be free to use knowledge without constraints, and without danger of reification. She will be able to recognize concepts and their reifications, to see the usefulness of conceptual knowledge as well as the dangers of the discriminating mind. She is open to knowledge, but is established beyond it, and hence she is not afraid of it and not constrained by it. She has attained the station of master of knowledge.

Freedom, Not Only from Your Conditioning and Constraint but Also From what Your Experience Tells You is the Truth

When I say that practice is realization realizing further realization, I don’t mean that practice keeps realizing further realization until we get to the ultimate realization. That is what many of us think. And we are accustomed to this way of thinking because many teachings assert this view. In the view I am presenting here, there is no need to hold the position of ultimate realization. When we become free from the position of being oriented toward a goal, when we let go of that, we will be amazed to discover new possibilities of experience, new ways of living and being. The freedom that can happen is unimaginable—you are free not only from your conditioning and constraint but also from what your experience tells you is the truth. There is no need to adhere to anything at all. Of course, this understanding of practice without goal is bound to be controversial. Even though many teachings talk about not having goals, they still have goals in the sense that they have the state of no-goal as an end. Many teachings hold not having a goal as a particular state or dimension. I am suggesting something different—that not having a goal is not a particular state, not a particular dimension. I mean truly and literally practice with no goal. This could be quite terrifying. “Wow, where am I going to stand? How am I going to orient myself? How is anything going to happen?” But also it ushers in an unprecedented kind of liberation and freedom.

If We Inquire Free of the Usual Constraints of Our History, Reality Begins to Manifest Itself in a Nondual Way

As we inquire into the dualistic view by inquiring into the self, we realize that this view spirals us into a manner of experiencing that generates more difficulties, more disconnection, and more suffering. Seeing that there are other ways of experiencing reality begins to allow the possibility of freedom from these constraints. The nondual view is free not only from the constraints of past impressions but also from much of that spiraling into conflicts, frustration, and discontent that is part and parcel of dualistic experience. It gives us another option of how to experience reality. We can become interested in this other way of being that feels more optimal and more healthy and more wholesome. There are many ways of arriving at this insight, this more optimal view. If we inquire free of the usual constraints of our history, reality begins to manifest itself in a nondual way. In fact, we can recognize, at some point, that what appears as the duality of subject and object is actually a manifestation of the one ground of reality. Remember that from the view of totality, the dual and the nondual are connected; they are two ways of experiencing the same thing. We can see this more clearly by closely examining the dualistic view. If we really look at the dualistic view, we realize that in every experience there is always a subject and an object. That is what defines the dualistic view—there is always somebody experiencing something.

Indications that We are Free from the Constraints and Limitations that Keep Our Experience Bound to Certain Forms, to Limited Dimensions of Possibility

Our experience of flow can go deeper, which can help us understand the previous levels of flow within a more comprehensive and fundamental view. We can feel the flow as combining the previous two kinds of experience, but integrated into one gestalt. We can experience flow as the stream of experiences, without these experiences being disconnected. At the same time the flow is not a displacement of medium from one location to another. The whole field feels flowing, but not spatially, not horizontally. We feel the flow of experiences as a fountain or a bubbling spring, instead of a river or a stream. This is a more subtle perception than the stream image, and is more accurate regarding the source of the impression of flow. There is neither destination nor source, but merely the flow outward of the arising of experience as a continuous flowing fountain of conscious presence. The fountain effect is a sensation, a feeling, an impression of flowing. The streaming fountain is a bubbling stream of experiences, where the bubbles and eddies are the forms experience is taking. It is like creation out of nothing, like a water fountain that does not have a source. The water emerges from nowhere; an experience was not there, and now it is there, while the flow is always present. This is a wonderful way of experiencing our soul: ever fresh, ever new, a source that is also the destination. This type of experience of flow occurs when our inner journey is well underway. It indicates that we are free from the constraints and limitations that keep our experience bound to certain forms, to limited dimensions of possibility. Our potential is literally flowing out, and our consciousness is a fountain of impressions, perceptions, insights, and realizations. We not only have occasional deep experiences of our spiritual depth and nature, but our experience of our soul is a continuous outflow of many new and fresh realizations and perceptions.

It is Not Easy to Become Free from the Constraints of the Self; it Comes at Us from So Many Directions and in So Many Areas of Life

When we understand motivation from the perspective of realization, it becomes much easier for practice to become continual practice. Practice is no longer dependent on our own personal position or attitude or interest. Seeing through our appropriation of the enlightenment drive liberates it to function fully as continual practice, a practice that both expresses realization and realizes further realization. It is not easy to be free from the constraints of the self—it comes at us from so many directions and in so many areas of life. Some of the angles are quite subtle, as we are seeing with selfless motivation. Selflessness is good and signifies that we are moving toward reality, but the idea or concept of any motivation already has in it an appropriation, which means that the self is there and asserting itself in some subtle way. The discovery of the self in the midst of selflessness can be challenging for us. We might feel the challenge as if it’s coming from left field, in a way that we haven’t anticipated. We might be surprised. “I didn’t know the self was there. I thought I was being selfless all this time because I served others. I’m certain that service is selfless.” Although we might not like it, the concept of service is pervaded by the concept of self. The notion of service is good, and very useful, but it approximates how reality works. Realization must go beyond approximations in order for it to deepen itself, to go to a deeper realization. Living our realization, which is what we are working with, means establishing realization in life. You see, even that language, the way I’m speaking about it, is not completely accurate. I catch myself—the language smacks of the self. When I say “establishing realization,” who is going to establish what, and for whom? We need to be careful because we use those words to mean something that is useful, but if we reify those expressions, we get ourselves in trouble again. We create another obstacle to the full expression of the enlightenment drive.

Ordinary Knowledge is Largely Culturally Determined. But Knowledge Can Free Itself from these Constraints and Apprehend What Is. This is Spiritual Awakening

In the normal cognitive process, we abstract certain forms and patterns from the overall unified field of knowledge and retain them in memory. The accumulation of these abstractions is what we ordinarily call knowledge. Our cultural environment largely determines which forms and patterns we focus on, isolate, and abstract. Thus ordinary knowledge is largely culturally determined. But knowledge can free itself from these constraints and apprehend what is. This is spiritual awakening. As we stated above, ordinary knowledge is a subset of basic knowledge. It originates in perception and experience, but then forms structures which strongly influence and further structure our moment-to-moment experience. Even ignorance and falsehood are knowledge. When we know we are ignorant of something, this is knowledge. If we are ignorant of something but believe we are not ignorant, this mistaken knowledge, this belief, functions as knowledge in our experience, even though it is false. If we see a rope and believe it is a snake, we respond exactly as if we know it is a snake. Here we are making a distinction between truth and knowledge, again acknowledging that we are using the word knowledge in a particular and unusual way in order to convey the insight that knowledge is an inherent part of the soul’s experience. 

Our Freedom is the Vastness of Being Manifesting Its Possibilities and Its Nature Freely, Without Constraints

Human freedom is the freedom of the dynamism of Being to manifest what its intelligence wants it to manifest. Human freedom is the liberation of that dynamism to display the possibilities and the appropriate forms and dimensions of experience in any situation. This living freedom manifests as individuals who have a personal life that is true and authentic, and at the same time infinite. Our freedom is the vastness of Being manifesting its possibilities and its nature freely, without constraints. The dynamism of our being cannot be liberated fully without freedom from the conventional view; the liberated condition is not possible without freedom from the self, which is the center of the conventional view. So, for our inquiry to come into its own, for our life to come to greater maturation—which means for Being to exercise its possibilities in an open way—we need to have a thoroughgoing understanding of the self. Most of our work here is an investigation and exploration of the self, its dynamics, its structures, its history, its manifestation and underlying forces. So attaining flexibility from the fixation of the self and freedom from the self are the same thing. It turns out in the work we do here that a thorough understanding of the values, structures, and dynamics of the self is not separate from a thorough understanding of our true nature, its qualities, and its dimensions. In this exploration of our true nature, the more we understand Being, the more we are free from the conventional view. As we understand the nature and dimensions of Being, particularly as we understand emptiness, the freedom of the dynamism is liberated. The beingness of living presence has an eternal partner inseparable from it, which is its nonbeingness. And when we recognize and understand emptiness as the nonbeingness of Being, as the absence of what we ordinarily call existence, we discover the kind of emptiness that opens the liberation of the dynamism.

Questioning Needs to Become Multidirectional and Open-Ended, with No Limitations, No Boundaries, No Constraints

For some people, one of the major obstacles to questions results from secrecy in childhood. If you had to keep your own feelings secret or protect the secrecy of others, it would have been very difficult to ask questions. So you may have developed a great deal of anxiety about asking questions or an expectation of severe punishment for wanting explanations. Parental attitudes toward sexual curiosity in childhood also affect questioning. Children have a lot of sexual curiosity, and an unsupportive environment could put a damper on the questioning mind. Questioning needs to become multidirectional and open ended, with no limitations, no boundaries, no constraints. You need to develop the capacity and the willingness to ask any question, about anything, anything that is germane to your experience. For we’re talking here about questioning the important, fundamental things about life, about your life. Working on questions and liberating them is very difficult, but it is important if we want to inquire effectively and powerfully. A question expresses both the fertile openness of true nature and the love that characterizes the dynamic creative force of that nature. The question invites revelation because its love for knowledge engages Being’s love of revealing itself, and the openness of the question expresses Being’s infinite and unlimited potentiality—both the source of all manifestation and the space that allows those potentialities to arise.

The Absolute, Understood Independently from the Constraints of Manifestation, is Beyond Time and Space

The absolute in its absoluteness, meaning the absolute understood independently from the constraints of manifestation, is beyond time and space. We experience its emptiness as space, but the absolute is not spatial. Space is characterized by dimensionality, which is basically extension. In other words, space creates the concept of distance, or in fact it is the concept of distance. In inner experience space appears as spaciousness, as infinite extension, as unlimited expanse. This sense of expanse provides for shape and size, which gives us the impression that true nature is an infinite expanse, a space that extends endlessly. In the experience of contact and communication we feel closer and more intimate with others, especially when there is psychological openness.

The Flow of Our Experience Can Be Constrained by Ego Structures and Identity, which is the Normal Constant Constraint of Egoic Life

From this follows the wisdom of open and open-ended inquiry, of the freedom from searching for any particular state or realization. It is the wisdom of knowing that because the dynamic intelligence of true nature, expressed through its creative logos, is what is always manifesting all forms and experience, the best approach to Reality is to recognize what form or dimension is manifesting in the consciousness of the soul, and to abide there. Any attempt to determine one’s experience, by the exercise of any practice, will be a manipulation and an interference in the flow of Reality, or at best a second-guessing of where the logos is taking our experience. Hence, the center of this wisdom is that of holding no end state to strive toward, but knowing that the ideal of liberation is the freedom of the unfoldment, of the surrender to the flow of the logos. Since we are then not trying to direct our experience to go toward any particular state or condition, the dynamism of the logos is liberated to unfold according to its optimizing intelligence. The flow of our experience can be constrained by ego structures and identity, which is the normal constant constraint of the egoic life, or through conscious and intentional inner and spiritual practices that aim toward the generation and actualization of particular states. Both constrain our experience and are counter to the spontaneous outflow of the logos. This is true even if our spiritual practice is an attempt to realize the highest spiritual states, like that of the absolute or of nonconceptual awareness. What is left for us is the motiveless inquiry into the truth that the logos is manifesting, and the surrender to its flow.

The Process of Learning this “Allowing” Attitude is in Itself a Loosening of the Ego’s Constraints

The work that is being done in the group setting is primarily verbal, directing the attention of the student to his feelings, thoughts, body sensations and more subtle states. Sometimes emotional catharsis of one sort or another occurs as the conflicts that are blocking the student’s experience of himself are brought to consciousness. Unconscious material arises and is investigated, and this generally allows an expansion, or spaciousness, in the student which in turn allows the more subtle qualities to manifest. The fundamental attitude which governs how we work with students is what we call “allowing.” That is, the teacher refrains from judgment and pushing the student, instead using skillful questioning and compassionate presence to allow the student to investigate what is happening. Also the student is encouraged to experience his emotions, thoughts, sensations and conflicts without rejecting them, but rather gently investigating them. When this attitude of allowing is learned, the student can then confront amazingly deep and terrifying material. And the process of learning this “allowing” attitude is in itself a loosening of the ego’s constraints, since as we have discussed, it is in the nature of ego to reject present reality and focus on its fears or desires.

When Our View is Free from the Constraints of the Concept of Time the Concept of Time Can Still be Present

Our view of time and space changes all along the journey, but as our realization of the absolute stabilizes and matures and as the creative discrimination of being functions, we encounter further mysteries of time and space. We have already explored some of the ways in which our understanding of time and space can expand beyond nondual experiences of timelessness and spacelessness. So, for example, when our view is free from the constraints of the concept of time, the concept of time can still be present; we can be aware of the passage of time, we can be aware of the presence of eternity and timelessness, but none of these patterns our perception and our experience. Our sense of being and of what we are includes it all; we recognize that we are the timelessness and we are also all of time. We see that true nature is more than the nowness of experience; it is also a mysterious truth and reality that includes all times. This shows that what we experience as the now is only one manifestation or one way of experiencing Being or true nature. There is a subtler experience that has nothing to do with now, since now still contains a subtle reference to time. When the concept of time is truly not influencing how we experience ourselves and reality, then both our experience and our view open and we see another degree of freedom.

You’ll Get Somewhere According to An Idea, but it is Not Necessarily where Your Being Would Take You Without Constraint

The Work must be done according to your own inquiry; the Work that we do here is only a guidance. Your motivation has to be pure, real and true; your flame has to be there; otherwise you’ll use the Work for the wrong purpose. You’ll get somewhere according to an idea, but it is not necessarily where your Being would take you without constraint. You can develop this and that, become free from this and that, but how do you know whether that will fulfill your destiny? You might think you’re supposed to be more loving, or less afraid, or more comfortable, or more relaxed, or richer, or more beautiful. Maybe you are, maybe not. These are just ideas. But true questioning, sincere questioning doesn’t have a particular goal. If you think you have a goal, an end, and if you think you’re going to go there, you’ve already extinguished the flame. If you’ve told yourself you’re here because you want to be enlightened, you want to be free, you want to be loving, you want to be this or that, that means that you already know. But you don’t know, really. It’s a lie to believe that you know. It’s true that there’s a question and that you don’t know the answer—that is the truth. The most honest answer you can give to the question “Why am I here?” is that I am here because I don’t know. The truest reason for you to be here is to fan that flame of inquiry. These questions are not theoretical or philosophical. They are at the root and heart of your life, relevant for every moment of your life, whatever you’re doing. If you don’t know but you’re pretending that you know, you’re wasting the moment. It’s a complete waste, regardless of what you’re doing. It’s not only that the idea in your mind might be the wrong one for you—the fact that it is an idea, instead of a direct perception, puts out the flame of the search, and your unfoldment is blocked. Whenever the answer is not a direct perception it will block or distort your experience.

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