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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Discipline?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Discipline

A Basic Ingredient Needed for Inner Development

Discipline is a basic ingredient in almost all schools of inner development. This is for several reasons. One reason is that the emotional, false personality tends to behave and act in a haphazard way, mainly in whatever way seems to help avoid any unpleasant truth. So without discipline it will tend not to do the work necessary for inner development because this work is largely a process of confronting unpleasant truths, at least at the initial stages.

Discipline is a Way of Dealing with One's Personal Limitations

Student: I have a question about the relationship between self-discipline and the love of truth. It seems like there’s a continuum where self-discipline is the motivation for the process of inquiry, and then at some point, love of the process of getting to the truth takes over.

Almaas: My experience is the other way around. It is loving the truth that motivates me to discipline myself. Why else would I want to discipline myself? What would motivate me to do that? Love is the source of true discipline. Let’s assume that you’re really interested in the subject matter you’re inquiring into. Then at some point, you discover that you have certain limitations. Because of those limitations, you need discipline. Discipline is a way of dealing with one’s personal limitations; to use it in other situations is to turn it into the superego. That’s why kids always develop a superego: Their parents try to discipline them, but children don’t see the point. They don’t see the discipline as addressing their needs or limitations. So it becomes a superego thing that is unavoidable. But that’s okay as a transitory stage.

Discipline is Needed for Openness in Inquiry

That’s not true. You may think of inquiry as a restriction or as a chosen direction, but if you look at it more fully, you will find that this is not so. It is an openness to your experience, but that doesn’t mean allowing unconscious, limiting behavior to go unexamined. You are defining openness as whatever happens, even if it is actually a resistance to openness, which happens to be the habitual condition of the ego-self. I am not defining openness as going along with whatever happens without being aware of how open or closed the experience is. If we define openness this way, then most of the time your experience will be that of an unexamined, closed mind. This is the state of the ego-self, which is not openness, and which tends to block Being’s optimizing dynamism. There is no spiritual practice then, only ego activity that is compulsively trying to get someplace. So I do not think that a person who is distracting herself is being open. If a person is going along with a distraction, which is the usual condition of the ego-self, I don’t call that openness. Inquiry tends not to go along with distractions; it tends to focus you on what is actually going on. So there is a discipline in inquiry, but discipline does not necessarily contradict openness. In fact, you need discipline for a long time in order to be open because you are accustomed to being closed and distracted.

Feeling the Rightness of It

That is the basis of discipline: You do something because you love it. You feel the rightness of it. That helps you to remember your intention to practice and to persevere in following through on that intention. If the heart doesn’t feel that something is right for you, you can’t do it. You won’t feel the motive for it. When you know it’s the right thing for you, you sit to meditate, inquire, and attend to yourself through practice; you find the time because you want to, even if it is difficult.. You stay in touch with your belly and, over time, your belly starts calling you, starts rumbling when you are not paying enough attention. At some point, it sends out a message: “Hello . . . Hey! Down here . . .” You become more sensitive to your condition and feel both the connection and the disconnection from Being more distinctly. Practice increases presence and awareness in depth and intensity, and as your presence expands and becomes more accessible, you become more aware of its absence. Developing presence in the belly creates a center of gravity for Being, so that the perspective of the world doesn’t take you into its gravitational pull as strongly. That doesn’t mean you won’t forget, but over time, with the awakening of this center, you will become more grounded in Being. Developing this capacity for grounding begins with taking the time to do the practices you have been taught. Over time, you will see the benefits, and the center of gravity you develop will allow you to stay in touch with a deeper reality throughout the various situations in your life. In taking your practice seriously, you will be able to feel a greater capacity to follow through on your intention to be in touch with yourself, whatever state you may be in, and to be real, regardless of the condition you find yourself in and the content that life brings your way.

The True Meaning of Inner Discipline

The aspect of the Citadel provides guidance for how to live one’s life according to the Truth of Being. It is referred to as “objective conscience,” for it is like the conscience of Essence. It gives one support and protection, i.e., is present and available, only when one is living according to the Truth of Essence. In other words, its presence (realization) is equivalent to living according to the laws of Being. Realizing this aspect means many practical things. One must change one’s practical life in a way that supports essential life, rather than impeding it. One’s activities, interests, associations, relationships and so on, now have to be according to the Truth, in the service of, and in harmony with, Essence. Living the life of Truth is the true meaning of inner discipline. One actually must discipline oneself in a certain way. However, it is not the usual understanding of discipline. It is not according to rules one has in the mind—which is the control of the superego—and it is not according to someone else’s idea of discipline. It is very personal, and depends on the particular person and his situation in life. He has to find his own way, his own application of objective Truth in his life. And he can do this by realizing the Citadel, by using it as his true conscience. This true life is seen to be the real support and protection of Essence and its development. The inner state itself is not enough. The state itself, in fact, will not be present if one lives according to lies and delusions. One has to become real or this aspect is not permanently attained. If it is not attained then one cannot resolve ego inadequacy. This aspect becomes primary for such resolution.

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