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Experience (Personal Experience)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Experience (Personal Experience)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Experience (Personal Experience)

A Self-Image Relating to an Object Image is Not a True Personal Experience

How can one be truly personal in an interaction when the other is not seen for who he is? How can an image be personal? If one’s experience is restricted to the level of object constancy, which according to object relations theory is the culmination of ego development, then it is not possible to be personal in any way that is not purely mental. A self-image relating to an object image is not a true personal experience. The true capacity to be personal does in fact arise around the time object constancy is achieved, and even when there is ego present, it is possible to be personal. But the capacity to be personal cannot be the capacity of an individuality based on ego identifications. To be truly personal one must have achieved a development beyond that of a coherent self-image.

Being a Silent Witness, Vast and Unchanging, Beyond Space and Time

By the time dinner is over, the density and substantiality suddenly evaporate, revealing a vastness beyond comprehension. I do not perceive this vastness, but I recognize it as my very identity. I experience myself as the vast silent dark emptiness. As I experience this new identity, I learn a great deal of what I truly am when I am not trapped in the particulars of personal life and history. I can be present as personal existence, or I can transcend all personal experience. I am then the unchanging background witnessing, which has been revealing itself in the midst of personal experience, in glimpses and intimations, flashes and intuitions. Now this awareness reveals itself fully, as the universal witness. I experience myself as beyond everything, literally everything, and not just everything in my personal life. I am a silent witness, vast and unchanging, beyond time and all space. I am absolutely still, totally uninvolved, but completely aware. This demonstrates directly that I do not need to be freed or enlightened. I am always free, always have been and always will be. Also, I cannot be trapped, for my very identity is totally detached awareness. I can see my personal life as a drama that I do not have to be involved in. It is like a movie that has a beginning and an end, but it is not me. I feel distant from everything, but acutely aware of everything. I am a silent space, totally empty but containing everything. The recognition, which is a direct perception, is that everything is in me. The body, the universe, essence, personality, everything that can become an object of perception, is not me, but is in me. I am pure awareness, mere witnessing, where everything arises and passes away.

Emergence of Essence in its Aspects Can be Seen as Due to Interest in Understanding Oneself and One’s Reality

The essential aspects are not sought after, but are allowed to emerge on their own. One merely lives fully, in close contact with one’s personal experience, but is continually and deeply curious about, and open to, reality. One’s life is governed by the love of truth, and understanding is experienced as inseparable and indistinguishable from the unfoldment of one’s potential. The emergence of Essence in its aspects can be seen as due to interest in understanding oneself and one’s reality. But Essence can equally be seen as emerging on its own, in response to life situations, and thus influencing one’s consciousness, as it approaches from the depths. As each aspect of Essence pushes towards consciousness it naturally confronts the identification systems that were developed to bury it and to emulate it. It exposes this segment of the personality, making it feel ego alien (contrary to one’s sense of who one is), and bringing about an objective understanding of that part of the personality. This understanding is the truth that is absorbed, which leads to the conscious emergence of the particular aspect.

Everything is the Absolute Communicating with us Revealing Some of Its Possibilities and Potentialities

Another way of saying it is that all manifestations—which include all experiences—are ultimately manifestation out of the Absolute. Everything is the Absolute communicating with us, revealing some of its possibilities and potentialities. And inquiry is a matter of reading and understanding this communication. In its communication, the Absolute is always guiding us to itself, pulling us toward itself. It does this through its emissary, its representative in our personal experience, which is the Point. In the operation of the Diamond Guidance, the Point affects our consciousness by always orienting us to the point of the situation, the meaning of experience, the heart of the matter. In guided inquiry, we are always pulled in deeper and deeper. The Point, the Essential Identity, is needed in order to comprehend our experience—to reveal it as a unified whole—because the Point is the organizing center of our circle of experience. It is the center of our personal mandala. It is also the direction of ultimate understanding. In other words, the function of the Point, as part of the Diamond Guidance, is to continuously deepen our understanding. How? By pointing it toward our ultimate nature, our final identity.

Human Development is Constituted by the Metabolism of Personal Experience, and for this Metabolism to be Complete the True Must be Separated from the False

We come then to the understanding of what is required for inner transformation: impressions will be completely metabolized, to the point of absorption into Being, only when completely purged of falsehood. Ego is absorbed into Being only after it is completely purified. This is the original sense of spiritual purification, which has nothing to do with morality but involves separating the true from the false. This understanding is one reason the Sufis call the process of inner transformation the “purification” of the ego. We see here, too, the role of truth in this process: since human development is constituted by the metabolism of personal experience, and for this metabolism to be complete the true must be separated from the false—the former to be absorbed and the latter to be discarded—we can see that the specific requirement for growth, maturation and development is truth, the truth garnered from personal experience. In general, the process of eliminating falsehood is spontaneous; the mind generally lets go of an impression when it recognizes it to be false. Since it can no longer be used for purposes of identification, and cannot be absorbed, the false impression simply dissolves. An exception to this pattern is when a clearly false belief is part of a larger system, most likely unconscious, which the mind still takes to be true; then the mind will hold on to the falsehood until the larger belief system is revealed.

In the Soul’s Personal Experience She May Perceive the Absolute Coemergent with Awareness, Presence or Love but in Actuality All the Dimensions Make Up an Indivisible Unity

The Journey of Descent reveals the relation between the absolute and the various dimensions of true nature. The quintessential dimension reveals it specifically as not actually a relation, but a complete integration, a perfect coemergence. All the dimensions of true nature—its absolute essence, nonconceptual awareness, pure presence, divine love, and creative logos—make up one truth, in a primordial synthesis. In the soul’s personal experience she may perceive the absolute coemergent with awareness, presence, or love, but in actuality all the dimensions make up an indivisible unity. To experience a limited coemergence indicates a transitory dominance of some dimensions due to the conditions of the particular situation. But true nature inherently and primordially possesses all the five dimensions. This means that any essential aspect inherently exists in all the five dimensions simultaneously. An aspect is always a dynamic presence continually generated by the creativity of the logos. It possesses its own inseparable awareness of its presence and phenomenological characteristics, its cognitive flavor or universal concept, its affective coloration, and it is always fundamentally coemergent with its own ontological absence. In other words, the journey of descent shows us that an essential aspect is inherently nondual with all the dimensions of true nature, a differentiation of a particular perfection of this true nature.

Inquiring is All that is Needed. Being, which is Our True Nature, will Do the Rest

So inner essential support is experienced as groundedness and rootedness, which means being grounded in our own personal experience through our physical body. The more we have our own inner support, the more confidence we have to simply be open. Then we can see that inquiring is all that is needed. Being, which is our true nature, will do the rest. We can just open up and invite our Being, and it will respond and display its riches. It is a cooperation, like a feedback loop in which inquiry invites and Being reveals. The revelation expands the inquiry, which in turn accelerates the revelation. Inner support gives us a sense of confidence in this cooperation. Why is that? Because the sense of grounding, which is a function of embodying the Will, is an expression of the universal will in the soul. The universal will is the optimizing force of Being’s dynamism, the force that actualizes the revelation that our heart desires—the realization of who we truly are. The more we have our own inner solidity, grounding, and support, the more we feel confident in our inquiry, because this confidence is an expression of the universal will, which is the force of the optimizing dynamism. In other words, having our own inner support makes us aware of the functioning of true dynamism and lets us know that this dynamism functions to optimize experience.

It is the Personal, Free, Alone Investigation of Your Moment-to-Moment Truth that Will Lead You to All Truth, All Levels of Truth

AH: You have to be personal in your truth. There might be truth, all kinds of truths in the world, but they are not relevant to you at that moment. You must see what relates to you in that moment, otherwise the question is intellectual, and if it’s intellectual you’re not going to be able to solve it. But if you take your personal experience at that very moment, you could find the truth right there. It is that personal, free, alone investigation of your moment-to-moment truth, that will lead you to all truth, all the levels of truth. But if you try to follow what this person says, or that person says, it’s hard to know the way. Really it is not possible, because though there may be deep truth in it, it might not be relevant to you at that moment. If it’s not relevant there is no need for you to know it then, and it could be an intellectual defense against what you do need at that moment. That’s why I emphasize the personal aspect, to be personally involved in your truth. It is your life, it is your experience, it is your every sensation at that moment; it is for you to understand. The truth finally will be revealed in you, to you, if you stay with the moment without prejudice, just exploring the truth. You can’t do it from the outside, you need to penetrate and own your own experience.

Metabolism of Personal Experience Appears to Fill Out the Essential Self

The final outcome of the process of personalization is the development of the Personal Essence, with the Essential Self as its center and source. So, in some sense, it is true that the world is the child’s oyster. Being, by manifesting in the world and interacting with it, develops the Personal Essence, the Pearl Beyond Price. We have seen that the Essential Self is instrumental in forming self-representations. Self-representations contain the worldly experience and wisdom of the organism. These self-representations ultimately lead to the realization of the Personal Essence. This happens through the complete metabolism of experience. The Personal Essence absorbs all the true wisdom relevant to living in the world, while still being Essence. It has some sense of identity, reminiscent of the Essential Self, but with it there is growth and development. The development of the Personal Essence can be considered an outgrowth, a development, from the Essential Self. It is as if the Essential Self becomes filled out through the metabolism of personal experience. The understanding of the relationship between the Personal Essence and the Essential Self is a certain realization in the process of inner realization, which occurs in its deeper stages. The relationship is seen as that of love and value, as the true and essential object relation. The Personal Essence is the true person, and the Essential Self is his true source. One experiences oneself as an alive and sensuous fullness, as the expression of the love, joy, pleasure, appreciation and light of the Self. One is Being, but fully grounded in the world.

Most of the Time We Don’t Know Exactly What’s Happening with Us

As we have seen, most of the time we don’t know exactly what’s happening with us. We know scattered bits and pieces, but it is difficult to see how they fit into one coherent manifestation. And we notice that even when we pay attention and are aware of our experience, we don’t automatically know where we are. Knowing where we are requires some clarity. It takes some inquiry. To further our understanding, a specific discrimination can be made to support our practice of finding where we are and letting ourselves be. That is, we can learn how to differentiate our experience into two parts: the primary component and the secondary components. The primary component is the central event—the main thing that is actually arising in our personal experience at any given moment. And that can be anything. It can be a feeling or emotion, such as a state of joy or love or dread. It can be a sense of deficiency or feeling like an empty shell. It can be some kind of activity or perhaps an imagining. So the primary component is what is actually emerging in the field of our consciousness, in the field of our soul. The secondary components are the reactions and responses to the primary component, to the central event. There is generally one primary component, but there may be many secondary ones. We experience the main event as it arises, and we also experience commentaries, reactions, and attitudes to that primary event.

Our Predicament

A curious predicament faces human beings—a dilemma which is a predicament we usually consider part of being human, part of what characterizes humanity, and is the intimate personal experience of almost every individual. This predicament is the paradoxical situation of every person: that we desire happiness, freedom, and release, and yet continue to suffer—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We want happiness; we want release from our suffering and anguish. We are always seeking liberation from emotional and mental bondage, but we continue to suffer. Meaningless suffering abounds everywhere. In fact, it keeps accumulating. Even when our pain is diminished, the relief is small and transitory. Some people manage to accept suffering to some degree. This helps, but does not resolve the predicament. Happiness keeps eluding us. Suffering and running from suffering are the permanent central preoccupation of the majority of people. In every person there lies buried deep in the heart, perhaps only faintly experienced, a desire for a certain sort of life: a life that is desired at the depth of man's heart, a life that is free and unencumbered, a life that is full of beauty, joy and fulfillment. But this life remains a dream, an inaccessible and distant ideal. When we feel joy, fulfillment and beauty, these experiences usually pass through us briefly, and leave behind them a deep longing and a sense of lack. Permanent and abiding fulfillment, a life of continuing beauty and expanding freedom, is rarely realized. Our longing for the fulfilled life is increased by the fact that throughout the centuries, there have always been a few individuals who have made the ideal into a beautiful and living reality for themselves, and by the example of their own lives, have shown that it is possible, it is attainable.

Personal Experience is Usually Not Very Advanced

The discussion of the Diamond Approach so far might lead one to assume that it is an example of the perspective on inner realization which says that realization is a gradual process, and emphasizes the development of the Personal Essence. The approach is not intentionally aimed in that direction, but since it is based on the metabolism of personal experience, and personal experience is usually not very advanced, the progression of experiences and insights does tend to take the more gradual route. Nevertheless, in rare cases, and for varying reasons, the more sudden jump to the impersonal realms does occur. The understanding of the psychic metabolism of experience seems to imply that human realization goes from the development of ego, to the realization of the essential aspects with the Personal Essence as the central aspect, to the enlightenment on the nonpersonal levels of Being; however, the realization of the nonpersonal aspects does not involve abandonment of the personal and other aspects of Essence. In fact, the Personal Essence goes through another stage of development as its relation to the nonpersonal aspects is understood and metabolized. It becomes the personal actualization of the nonpersonal aspects of Being.

Real Personal Contact Occurs when We Feel Our Soul Itself is in Direct Contact with the Other Person’s Soul

We need to clarify what we mean by personal. We know that the ego feels personal; the personality is even named after the personal. So how do you tell the true personal from the personality personal? What do we mean when we talk about personal contact? To the personality, it means feelings. “I’m personal because I can tell them all of my feeling. I’m opening my heart to them.” That is what is commonly taken to be the personal experience, but this is an imitation just as the whole personality is an imitation. Personal, for the personality, also means not objective and not universal—it means to be a bounded individual. The personality needs a sense of boundary, of isolation from everything and everyone else. The personal essence doesn’t need that sense of isolation or of boundaries. There is no sense of, “I am separate from you.” There is no wall between the two of us. The personality has a wall, its edges. So the personality cannot be personal completely; it is like two walls touching. The closest that personality can come to true personal contact is physical contact—two bodies opening to each other, and, actually, in the moment of release, the personality lets go, dissolves for a moment. Real personal contact occurs when we feel our soul itself is in direct contact with the other person’s soul. It is when essence itself is making contact, is itself contactfulness. I am making contact without completely merging into you or the universal—the contact is immediate and with no boundaries, but still not all one big ocean. The substance of one soul is touching the very substance of another soul, two essences coming together. You are free and spontaneous, not conditioned. You are a fullness, an aliveness, and abundance in being yourself. You being there is a wonderful, pleasurable, sensual fullness.

Recognizing Our Personal Experience, Being with it, Feeling it with Immediacy and Awareness and Understanding, Brings Not Only Meaning but a Thread of Meaning, a Continuity of Meaning

So as you see, there is always a continuity of meaning for each of us, if we’re really practicing being where we are. This continuity of meaning I call the personal thread. A lot is happening in the universe. The universe itself is flowing and moving and changing, and everybody and everything that composes it is moving and changing as well. Within that shared reality, each one of us is having our own personal experience in terms of where we are—our personal thread. Recognizing our personal experience, being with it, feeling it with immediacy and awareness and understanding—brings not only meaning but a thread of meaning, a continuity of meaning. And this thread of meaning is our own individual unfolding journey of truth. The significance of an individual life arises from this thread of meaning. Our practice of being where we are supports our lives becoming centered on our own personal thread. It becomes the core and the center of our life, because it is the core and center of our awareness, of our experience, of our being here. When we’re inquiring, when we’re practicing, what we’re doing is finding our personal thread, recognizing where it happens to be, and following it.

The Direct Relation of the Personal Essence to the Formless Realms of Being

We have been discussing the process of personalization of the Cosmic Consciousness, which shows the direct relation of the Personal Essence to the formless realms of Being. It indicates, in an actual personal experience, that individuation is really the Cosmic Conscious Presence individualizing and manifesting as the Personal Essence. This process is also the deeper resolution of ego inadequacy. It is easy to see here that ego inadequacy is not only a consequence of the loss of contact with Essence, but also due to the separateness of ego boundaries that isolates the ego individuality from the Cosmic Presence. The Personal Essence has no inadequacy because it is directly connected to, and hence completely supported by, the Cosmic Loving Presence. Ego boundaries leave the ego individuality without the inner support of the various aspects of Essence, and without the comprehensive support of the Cosmic Essence (Consciousness). So just as we saw before that ego inadequacy is due to a mistaken sense of self, now we see that it is also due to the presence of ego boundaries. Both intrapsychic self-structures, the sense of identity and the sense of separateness, although indispensable to ego existence, are the reasons for its deep and basic inadequacy. Inadequacy is the deep nature of ego, due to the mere presence of its structure.

The Growth of the Soul Can be Explored Scientifically in Terms of the Evolution of Her Forms Because We Can Observe it in Our Personal Experience by Reflecting on Our Individual History

This again points to a basic property of the soul, a property implicit in its unfolding dynamism that we can understand and experience explicitly: the property of growth. The soul not only manifests her potential, but by manifesting it she grows and matures. As she unfolds she moves toward more inclusion of her potential, hence more completion of her experience. This movement is best described as natural growth, moving toward what we call maturation. We can be aware of growth externally, as a conceptual understanding of certain changes, but we can also experience growth directly, in our internal experience. We observe growth in the changing of the soul as she unfolds her potential in forms of ever-increasing levels of organization. This observable evolution of forms, of perception and experience, is amenable to empirical research, particularly in fields like systems theory. (See appendix E for a discussion of the soul in systems theory terms.) The growth of the soul can be explored scientifically in terms of the evolution of her forms, because we can observe it in our personal experience by reflecting on our individual history.

The More One Gains from True Experience, the More the Presence of the Personal Essence Grows and Attains More Capacities and a Greater Maturity

Being is a magnificent reality. It has all that a human being needs to grow and develop. It does not matter what one missed in childhood. If one looks within, and is genuinely interested in the truth, one finds treasures beyond imagination. Only purely physical needs cannot be fulfilled with Essence. Any need that is emotional, mental, spiritual or moral, can be completely fulfilled by the richness of Being. The aspect of Nourishment is a kind of love; a gentle, delicate and lightly sweet presence. It has a warm sense of nurturance, and a unique quality of stilling inner hunger. It is closely allied to the process of metabolism, important for the realization and development of the Personal Essence. It is the food absorbed from personal experience. When this aspect is present it becomes easy to see what is of real value in any experience or activity of life. One can discern what will lead to growth and development, and what must be discarded. It also means that one can absorb the nutrient in any personal experience; in other words, the realization of this aspect implies that the individual can now absorb true Nourishment. When there are conflicts about this aspect then it becomes difficult to absorb the truth in experience; for one has difficulty in taking in true Nourishment. The absorption of experience is equivalent to the feeding of the Personal Essence. The more one gains from true experience, the more the presence of the Personal Essence grows, and attains more capacities, and a greater maturity.

The Perspective that Does Not See that it is Possible to Have a Personal Experience that has a Spiritual Value, in Terms of Being

The personal quality is usually relegated to ego. To be personal and to care about the personal life is taken to indicate the self-centeredness of ego. This is not surprising in view of the fact that wherever we look we encounter only the personality of ego. The experience of the true individuation of Essence is so very unusual that the Personal Essence is called by some Sufis the “rare Mohammedan pearl.” The main reason for this attitude is the absence of the experience of the incomparable pearl in such teachings, or the lack of understanding of such experience, or perhaps sometimes only a matter of emphasis and preference. For such teachings, to feel personal, to value the personal life, to experience oneself as a person, are all seen to be a manifestation of ego. They are taken to be false, and seen as the seeds of suffering. This perspective denies, in effect, the existence of the Personal Essence. It denies the possibility of being a person and being real. It does not see that it is possible to have a personal experience that has a spiritual value, in terms of Being. It is this attitude that is most responsible for making such teachings incomprehensible to the man of the world. This attitude comes from real experience: the experience of Being in its impersonal aspect. However, although this experience is real, it is incomplete. It does not take the Personal Essence into consideration.

The Sense of Being a Separate Entity is a Result of Construction of Bounded Ego Structures

The sense of separateness is different from the sense of identity. The separateness involves the belief in individual boundaries, while the sense of self, which is like an emotional coloring of the entity, differentiates it from other entities. People differ in their senses of self, but they all agree that they are independent entities, separate individuals. The sense of being an individual is more basic than the feeling of identity. A person can sometimes not know who he is, but he always knows clearly that he is a separate entity. It is inconceivable to ego how one can be a person, and not be separate. One may rightly ask how he would know where he ends and where others start, if he has no individual boundaries. How would he know what is his and what is another’s? How would he know what is his personal experience and what is not? How could he live and act, without a sense of boundaries? These are deep questions, and ego cannot answer them. Although it is true, as object relations theory states, that the sense of being a separate entity is a result of construction of bounded ego structures, the fact remains that the human being does exist in an objective sense before he has any sense of individual boundaries. Thus, ego boundaries are not necessary for bare existence. The adult ego, however, cannot even conceive of how one could exist without being an individual. The closest he can come to such conception is the possibility that one might not be consciously aware that he is a separate individual, but is still existing as a separate individual. For instance in times of complete absorption in some activity, or in sleep, one is not aware that he is an entity, but one naturally thinks that certainly he is.

The Student’s Intentional Work on Understanding Himself Will Gradually Expose the Superficial Defensive Structures of the Ego

The flame of the search is ignited only when we accept our unknowing, and still aspire to discover the truth of our situation. It will be dimmed, even extinguished, if we anaesthetize ourselves with the belief that we know the truth, or if we accept someone else’s explanation or teaching without discovering the truth in the intimacy of our personal experience. When we sincerely acknowledge our ignorance, because we genuinely love the truth, the flame can become a passionate and consuming fire. As a soul matures, this inner flame can be sparked through normal life experience. Another way this process can come about is through exposure to spiritual work. The student’s intentional work on understanding himself will gradually expose the superficial defensive structures of the ego, while the discovery of Essence in its various aspects—the true nature of the soul—will exert a pressure on the ego identity. The initial discovery of Essence begins a journey of discovery, a period of wonderful experiences of Essence. It feels like a honeymoon. Little by little, however, it dawns on the student, to his dismay, that there is a big problem. He becomes aware that although he experiences his essence, in some deep and disturbing sense it is still not him. He does not recognize directly and nonconflictually that it is truly him. His experiences of Essence seem to be only experiences that sometimes happen to him, the same “him” he always was.

Truth Will Reveal Itself Within the Specific individual as a Unique Actualization of the Human Potential

The simultaneous universality and uniqueness in human experience is something to remember and respect, especially in the process of inner realization. It is this manifestation of the universal and unique in the Personal Essence that requires that one approach the work of realization with openness and respect toward oneself and the process, integrity in how one approaches one’s experience, and sincerity in staying with exactly what one actually experiences. One need believe nothing about reality or oneself. One only needs enough integrity and sincerity in approaching the truth, which is always the truth of one’s personal experience, and the Truth will invariably reveal itself. It will reveal itself within the specific individual as a unique actualization of the human potential. And the beauty of it is that this uniqueness will reflect the true unity of both humanity and all of existence.

When We Inquire into Our Personal Experience We Do Not Try to Avoid Interfering, We Simply Include Our Interference as Part of what We Observe

Since objective knowledge is so difficult to reach in the physical realm, quantum theory is the best tool we have. However, inner experience tells us that there is such a thing as the objective understanding of experience—even to the point of total objectivity—although it is not easy to get to. This does not mean transcending the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg—not exactly. But it is something analogous to that, in an arena not envisioned by Heisenberg. The best way to understand personal experience objectively is through inquiring not only into the object of inquiry, but also into the inquiring subject at the same time. The physicist does not include his own impact on results when observing an experiment. He merely tries to interfere as little as possible and works on improving his instruments. However, when we inquire into our personal experience, we do not try to avoid interfering, we simply include our interference as part of what we observe. Our exploration is not only into the nature of our experience or state, but also into the totality of who we are, including the nature of the part of us that observes or explores. All of this must become an object of study and inquiry. This means that to be objective about a situation, we, as the inquirer, will need to become objective—free from subjective influence. For when we inquire into what prevents our understanding from being objective, we find that it is the fact that we bring our subjectivity to our experience.

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