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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Flow?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Flow

The Abiding Flow of Experience in Self-Realization is the Natural and Spontaneous Flow of Presence

Just as we contrasted our understanding of the nature of the self with the conventional view in our description of the possibilities of experience in self-realization, so, too, we must contrast the phenomena of change and action from the perspective of psychology (Kohut’s understanding being the most clear and powerful) to the phenomenon of change and action as experienced when the identity of the self is situated in Being. The abiding flow of experience in self-realization is neither “driven” nor “led”; it is the natural and spontaneous flow of presence. The soul unfolds as the manifestation of its essential forms and qualities. This dynamic property of the self is the basis of all its action. In the initial stages of self-realization, in which presence is experienced as the core and inner essence of the soul, this presence transforms from one quality to another. It manifests sometimes as love, sometimes as will, other times as intelligence, truth, or individuation, and so on, or as combinations of these qualities. These forms of presence function as our sense of being, and also as the center of initiative and action. The presence is the center of the self, from which all creativity, initiative and action arise. This centeredness gives us the sense of purpose and orientation, and the changing forms provide the specific motives for action; that is, our action is based spontaneously on love, compassion, truth, intelligence, and so on. We might have ideals, but they are not what orient or drive our action. When we act out of love it is not because of an ideal that loving action is good. We are bound to act, for good or ill, but when presence manifests in us, in the pure quality of love for instance, we act spontaneously out of this love.

A Judgmental and Comparative Attitude Blocks the Flow of Reality

The attitude of comparative judgment and trying to change things interferes with the experience, so you can’t see it as it is. If you cannot see it as it is, you are interfering with how reality is revealing itself, and you block it from revealing the truth contained within it. You stop it from showing you that you are being deluded, that you are stuck here and there, and you block it from revealing its nature, which you realize, when it reveals itself, is perfect. Comparative judgment keeps you from seeing the the perfection inherent in reality, and your interference blocks it from revealing more and more of this perfection. A judgmental and comparative attitude blocks the flow of reality, and the energy and consciousness become stagnant. What is needed is a surrender to the unfoldment of your reality, and this means not going along with your comparisons and judgments. The surrender, then, is to let understanding do its job instead of trying to make things go a certain way so that you can make yourself into a better person.

Facets of Unity, pg. 160

Blocking the Flow of Presence in the Body Causes Pain

A second related factor is that shutting down the flow of one’s essential nature often involves actual blocks in the flow of physical energy in the body. Awareness of these blocks might feel like contraction, denseness or deadness—“my heart feels like a stone; my legs feel like wood; my head feels like a bowling ball”—or even complete opacity to our experience which can manifest as an inability to sense a certain part of the body at all—“I have no legs; my heart is numb; my head is blank.” On a third, more subtle level, the block may be not so much in the flow of physical energy (which is of course never complete; blood flows, nerves function), but in the availability of parts of the body to awareness, or in the availability of the experience of essential presence in the body. Like a physical injury, the cutting or blocking of the flow of presence in the body causes pain, which is defended against in the normal course of conditioning, but the process of uncovering self-identity structures necessarily penetrates those defenses, and thus makes available the sense of pain resulting from what one can almost literally call a tear in the being of the self.

Essence Must Attain the Freedom to be Anywhere in the Body

This process of making possible the presence of essence in external situations goes along with a similar process of freeing the essence in the inner environment. The essential aspect may flow in certain locations of the body but not in others. This is an indication of more issues to be resolved regarding the particular essence. The work then is understanding and resolving these barriers and blocks in the body, until the essence flows into them unhindered. Let's take again our example of the merging essence. The individual might realize that his experience of it is restricted to the chest only, that whenever this aspect is present it does not go beyond the boundaries of the chest. He might want to believe that it is a heart quality, and that is why it is always located in the chest. But essence cannot be restricted this way. To be completely established, any aspect must attain the freedom to be anywhere in the body. The individual might notice, if he applies his attention, that the merging essence is blocked from going downward into the body, particularly into the pelvis. Usually the essence will spontaneously go to the blocked area and expose the repression in it related to the particular aspect. But the individual must be interested in seeing the truth, whatever it is, for the process to proceed. The individual might find out, for instance, that when the merging essence flows into the genital area it activates the wish for genital merging. This might bring out conflicts around sexuality, oedipal and otherwise. These conflicts need to be understood and resolved for the merging essence to exist freely in the genital area.

Experience of Flow

If we reflect on our experience, at any time, we can see that it is actually not just changing from one thing to another, but it is in constant flow. In other words, when we attune ourselves to the changing panorama of our experience we begin to be aware not only of the fact that inner events are transitory, always changing from one thing to another, but also of the sense that this change is actually a flow of inner events. We recognize it is a stream of impressions, feelings, thoughts, images, sensations, states, and the like. This statement would appear to be a truism, since it is obvious on reflection that our experience is a flow of events, outer and inner. However, an intellectual recognition of the fact that experience is a constant flow and change is not the same as knowing our experience directly as that flow and change. In the direct experience of the soul, we know directly and intimately the sense of a direct attunement to the flow. We are not only cognitively noting flow, we are the flow. The flow becomes experientially more significant than the particular experiences or inner events. We actually experience ourselves as a flowing river of impressions. The river becomes the foreground of experience and the events recede to the background.

Feeling the Flow Itself as Real Time

When we are in the midst of the experience of flow, being the flow, the appearing presence, with its various forms, time changes meaning. We are not then connected with linear time, clock time. Time becomes the flow itself. We normally feel the passage of time by being aware of the flow of impressions. When we are the flow, the flowing appearance, then this flow is the context within which experience happens. Both time and space lose their structuring power, and the recognition of them is not separate from other events within the flowing appearance. The expanse of presence gives rise to the concept of space, and its flow gives us the concept of time. But experientially we feel the flow itself as real time, for we are actually in touch with the ground of our normal concept of time. In other words, real time is the life of the soul, the unfoldment of the soul. Each period of it is a period of growth and development, not just a temporal space in which events take place.

Flow is the Substance of the Soul Underlying Experience

As we become more steadily attuned to the flow of experience, the particular forms and specifics of experience begin to appear as manifestations of a flowing medium. The flow takes center stage in our awareness, and this can precipitate the recognition of the medium underlying the various forms of experience. We no longer experience a succession of experiences, but a flowing medium whose flow is the manifestations of the experiences. It is not then a succession of events, but rather the current that carries events. The flow is of the substance of the soul, the medium of consciousness that underlies the specific experiences. The river of consciousness carries various forms or, more accurately, manifests these forms.

Flowing Fountain of Conscious Presence

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 flow is always present. This is a wonderful way of experiencing our soul: ever fresh, ever new, a source that is also the destination.

Optimizing Intelligence in the Flow of the Logos

The order and reason of the logos is not simply in the harmony of the flow, but in the intelligent development of this flow. We recognize that the dynamism of the logos possesses an optimizing intelligence, which makes it into a maximizing force. When we are able to stay in this flow for some time we begin to recognize its influence on our experience in general, and on phenomena at large. The logos does not simply flow from one object to another, from one phenomenon to the next, but in this flow there is development, growth, maturation, and evolution. Not only is there intelligence in this outflow that contributes to its harmony, but this flow is intelligent because it tends to fulfill the nature of each individual form. It fulfills the nature of each form by making it a better vehicle through which true nature can express itself. The flow is intelligent because it influences everything by moving it closer to intimacy with true nature. It moves everything closer and opens everything further to greater realization and embodiment of the qualities and dimensions of true nature.

Presence is Not Only Thereness but Also a Flow

Primordial presence brings another kind of completeness. The fact that presence includes the various manifestations of the self in a non-dual way, indicates that presence is not a static reality. Seeing that it is always transforming its appearance, we become aware that presence is dynamic. It is not only thereness, but also a flow. Awareness of the transformation of the appearance of presence, or equivalently, the continuous flow of arising manifestations, allows us to experience presence as flowing. In other words, various manifestations and experiences are continuously arising, constituting a continuous flow of forms of perception. We can experience the coemergence of this flow with presence as the flow of presence. The flow of presence is like the flow of a river, which is always creating ripples, waves, bubbles, and so on. This is an advanced perception, in which we understand change, movement, and transformation in the self-realized dimension. The mental concept of time becomes inoperative, as we see changes as the flow of presence, where the flow is not along the dimension of time. The flow is more the flow of experience, felt as the unfoldment of Being.

Reality Flows Out from Nonexistence to Existence

Both arising and the continuity of appearing give the impression of flow. Reality is flowing out, from formlessness to form, from nonexistence to existence, from nothing to appearance. Flow becomes another way of experiencing universal transformation, where we experience the totality of all forms of existence as one tapestry that is flowing out; the outflow is continuous but changes its patterns and colors, giving us the impression of change and movement. In the experience of flow we feel more intimately the direct sense of the dynamic presence. We experience all of Reality as one presence, sculpted and formed into the various objects and phenomena of existence. The totality of this field of presence is moving, flowing out within a particular pattern. This patterned outflow appears as the changes and movements we ordinarily perceive. In other words, in the experience of outflow we directly feel the process of creation. Being does not create something out there, apart from itself. It simply flows out of its own inscrutable depths, into the forms, colors, and shapes of the world.

The Effortless Flow of Being

If there is something arising from within you that is natural and spontaneous and deep, that is not seeking. Your being can flow in a certain direction, and be acting, without it being ego activity. Ego activity is split from being. Being does not function according to what your mind says: “You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that. This is good or this is bad.” That position of judging how things should be leads to seeking and searching. On the other hand, sometimes your energy, your own being, flows in a certain channel in a spontaneous, effortless flow. In this flow there is no seeking. A great deal of knowledge and understanding can arise out of such authentic activity, and become integrated as true understanding.

The Experience of Flow is a Flow of Experiences for our Experience is Constantly Changing its Form and Inner Pattern

At a deeper level of experience the sense of flow does not have the sensation of fluid going from one part of the body to another. There is a feeling of flow, there is something streaming, but there is no displacement in space. We can experience this globally, diffusely, and feel a sense of freedom, energy, and dynamic vigor. When we are directly experiencing the flow of the soul in our activity, we feel we are flowing, not hampered, not stuck. Our energy is unified, our mind focused, and our body moves in an integrated, fluid, and smooth fashion. We are completely involved in whatever we are doing, whether it is physical activity, artistic creativity, dancing, social activity, lovemaking, hiking, swimming, painting, writing poetry, playing music, or even the free flow of insights and knowledge. The central feeling is the sense of freedom and release, the experience of spontaneity and pleasurable absence of control. It is usually an exhilarating and thrilling ride. Our minds and bodies are unified in this experience, synchronized and harmonized, so we tend to function and perform smoothly and easily. And our performance might actually be superior to other times. Athletes, artists, writers and, others familiar with this condition tend actively to seek it. Even though this is an experience of the flow of the soul, we do not necessarily recognize the soul through this experience. This experience of flow normally appears to us as one kind of experience, and not as the flow of experiences. It is actually a flow of experiences, for our experience is constantly changing its form and inner pattern. Yet most people view the whole occurrence as one experience because of how different it feels from other times, and because the flow is completely continuous, totally connected and integrated.

The Flow of Presence is, in a Sense, the Source of Time

So Being is not only presence, but the flow of presence. It is a flow of nowness in continuous transformation of the universal pattern. This flow is what we usually perceive as the passage of time. In other words, what we call time is a limited way of intuiting the flow of Being. Since we ordinarily don’t perceive the unity of existence, and so don’t experience change as the flow of Being, we think of change as due to the passage of time. The flow itself is what I call real time. When we perceive all of reality in constant flow, then we are perceiving real time; otherwise, we see the situation in a distorted way, as separate changes happening in time. So the flow, the experience of Holy Law, is in a sense the source of time, since time is a concept arising from a distorted perception of Being or the totality of the universe in a constant state of flow. Being is very fluid, continuously arranging and rearranging the pattern of appearance.

Facets of Unity, pg. 261

The Flow of Reality

Although the flow of reality is spontaneous, it is not chaotic or haphazard. The flow is lawful. Reality flows in a pattern. Considered over a span of time, the flow of the pattern appears as cause and effect, as if one action leads to another. The doing exercise we have been practicing, which reveals the flow of being, is an initial perception of how the universe as a whole is flowing out into existence. That flow can be seen on many levels, depending on how complex your mind is, on what concepts underlie your perception of the universe. If you use the concept of time and space, and you use the concept of being an individual entity, then the flow of being appears as the flow of essence within you.

The Flowing Medium of the Soul

Here then we are exploring one of the basic properties of the soul: it is not only a medium, a presence, but a flowing medium, a fluid presence. It feels like a flow of life and vigor, of energy and power. The flow is an intrinsic property of the presence, and that presence is felt as one’s own personal consciousness. It is this flow that is responsible for the changeability of the soul, which underlies the fact of our experience as a succession of events. The experience of soul as flow possesses many degrees of subtlety, each reflecting a particular depth of this experience. At the beginning, we experience flow topographically, similar to the flow of a stream of water. We experience the medium of the soul as a fluid that flows through our body. We experience it as streaming from one part of the body to another, as in the flow of energy up the spine. We might be aware that the flow is faster in some areas than others, more sluggish in some regions, more blocked in others, completely stuck or absent, or free and smooth. This can alert us to various tensions and rigidities in our bodies, reflecting fixations and identifications in the mind. This can be very helpful for our inner work, as we recognize the areas where our soul cannot flow as places that need to open up. As we work on them, and they relax and open, our soul may begin to flow to these areas, bringing them to life, and including them in her range of experience. Our soul then inhabits more of our body, and we feel more present, more embodied, and our experience is more available, and more open and flexible. Our experience in general becomes more fluid, more flowing, and we feel this as greater freedom and release

What is Left for us is the Motiveless Inquiry Into the Truth that the Logos is Manifesting and the Surrender to its Flow

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. (See chapter 22, note 3.) However, this practice of surrendering to and abiding in the true manifestation of the logos does not feel to the soul like an attempt to cooperate with the logos in order for the latter to take her to the condition of an ultimate state of enlightenment. This would simply be a manipulation, not a genuine surrender. It feels more like being real and authentic, or like a respect and appreciation for the truth that happens to be one’s experience of oneself. It specifically feels like being oneself, for oneself is whatever the logos manifests it to be. We simply feel authentic, while the form of authenticity can be any form or dimension of the presence of true nature.

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