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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Havingness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Havingness

Havingness is Not Only About Physical Possessions: it is a Psychological Attitude

Because havingness is a cornerstone of the ego-self and its life, spiritual traditions have seen poverty as necessary for realization, which is largely a going beyond the ego and its view of reality. Learning to be poor, to live without attachment, without havingness, becomes the way to empty the self and to move toward the truth of reality. Since it is almost automatic that possessing becomes possessiveness, many of the spiritual traditions teach material poverty as an effective method to counteract the tendency of havingness. Living a life of renunciation becomes the way to avoid the temptations of havingness. The world begins to appear as a temptress to be shunned and renounced at any cost. This strategy can help, but there is no guarantee for success. Most renunciates do not become enlightened. In any case, this is not the meaning of being poor in spirit. Being physically poor does not necessarily lead to spiritual poverty; otherwise, all the poor people in the world would be saints. Havingness is not only about physical possessions. It is a psychological attitude, and the nature of the object is not what matters. We can have literary or artistic accomplishments, opinions, judgments, ideas, preferences, feelings, states, experiences, also family, friends, acquaintances, activities, interests, hobbies, and so on. All these can and do become objects of havingness. We are all rich with these things, even the materially poor among us. It is true that abundance of physical possessions tends to predispose us to an extreme attitude of havingness, but the tendency toward havingness is not fundamentally connected to the physical. Thus, the way of poverty includes nonattachment to all levels of inner possessions too. We can experience all the rich phenomena of our human, essential, and spiritual lives, and we can learn not to be attached to them, not to need them for our sense of self and value.

Havingness, the Possessiveness, Doesn’t Only Manifest on the Physical Level

Having possessions is necessary in our normal life even for simple living; that is the way our society is structured. It would be almost impossible, or at least distracting, to live in our modern society and not have any possessions. Each of us needs at least clothes, a bed, a toothbrush, and so on, and without them life would become so difficult that we would not have the time or space to do what we need to do to live our lives, including spiritual practice. However, having possessions naturally tends to become possessiveness, an important support for the sense of self, which is ultimately false. The more a person is selfish or egoistic and the less he is in touch with deeper reality, the more it is important for him to have things. Havingness is important for ego; having things gives us the illusory sense of safety without which the ego-self cannot live. Having things makes us feel protected, secure, more permanent, successful, important, and so on. Just knowing we have things—we don’t even have to see or use them—gives this sense of security and permanence. It gives us a sense that we can fall back on them. Having things gives us a deep feeling of support that connects with the preservation instinct. The havingness, the possessiveness, doesn’t only manifest on the physical level, but extends to the mental and emotional levels, even the spiritual level. When people begin doing inner work, they come with the same attitude of possessiveness, wanting to have things and accomplish things that enhance the sense of self. They simply swap material objects for spiritual objects and are basically still functioning in the mode of possessiveness. The desired objects become experiences and insights, grace and realization. Of its very nature, the ego needs an object to hang on to. It has to have something of its own; it has to own things.

Poverty Means that We Do Not Possess Spiritual Experiences or Material Things

Surrendering our thoughts, feelings, judgments, preferences, and desires doesn’t mean that these things disappear but that we don’t have them in the same way. They just come and go. We don’t hold on to them as possessions. They are not vital for us. Maybe we can learn to be that poor inside. But then, as we begin to have experiences of reality, of essence, of awakening, the ego wants to possess these too. We believe that essence, spirit, and inner states belong to us, that we accomplished them. Havingness is back again. We might even believe we have virtues like patience, humility, courage, and equanimity. On a spiritual path, the ego can become rich again, can come to possess a wonderful inner panorama, the panorama of spirit. To be poor in spirit ultimately means that we need to be poor in the inner states themselves, the states of realization, the positive states. We need to be poor in love, poor in compassion, poor in intelligence, poor in truth, poor in awareness, poor in existence. But what does this mean? Clearly, as we open up to our nature we begin to experience these things more. Being spiritually poor does not mean that we do not experience spirit, just as being materially poor does not mean we do not have material things. Rather, poverty means that we do not possess spiritual experiences or material things. We realize that we don’t own them; when they come, they come, when they go, they go. We do not have them, hold on to them, or take the position that they are ours. We treat them as visitors, as guests.

The Attitude of Havingness is a Central Attitude of Ego. You are Somebody Who Has Things

The way of poverty is for us to be so empty, not possessing anything, that the Ultimate Truth, the inner Beloved will find us worthy of beholding it. The inner Beloved is a jealous beloved. It won’t show itself unless there are no other lovers in our heart. When our heart is completely empty, then will it reveal itself as the mystery underlying all of reality. And the way to such inner emptiness is that of poverty, specifically the poverty of spirit. Remember what Jesus said. You need to give up not only your clothes, money, furniture, books, lovers, ideas, prestige, accomplishments, achievements, creativity, ego, and mind, but your spirit itself. Poor in spirit means you haven’t got spirit, just like poor in money means you haven’t got money. What does it mean not to have spirit? We are working here on essential realization, learning how to connect with essence, reality, spirit, soul—and now we have to give it up. You may think this guy Jesus expects a lot. You may think he was talking to poor people who didn’t have much to give up materially, so they had to give up something else. I think he is talking to everybody. The attitude of possessiveness, the attitude of havingness, is a central attitude of ego. You are somebody who has things. Can you imagine yourself being somebody who doesn’t have anything? Not having in this context means not having to have. It’s the willingness to be poor. It’s not a matter of becoming poor, although that might happen too. If that is what it takes for you to experience that you don’t have to have, then maybe you should not have possessions. So the easiest things to give up, to be detached from, and not to care about are the physical things—clothes, money, and so on. What is more difficult to give up is the inner domain

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