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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Impressionability?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Impressionability

Impressionability in the Soul is a Mixed Blessing

The soul is not only malleable, giving her an infinite range and freedom of experience, but also impressionable, making her vulnerable to conditioning. Her experience can condition her; can create indelible grooves in her field that may last a lifetime. This property of impressionability is clearly a mixed blessing. It gives us the possibility of infinite freedom and flexibility, of the openness necessary to unfold and actualize the infinite potential of our spirit. Also, the capacity to retain impressions gives us the potential for learning. The human potential for learning is unparalleled by any other life form. This potential is the basis for all learning. Actualizing this potential in the form of our great capacity for learning requires the capacity to retain impressions, and this capacity also allows our learning to become growth and development, whose source is both unfoldment of the great inner potential of the soul and interaction with the world.

Realized Impressionability

This brings us to the question of the impressionability of the soul in infancy, and how it is different from that in her maturity, when she is completed by the realization of her essential and true nature. The soul is completely impressionable at both infancy and full maturity, but in different ways. At infancy the impressionability can and normally does lead to inflexible and relatively permanent forms and structures in the field of the soul. The soul is not only impressionable but these impressions can remain as semi-permanent traces, as indelible impressions. The impressionability of maturity, when the soul is not only complete but has realized her true nature, is pure receptivity and malleability without the possibility of lasting traces.The soul is vulnerable in the sense of being open to all possible forms of her potential experience, but is actually invulnerable in terms of conditioning. Her impressions are momentary, transitory, and last only as needed for the moment. This condition of liberated impressionability is likened to the effect of drawing on water. The medium of water is quite flexible and impressionable, and readily takes whatever form we impress on it. But this form dissipates almost as immediately as it appears. Another image is that of making circles of smoke in air, as with a cigarette. The form of smoke circle exists only for a short period of time, and the medium of air gradually but quickly regains it original nature.This realized impressionability is given to the soul by her essential nature, which is primordially immaculate and unchangeable. In the liberated state, the essential ground of the soul is now so fully and securely wedded to her that she possesses its incorruptible characteristics. She is still receptive malleable, and impressionable, but this property is wedded to the immaculate and stainless character of her essence.

The Extremes of Human Potential

Our impressionability is both our boon and our misfortune. We are beings who can soar to unimaginable heights of freedom, creativity, and development, but can also plummet to the depths of suffering and degradation. We can be higher and finer than the highest angels, but can also be lower and more brutish than any animal or devil. Human history has amply demonstrated this. And it is clear that recognizing, understanding, and taking into consideration the basic properties that give us these possibilities can help us work with our human potential, which is both a promise and a dilemma.

The Limitation in Our Receptivity to the True Nature and Ground of the Soul

Thus, ego development occurs mostly through the establishment of relatively fixed impressions. Furthermore, because ego development culminates in the establishment of an identity and sense of self that depend on the fixed impressions, it naturally leads to a limitation on our malleability and impressionability; dependence on the fixed impressions orients us toward identification with and attachment to them. We tend to perpetuate our self and its identity, limiting our openness, malleability, and impressionability. We generally experience as threatening and destabilizing the impacts of forms of experience outside the boundaries of our identity. In other words, we become both habituated and attached to the fixed impressions that compose our identity, at the expense of our basic capacities of openness, malleability, and impressionability. As a consequence, we begin to regard complete openness and impressionability as undesirable, even threatening and dangerous. We unconsciously defend against it regardless of how much we understand its value and significance. This resistance is an attempt to protect our sense of identity. In resisting openness and impressionability, we unconsciously believe that we are fighting for our own personal survival and integrity. This becomes one of the primary difficulties in the process of inner work where we need to be open to new and novel elements of our potential. In fact, in order to be able to be receptive and impressionable to our essence, we need to be completely impressionable, for any limitation in impressionability will become a limitation in our receptivity to the true nature and ground of the soul. This is because our true nature is characterized by complete transparency, luminosity, and flow, and any opaqueness or rigidity is bound to limit our openness to it

The Property of Impressionability is Absent in Essence

The property of impressionability is absent in essence, whose qualities are timeless and unchangeable. When we experience and understand essence, in any of its qualities and dimensions, one of the primary things we learn about it is its immutability, its spontaneously and primordially given properties, and hence its incorruptibility. It is not only pure; this purity is eternal and stainless, totally immune to the accidents of time. It simply does not make sense for essence to be corrupted or contaminated. In this regard essence is like space. Regardless what arises in space, space remains the same, totally pure and empty. This is why essence does not develop, while the soul does. Essence is timelessly perfect and free, while the soul has the potential for perfection and freedom. This potential is given to her by essence, which is her ontological ground and her timeless and absolutely precious potential. Through realizing and embodying her essential ground, the soul achieves her liberation and fulfillment.

The Soul is Impressionable in the Way that the Earth Is

The soul is impressionable the way earth is, for example. Walking on dirt, we leave impressions on the ground. Depending on our weight and the frequency of walking the same route, the impression can be more or less permanent, more or less indelible. If we regularly walk the same route, in time the ground will retain the impression of a trail. The more frequently we walk this route, the deeper is the impression and the more permanent. However, we can make just as deep and lasting an impression if we roll a heavy kind of machinery a few times, or even once, over the same area. Experientially, if as children we are regularly treated without much respect, we grow up feeling unworthy of respect and unable to have self-respect. Similarly, if our bodies or our minds were severely abused a few times, or horribly even once, the lasting impression might be just the same. The severity of the problem regarding respect depends on how frequently and how severely the soul encountered disrespect. This principle is true about both negative and positive impacts. If one experienced love frequently as a child, the lasting impression will be ease in the area of love. One then will relatively easily and frequently experience love, and be readily able to receive love.

The Soul's Marriage with Her Essence

The soul's inner realization and essential development, which involves the transcendence of normal ego development, is a natural stage of maturation that integrates, and benefits from, the achievements of ego development. In this process the soul regains her original impressionability and receptivity, remaining receptive to her essential nature with all its aspects and dimensions. Impressions on the soul are increasingly dominated by essence and its truth, in contrast to external considerations, and thus she develops and matures under essential influence and guidance. She becomes impressionable to essence, receptive to its influence, loyal to essence, valuing essence. This transformation advances her from dominance of the animal soul to becoming a full human soul. Essence acts on her, impregnating and clarifying her consciousness. This marriage of soul with essence becomes deeper and more complete until it reaches the state of nonduality of soul and essence, which resembles the soul’s original condition but now includes recognition, discriminating awareness, and understanding. The soul’s marriage with her essence liberates her from vulnerability to fixated impressions, whether from external or internal sources. This process has two threads: the soul’s liberation from the rigidity and fixation of her structures in a way that retains the learning in them; and the soul’s reconnection with her essential ground in a way that uses her cognitive achievements to recognize that ground as her true nature. The first is the process of liberation of the soul, and the second is that of her essential development.

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