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Inner Experience

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Inner Experience?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Inner Experience

A Dimension in which Our Experience is not Limited by the Boundary of the Body

In the realm of Essence, in addition to the many essential aspects which manifest in the soul, there are also many levels or dimensions. We call these the Diamond Dimensions. Essence manifests in many dimensions. Reality becomes deeper and more refined as you penetrate further into it. At the beginning, and for some time in our process, as we experience Essence and its various aspects and dimensions, our experience remains an inner experience, meaning that it is experienced inside the body. You feel Joy in your heart, or Will in your belly, or Clarity in your head. Your experience remains within the usual framework of the body; it seems to happen to an individual person who is having a spiritual experience. At some point we reach a dimension in which our experience is not limited by the boundary of the body. We experience Essence as continuous, inside and outside. This is the dimension that’s usually called “unity.” In unity we are one. There is no separation between people and things. We are experiencing Essence or Being, not as an inner experience, but as a total experience, a universal, cosmic reality. This level also has various dimensions and refinements. The general gradation from inner to unified boundless experience is a typical pattern in those who pursue effective long-term spiritual work.

After Consolidation, Self-Image Determines Inner Experience

After consolidation, the self-image not only gives the individual his sense of personal identity, but determines more than anything else his subsequent experience of himself, his life, and his environment. It determines his sense of being, his inner experience, and everything else about him. The self-image is constituted, as Mahler says, of self-boundaries: not only spatial boundaries, but all the boundaries that determine the range of the individual’s experience, perception, and actions. For example, if an individual has a self-image of being weak, he will tend not to do things that he believes require strength. Likewise, a self-image of being stupid will inhibit a person from learning things that he believes require intelligence, so that he will actually not understand and will behave in a stupid way when confronted with such things. Self-boundaries determine even what one is able to think. While it is true that different impressions stimulate different thoughts in the same person, still these thoughts are pretty much determined by the person’s sense of who he is, that is, his self-image. So the thoughts that go through a person’s mind are not really accidental, chaotic, or disconnected, although they may sometimes appear so. They appear chaotic because a large segment of the self-image is unconscious or preconscious, and thus shapes thoughts and experiences in a way that the conscious mind cannot be aware of. This fact makes it possible for a person, by careful observation of the patterns and trends in his thoughts, to gain much information concerning his sense of identity.

The Void, pg. 14

Believing that there is an Objective Truth, then Our Inner Experience Has Significance

This is an important consideration for our work of inquiry and understanding. When you are convinced that you can discern an objective truth through exploring your direct experience, you will be more motivated to put out the effort to find out what that truth is. But if you take the position that everyone sees things differently, and therefore all inner knowing is relative, your motivation will suffer. You’re just going to perceive your experience as an isolated happening whose truth is not relevant to anyone else or to any other situation than this one. But if we believe that there is an objective truth —a discernible meaning—in our experience, then we can see more value in exploring our inner reality. Then our inner experience has significance and can function as a support, as a bedrock of reality. The presence of objective truth in our experience can aid us in developing our basic trust, our commitment, our sincerity, and our openness. We can explore this question from several angles—epistemological, philosophical, or theological. But regardless of our approach, how we answer the question is very important in determining how we orient to our personal experience, how much conviction and certainty we have in our experience, and ultimately how we relate to our actions and life in general. It also has important implications for spiritual work. If we take the position that everything in our personal experience is relative, then we cannot have a teaching. That is because a spiritual teaching is based on a set of universal truths about human consciousness.

Dissolving of a “Weak” Self-Image

Since our interest here is the nature of the mind, we will concern ourselves more with a person’s inner perception of himself than with external changes. A person whose “weak” self-image is dissolving sees and feels that he is “stronger,” more capable, freer. His direct sense of himself, his inner experience, is of greater relaxation and decreased tension, both mental and physical. As a result, especially when this change of self-image is accepted, he feels his body and mind are more comfortable, bigger, roomier, more expanded. In the dissolution of a self-boundary there usually involves, sooner or later, a sense of expansion, of experiencing oneself as more spacious. Of course, it is likely that anxieties will arise in response to the expansion, anxieties which will be experienced as contraction, particularly in borderline personality structures, as we will discuss later. For now, we will consider only the relatively stable psychic structure. We want to stress this experience of expansion, not just in the field of action in the world, but more significantly for our discussion, in the intimate experience of one’s body and mind. The body feels roomier and the mind less cluttered and more open.

The Void, pg. 18

If You Observe Your Inner Experience You will see that You are in Constant Turmoil

When you realize yourself as inseparable from the rest, part of that experience is the perception that action happens spontaneously, arising out of the totality. We don’t ordinarily experience this because we’re still experiencing ourselves as separate individuals, so we cannot see the Holy Truth and therefore cannot see Holy Will. This makes it difficult even to conceive of action arising in this way. When this is the case, one needs to practice surrendering to what is happening, practice complete being with, saying neither yes nor no to what is happening. To really understand what action is, the best place to begin is with your inner experience. You neither accept it nor reject it; you don’t push it away, you don’t hold onto it. It is what is happening, and that’s it. You take no position, nor do you hold any attitude about it. Since you are not making it happen and it is not your choice, the best approach to your inner life is not to try to change it. The ego is always trying to change things, and if you observe your inner experience, you will see that you are in constant turmoil trying to change one thing or another. You try to relax, you try to quiet your mind, you try to make yourself feel better or make yourself feel worse. You are always interfering, trying to make something happen other than what is actually happening. You can only do this if you believe you have your own separate world and you can make things in it happen the way you want, while really, it is not your choice at all. You are alive today not because you want to be, but because the universe wants you to be. If you experience anger today, it’s because the universe chooses to. If you experience love today, it’s because the universe decides to.

Facets of Unity, pg. 121

If there is a Contradiction Between Your Inner Experience and Your Behavior Towards Others, a Big Distortion is Taking Place

What I am saying is that it is not enough to simply understand what is happening inside yourself; your understanding must manifest in your actions and in your interactions with others. That is where the work of integration can happen, and that is where the impact of the refined elements of your nature will transform your personality. Without this integration, the Work will not be complete, and may, in fact, generate all kinds of abnormalities and distortions. We need to pay attention to how we behave and interact, from the perspective of the higher elements within us. You cannot be a genuine human being if your outer life does not correspond to your inner life. If there is a contradiction between your inner experience and your behavior towards others, a big distortion is taking place. If you know certain things but behave according to other things, if you value certain parts of reality but when it comes to actual living you throw those values out the window, a very strange kind of split is occurring. This will lead to frustration for you and trouble for those around you. This Work is not about just realizing yourself, feeling wonderful and forgetting about everyone else. It is the very nature of being a mature human being to respect others as real human beings, too.

In Conventional Experience We do not Discriminate the Self from the Self-Representation

The person’s experience of his body being broken into disconnected fragments does not reflect the actual situation. It is an inner experience; the body is still in one piece. How can we explain the graphic and vivid experience of one’s self in fragments when in actuality one’s body remains in one piece? The usual understanding is that the fragments are not of the body itself, but of its image in the psyche. However, the individual’s feeling is that he himself, not an image in his mind, is fragmenting, and thus, he will likely experience physical terror. This is because the image of the body forms a central component in the self-representation. (Mahler, Pine and Bergman, 1975) The individual’s sense that he (including his body) is fragmenting makes this experience terrifying. The very least fearful scenario would be that he is uncertain whether or not the self (or body) is fragmenting. This graphically illustrates that in conventional experience we do not discriminate the self from the self-representation. We feel, think, and behave as if we are the self-representation.

Inner Experiences are not Awakening: they are Experiences of the Path

If we allow this process to continue, and if we are truly interested in the truth, whatever the truth is, it won’t stop there. Unfoldment won’t just stop at any realization that remains internal, because internal experiences are limited. They take place within the mind, as part of your knowledge. Thus your experience remains governed by the perspective of personal mind, rather than by the perspective of the truth. So even though our inner experience might become more full and rich, without the perspective we are working on now, the world we look upon, our reality, will remain plain, ordinary, drab. We look around and see people, the sky, the trees, the cars, the street, and we feel, “I’ve known this for years and years. This is not the spiritual world. This is not what I want.” It is true that the method of the Work is to explore within your soul, within your psyche. This opens the window. But inner experience is not yet awakening. Inner experiences are not awakening; they are experiences of the path. They are helpful and necessary to continue the process. Without the openings and essential experiences, without the insights and openings to sweetness, value, and so on, most people will not have the stamina nor the motivation to continue. Such experiences are signs that you are moving. They encourage you, and indicate that, yes, you are getting in touch with something that you haven’t seen, some part of the mystery, which can inspire you to go further and support you to continue.

Qualities of Consciousness that Take Forms that Feel and Look Like Certain Natural Substances

For a long time my inner experience has included a dimension that can best be described as alchemical. “Alchemical” describes the sense of my own presence as different substantial qualities which transform. It began when I first discovered that I could experience presence instead of only feelings and thoughts. I saw also that I could experience this presence as the substantial existence of various inner forms. The presence sometimes takes the form of naturally occurring substances, like lead, iron, gold, mercury, wood, water, air, clouds, bone, diamonds, pearls, and so on. The experience is not exactly the same as seeing or touching these naturally occurring manifestations, but of qualities of consciousness that take forms that feel or look like these phenomena. I experience inner sensations of texture and temperature, taste, sight and sound, which correspond exactly to the naturally manifesting substances, although it is clear that they are manifestations of consciousness. This kind of experience is unusual in our everyday awareness, but this realm of experience becomes available at a certain depth of spiritual development, and in time becomes a normal part of ongoing experience. This dimension of perception greatly enriches our understanding, and endows it with a definiteness and precision not available in normal experience, for each form expresses a specific meaning. Some of these forms are the basis of metaphors in various languages. For example, when we feel “crystal clear” it is possible to perceive that this is the effect of an arising presence in the form of a faceted diamond in the head. These meanings can be known precisely only through the operation of the diamond-like nous.

Rigid Concepts Limit Our Inner Experience

The more fixed and rigid a concept is, the farther away it is from the living experience. Rigid concepts limit our inner experience, make our inner world smaller and smaller. They make our world in general smaller and more restricted. We are controlled by prejudices that we feel we need to uphold and fight for. Until we question, analyze, and reassess the concepts we use to express ourselves, we are restricted to only one set of interpretations for our experiences. Whether they accord with the reality of what is happening or bring us unnecessary pain, we leave ourselves no choice but to live in this limited realm. This means to keep living in a world that is a creation of our own mind. Even if our mental world is lonely, and we gain little pleasure from our experiences, our thoughts are familiar and give us an illusion of security and control that binds us to them. We may see no alternative to this way of understanding ourselves and our world. . . . because we believe it’s reality. How can we think of an alternative? Even if we think of and long for freedom, we think of freedom within that world.

Stories that Attempt to Describe and Understand the Dimming of Inner Light

So that’s why all spiritual techniques have to do with intensifying the glow at the location of your soul; intensifying the brilliance, the light, the awareness of the soul. Different traditions have different ways of explaining how the light dims in a certain location. The yogic Hindu tradition, for example, talks about the ahamkara principle and all the impressions and tendencies in the soul which come from past experiences. These tend to predispose you toward things similar to those impressions. If you’re a Christian, then the concept used is sin, original sin, the fall, and all the passions that result from it. The way of intensification of the light is then through the virtues, leading to redemption. You work with the impurities of the soul, what I call the “blameable qualities.” If you’re a Buddhist, then you use the understanding of the three poisons, ignorance, attachment and aversion. Each one of these mushrooms into the various negative traits. And if we use our modern psychology as a way to understand it, we can say that it is the development of the ego structure and our identification with it that obscures this inner light. These are all stories, attempts to describe and understand how the light dims, and none of them is completely accurate . . . . . . If the light is not dimmed, your sense of who you are has the quality of divine love; a very light, bright and empty quality, which is also soft, delicate and melted at the same time. I’ve described how this divine loving light is everywhere and everything is manifesting out of it— it’s all one thing. This one thing can recognize itself even as it manifests in the form of an individual, but only if that individual form embodies the essence of the pure light. And we’ve seen that one of the things that creates the dimming of that light is the ego principle—the belief in being a separate individual soul on your own.

Subtle Perception is Readily Available to Some People and not Others but it is an Inherent Capacity in Everyone

Subtle perception is readily available to some people and not others, but it is an inherent capacity in everyone. With regular practice and careful attention, one’s ability to discriminate the perceptual characteristics of inner experience becomes increasingly clear and precise. In time, we can recognize each essential aspect by its texture, color, taste, and so on. Most important, each aspect has a discernible feeling tone—a specific affect or experiential flavor. This becomes more definite and recognizable the more we are able to perceive the other properties such as color, taste, and texture. Let’s take the essential aspect of Love as an example. Love is the experience of the essence of who we are as a pure and authentic presence. It has the feeling tone of liking, of appreciation, which is an enjoyable and pleasurable experiential affect. This pleasurable appreciation becomes more definitely discerned as Love when we recognize the other properties of its presence: when we can taste the exquisite sweetness that is part of the experience of liking or appreciation; when we can sense the softness, smoothness, and lightness of the presence; when we can see the beautiful pink luminosity intrinsic to this feeling. All of these perceptual properties form a unified gestalt that we term the essential aspect of Love. However, the feeling tone is what is more conventionally understood as the experience of Love, and the one that most obviously differentiates it from other qualities. The other properties of taste, color, texture, and so on, are rarely ever known or discerned clearly in everyday experience.

The Conviction that You Can Program the Unfoldment of Your Experience

When the Idea of Holy Wisdom, which includes Holy Plan and Holy Work, is lost to consciousness, the deluded conviction that you can create your own time-orientation of the flow of your life—that is, that you can plan your life—arises. This implies that you can know what is supposed to happen next in order for you to unfold into your potential. This is different from the delusion of Point Two, which is the delusion of one’s own separate will; here, it is the belief that you know the direction in which that will needs to be applied. Specifically, it is the conviction that you can know what direction to take in terms of your inner experience; that you can program the unfoldment of your experience and can direct it in terms of a moment in time. The Holy Work will happen whether you know it or not. But part of the pattern is that when a person becomes aware of not directing the unfoldment —that the Holy Work is proceeding on its own—the life of that person becomes transformed. Without realizing this, one’s life cannot transform; very little change can happen. The assemblage point just makes little shifts here and there around the same spot, even though one may have the illusion that one is moving. Holy Work is the transformation of everything that exists, the movement, the changes in all of existence—a person walking down the street, another being hit by a car, someone giving birth, someone dying, people being together, people separating—they are all part of the transformation of the unfolding of the universe. It only appears to you that you are making these things happen because you do not see from the deeper perspective of objective reality.

Facets of Unity, pg. 180

The Freedom that Comes from the Release of Our Inner Experience from the Body Image

So even though the soul transforms similarly to the way an embryo changes, unlike the physical body, it never assumes a final shape or form. The soul’s capacity for morphogenic transformation is unlimited and unstoppable. In fact, what is called inner or spiritual transformation is nothing but the continuation of this basic property of the soul. Inner transformation frees the soul from the ego structures that constrain this property and orient the forms of experience toward a particular realm of experience. Ego structures cannot block this property, for our inner states are always in a constant state of change even in egoic experience. However, ego can constrain this morphing property to flow within a narrower range than that of which we are capable. Spiritual work eliminates these subjective inner boundaries, which liberates our soul to morph her field into whatever form our situation requires. Our soul is then not constrained to form herself only into what we think of as a person with arms and legs. Our inner experience can be released from this body image, and we become free to experience ourselves as a flowing river of luminous consciousness, a bright star of presence, a rich planet of life, a rose of love, a lava flow of energy, a night sky of depth, a blue sky of inner rest, and so on. Our feelings are no longer constrained to the ordinary emotions of fear, greed, aggression, sadness, depression, and so on. We can now experience our inner feelings as a bright and happy sun of joy, a solid and stable silver moon of will, a warm honey of fullness, a fresh pool of innocence, and so on. Our mind will be freed from obsessive thoughts and limiting self-images, to manifest diamonds of clarity, jewels of lucidity, gems of insight, scintillating brilliance of knowledge, and so on.

The Ground in which Arise the Forms of Consciousness

This ground of nonconceptual awareness that has the capacity for perception is the deepest ground of the field of the soul. It is this ground in which arise the forms of consciousness that constitute the inner experience of the soul. We see from this perspective that the mirror metaphor is helpful but not completely accurate. It is accurate only in the sense that it can register what arises, without any reaction or response. However, our previous discussion shows the limitation of this metaphor: a mirror can only reflect what appears in front of it, while the consciousness of the soul creates (or becomes) the forms. Our consciousness is like a magical mirror that creates the forms that appear on its surface. A better metaphor is a more modern one: on a television screen, images appear within the screen, and unfold as a series of forms, shapes, colors, and movements that constitute a story in the experience of the viewer. Yet even the television screen is not a perfect metaphor, for our consciousness does not only produce the forms; it also perceives them. If we think of the light in the television screen as consciousness, if we imagine that this light perceives the forms it is projecting, then we come closer to understanding pure nonconceptual awareness.

The Inner Experience of a Baby is Mostly of Essence in Its Various Qualities

What we find when we observe in this way is that babies and very young children not only have essence, they are in touch with their essence; they are identified with their essence; they are the essence. The inner experience of a baby is mostly of the essence in its various qualities. This does not mean that the baby is conceptually aware of the existence of essence. The baby knows essence very well, and very intimately, but without mental involvement and without cognition. We know this from the experience of adults who discover their essence and remember knowing it, in some fashion, from their childhood. In other words, the baby knows essence but does not know that he knows. He is not awake to its presence and its nature. The fact that human beings are born with essence has been known from ancient times. The baby is not only born with essence, but essence is the baby that is born. In describing essence, Gurdjieff says: “It must be understood that man consists of two parts: essence and personality. Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what is ‘not his own.’ A small child has no personality as yet. He is what he really is. He is essence. His desires, tastes, likes, dislikes, express his being such as it is.” So we can conclude that people are born with essence but end up without it later on.

There is a Continual Renewal of Inner Experience Going on all the Time

Physical reality is the most difficult to perceive as part of a whole unfolding pattern. We usually think of physical reality as static, clunky objects outside of ourselves and we have the sense that time passes—both are very difficult perceptions to get beyond. But when observing your inner experience, it is easier to see that there is always an unfolding occurring that you are not making happen. Your sensations, thoughts, and feelings are unfolding and manifesting constantly. In fact, they are unfolding regardless of what you do. Can you stop your thoughts? There is a continual renewal of inner experience going on all the time. It is easy to see that it is not as though our inner experience is happening inside the body while time passes outside it. In reality, our body feels different in each moment. When you become aware of this, you begin to perceive the inner unfoldment of the soul. You might even experience the substance of the soul itself as a dynamic flow with an energetic aliveness. This is close to the sense of the overall unfoldment of reality, in which the flow is not happening just inside of you but everywhere. Another transitional experience that can move us toward an expanded view of reality is experiencing the soul as an effulgence, a flow. When you experience this fully, you might see that you cannot separate your soul from your body; they are one thing. Seeing this, you can experience the whole of your body as a flow that is continually renewing itself. You perceive, then, that your body is being recreated in every instant.

Facets of Unity, pg. 277

What We Call “Knowing Our Inner Experience” is Nothing but Superimposing Concepts on Our Sensations

What we call knowing our inner experience is nothing but superimposing concepts on our sensations. And as you focus on your experience through the filter of the concept, the sensation will tend to continue in the same way, and become more solid. When the sensation is pain, it tends to persist as we identify it as pain. If it is felt as tension, it continues to be tension, because the mind fixes it as soon as it sees that that is what it is. What would happen to your experience if you changed the names of everything inside you? Could you call those new labels knowledge? What we call inner experience is nothing but the mind, words in the mind that you have learned from others, or out of the dictionary. We’ve been told many times, “What you call this is tension.” After a while, there really is tension. Before you had the word “tension,” there was no tension. God knows what was there. Before you had the word “pain,” who knows what it was—some sort of intense sensation. As you sense yourself, you experience all these sensations inside you now, and the less you use words to describe them the less the demarcation will be there. The form is not as solid, not as definite. This means that the solidity of your knowledge is decreasing, becoming thinner, as you separate your concepts from the experience, because we want to know what the experience is without your ideas about it.

Whatever Arises is Always Inseparable From Us

Presence, like True Nature, is indivisible; it cannot be broken down into parts. It is unlimited, but not in the sense of being big, because presence has no size. It is unlimited in its qualities, possibilities, and potentiality. The reason this is important for our daily life is that when we are really being ourselves, we feel unified. We are whole—indivisible—there is no division, no contrariness within us; there are no parts opposing each other inside us. Whatever impression, image, thought, feeling, sensation, or form of experience we become aware of always emerges within our consciousness; it is in the field of our awareness. It is not that our awareness is aware of something other than itself. Whatever we experience is always part of the field of our awareness manifesting as a particular form. Our awareness simply recognizes this change or this arising within it. If we consider our inner experience as it manifests in the forms of feelings, emotions, thoughts, images, impulses, desires, and so on, we see that these always arise within us as part of us. You could describe them as waves in a field of the same substance or as wave modulations in the same kind of medium. Each wave arises with a certain flavor, texture, color, and quality that makes us experience it as one thing or another. But it is not as though our consciousness were a vacuity, and some object pops out from it. It is not that we are separate, looking at that object as if it were something different from us. Whatever arises is always inseparable from us. We might not be aware of this if we don’t yet know our True Nature. But the moment we know our True Nature, we recognize that everything arises within this True Nature. Everything arises within this field, within this presence, and is not separate from it. So we realize that if we fight anything off that is in our experience, we are dividing ourselves.

When Inner Experience Does Not Exist

Once you realize the unity of the world and the Absolute, spiritual experience has no further value. You do not need inner experience; actually, inner experience does not exist. There is no inner separate from the outer. What you see is what you get. Walking in the street is the most elevated, spiritual experience. Eating your meal is a fundamental, sublime experience. Cleaning your house is as spiritual, as sublime, as refined an experience as the Supreme. No differentiation endures between inner states and outer manifestation. In traversing the inner path, we make a full circle. We first leave the practical, in terms of our value system, and go to the complete Absolute; from the Absolute we come back to the practical and see it as the Absolute. When I say our destination is the Absolute, I don’t mean a rejection of this world. I mean coming back to the world from a different perspective; coming back to the world as divine, as Absolute, as real. In this realization, matter itself is spiritualized. You realize that matter, the physical universe, the ordinary stuff of your life is the ultimate reality. There is no separation between essence and appearance.

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