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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Life?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Life

A Certain Misunderstanding

People who are oriented toward the impersonal, universal spiritual life have a certain misunderstanding. It’s true that to forget about your personal life, to forget about yourself and become a monk or nun, can lead to liberation and enlightenment. But is that why we have a life? Are we supposed to abandon our life on earth to go somewhere else? The majority of humanity rejects this path, and continues to seek happiness and fulfillment here, in this life. So even though it’s not possible to have a fulfilled life the way most people try to get it, there is something very deep and true in that striving for personal fulfillment. In that yearning there is a seed of understanding that all of this life, including the universal and divine, is for us. Why are we here if the abundance is not our lot in a personal life, if we are not going to enjoy it? The way the ego goes about it doesn’t work, but the original impulse is not false. This is a mystery that is rarely understood.

A General Open-Ended Optimism About Life in General

The second meaning of Holy Hope is the effect on the soul of seeing and understanding Holy Law and Holy Harmony. This, then, is hope in the sense of the theological virtue. It is the realization that Reality “does itself,” independent of our imaginary autonomy, and that this doing is a harmonious flow, which, most importantly, guides us spontaneously toward the harmony of enlightenment. This perception transforms the soul through impacting it in the specific way that we call Holy Hope. Again, this is not hope in the sense of hoping that things will get better. It is a sense that you might be experiencing right now if you have understood Holy Law and Holy Harmony. It is a state of trust that everything will be okay, which is slightly different than Holy Faith. Here, it is a feeling of optimism, an attitude of joyous openness and trusting receptivity to what the unfolding of Being presents to us. A trust in the dynamics of Being naturally makes us feel optimistic. If you recognize that Being is a harmony, that it always functions in a harmonious way, and that it is always optimizing our experience when we don’t interfere with it, an optimism about experience in general will arise. You will have an openness to whatever happens; whatever God or the universe presents you with, you will welcome happily because you know that everything is moving naturally toward harmony. This is not something that you conceptualize, nor is it about anything in particular that occurs. It is a general, open-ended optimism about life in general.

Facets of Unity, pg. 268

A Process of Unfoldment

The unfoldment of all the levels and manifestations is really what is beautiful. It is the expression of beauty, grace, differentiation—all the colors and varied forms. That is life. Without that, there is no life, you just go to the beyond, the unknowable, and you don’t need to be a human being. You’re just being without knowing. So, understanding is linked with human life. Life is itself a process of unfoldment; it is the living of the unfoldment. Life is not the final repose in the unknowable identity. That’s not life, that’s beyond life. You could be dead, and there would be no difference. Because the unknowable doesn’t change, and you know that it is you, you know you cannot die. When you know absolutely that it is you that does not change, does not die, then there is freedom. There is release from fear. You experience the multiplicity of creation in life—all the beauty of it. Then the life, which is the personal life, becomes fulfilled. And understanding is the same thing as living that life. When you understand what it’s all about, what this life is about, why we are here—when you understand who you are and why you’re here—you understand the meaning, in a sense, of everything. Everything is then meaningful, everything has an innate, deep sense to it that is absolute and central. So it’s not a life of strife, but rather of unfoldment, and unfoldment is inherently fulfilling. Understanding is not only a process that functions to take you from one place to another, but also is in itself the actual living of the unfoldment. 

Adapting to the Actual Conditions of Our Life

What we learn from this ever-expanding experience of time, which is an example of recognizing the subtle implications of realization, is that what is important for realizing freedom is the freedom of view. That is to say, we realize that true nature, in manifesting different views, is not directed toward any ultimate view. The view of totality illustrates this freedom of view. It is open to all views and contains all views, which means that it signals the freedom to have any view. We can have the view of compassion, we can have the view of emptiness, we can have the view of awareness, we can have the view of time or timelessness, and we can also have all these views available at the same time, which is what is most useful for acting in the world. The more we are able to hold multiple views at once, the more we will be able to adapt to the actual conditions of our life. We can’t apply the view of one dimension to all situations and all people at all times and places. The view of totality expresses the freedom to hold any view necessary. But it is not itself a particular view. It can hold just the dual view or just the nondual view when needed, without being fixed as either—which means it holds those views but is free not to. It can also hold two views at once without having to hold all views. Thus, the view of totality allows us to take any view or combination of views, or not take any view at all and simply let Total Being determine which view manifests at each moment, without it being our choice.

Creating Life with Precious Attention

Whatever task you’re doing is like an immediate experiment about how your life can be. If you’re washing a window, how can you wash a window and be living? Living is not only when you’re in bed with your husband or when you’re seeing a movie. Living continues when you’re washing a window. How can washing a window be intrinsically valuable? That has to do with the quality of your attention. If you don’t see that you are the preciousness, that your very presence and the quality of care you give the task is what makes it valuable, then the rest of your life will be equally meaningless. Without that sense of precious attention creating your life, most of your activities will be boring and unfulfilling.

Creativity, Unfoldment, Transformation in Ways You Can’t Imagine Yet

What we are doing, in effect, is trying to learn how to get used to flying an airplane, when all we are used to is driving a Rabbit. If you understand what I am saying, you’ll see that there is no other way. If you continue doing things the same way as you always have, you can only produce the same results. It is understandable that you want to change. Change is natural. Change is the actual state of reality. Reality is always in flux, in constant change and transformation. Life is change, continual movement and transformation and renewal. When it is allowed to unfold, life is always fresh and new. Creativity is the movement of life. When you allow yourself to be, instead of trying to change, you become a creative person. Life is creativity, unfoldment, transformation, in ways you can’t even imagine yet. Wanting to change has nothing to do with change. Trying to change has nothing to do with the natural movement of change. The natural movement of change is an unfoldment. It’s not something you can direct. The problem here is not that you want change but do not change. The problem is that you are not allowing the change because you want it a certain way.  

Essence is Life Itself

The quality of aliveness of essence is of a different order from that of the body. The body is alive, but essence is life itself. Essence is like packed, condensed, concentrated, completely pure life. It is 100 percent life. It is like a substance in which each atom is packed with live existence. Here, life and existence are not concepts, not ideas or abstract descriptions; rather, they are the most alive, most intimate, richest, deepest, most moving, and most touching stirrings within us. The experience of essential substance can have such a depth, such a richness, such a realness, such a meaningfulness, and such an impact on our minds that some people actually get dizzy, unable to take the impact directly. It is not experienced as something alien, distant, or neutral, like a physical object or an idea. No, we experience it as that which is most intimately ourselves. It is most deeply our nature, and it is the most precious and most beautiful center of us. It is our significance, our meaning, our nature, our identity. It is what moves our hearts, illuminates our minds, fulfills our lives. 

Everything that Happens is Guided by Intelligence

When you look at your life from the perspective of the objective view, you realize everything that happens is guided by an intelligence greater than your own. As long as you maintain that you want it to happen a certain way, you are striving toward an egoically determined outcome and you remain entrenched in suffering.

Facets of Unity, pg. 285

Grounding the Work in Our Life

Living a normal life is an important cornerstone of our work because it tends to ground the work in our life instead of making it some kind of mystical, spiritual, other-worldly thing, which exists apart from our daily experiences. This is the other world.

In Time the Attitude of Openness and Allowing Becomes a Part of Your Daily Life

In time, this attitude of openness and allowing becomes a part of your daily life. You acquire an overall understanding of how feelings and events relate to each other, how things work, what makes you feel love at some times and not at other times. This understanding isn’t just in your mind; it becomes part of how you act, part of how you are. You are not identified with your personality; you are open to understanding what your feelings are about, whether they bring you pleasure or pain. This is the implicit understanding: knowing, and acting on the knowledge that essence has a wisdom which can be imparted to the personality and thus transform it, releasing the barriers against the deeper understanding. Essence teaches you in a fundamental way; it provides wisdom that cannot be provided by anything else. If you are totally present for the essential aspect of love, it will be obvious that love is anchored in you, that it has no prejudices, no preference, no selfishness. Gradually, you come to understand that the personality itself, with its characteristics, its tendencies, and its preferences, is the problem. If you relate to essence from the perspective of the personality, of wanting only what makes you feel good and not questioning it, of not wanting what makes you feel bad and not questioning that either, you feed the tendency of the personality for greed; you make your personality more opaque. Lacking some essential quality, not having something like love or value or joy, is not the problem. The continual presence of the personality with its patterns is the problem. And that can change only if you learn from essence, if you allow your personality to be transparent to essence, regardless of what feeling is there.

It is Up to Each of Us to Decide what Values Govern Our Lives

This perspective of love and truth also brings humility, not because a person wants to be humble, but because humility is a part of this intimacy, and it is very human and satisfying. Getting your way, being right, or getting something you want, are part of life, but these things are not central to our deeper interests because they don’t take you closer to the truth, nor to yourself. It is up to each of us to decide what values govern our lives. We can allow our lives to be governed by the pursuit of pleasure, avoiding and trying to get rid of difficulties, or we can allow our lives to be focused on loving understanding and truth. If we are going to wait for the pain to disappear before we come to appreciate truth or to love reality, that will rarely happen. You will have problems, issues, conflicts, and misunderstandings in your life, and in your work here. These are to be seen as only part of the picture, not the focus and center of our Work. These things need to be looked at when they present a barrier. Even when you are looking at an issue, it is more to the point to focus on the mechanisms of the mind with an attitude of appreciation for the process of understanding. This focuses on the truth in the issue, rather than on getting rid of the problem. This may seem to be an insignificant or subtle distinction, but it makes a big difference in the outcome of the work. One perspective is alive and dynamic; the other remains boring and static. If you want to live a more fulfilling life, you have to develop a taste for certain values, a taste for truth and understanding, depth and profundity, precision and exquisiteness, dignity and integrity. These refined values are subtle rather than gross. They will lead to a refined human life, infused with natural beauty, colorful and rich. All of these things are present all the time—you don’t have to achieve them, you just need to appreciate them. You need to begin to love them and orient yourself towards them so that you allow yourself the time and opportunity for them to emerge.

Life is a Current of Experience, Perception and Impressions

Therefore, we can say that one’s life is a current of experience, a current of perception, a current of impressions. Experience includes all the modalities: vision, hearing, feeling, sensing, thinking, imaging, altogether as one unified current. If you close your eyes, the current continues; only the patterns and colors change.

Life is a Platonic Form Always Inherent and Present in the Soul

We discover that life, or aliveness, is a particular dimension of the soul, a basic property of its presence. It is actually a Platonic form, independent from bodies and from matter in general. It is always inherent and present in the soul, but we can experience it explicitly. In other words, just as we can experience our soul as pure knowledge, we can also experience it as pure life. We are then not only alive; we are life. We are fundamental life, present as life, life that can imbue the body with its vigor and dynamism and empower it to function.

Life is Developing Being Into a Human Being

That is the task we have in this life: to learn how to live on earth in physical bodies, do things and enjoy things that the inner being is usually not concerned with. In other words, how can essential Being manifest as a human being? What we are doing – the task of life – is developing Being into a human being. That is the stage of evolution we are engaged in. Being is already here; you come as Being. It is true that you forget, and you forget because you still are learning how to bring this Being into life.

Life is Not a Product of Matter and Consciousness is Not an Activity of the Brain

The knowledge of the soul brings another dimension to this perspective. It does not question the details of the progress of evolution; it does not even question that at certain stages of evolution matter needed certain conditions for life to arise, or that our brains needed to reach a particular level of complexity for inner life to be possible. It only questions the interpretation that life is an epiphenomenon of matter, just as it questions that inner experience—consciousness of consciousness—is an epiphenomenon of brain complexity. Direct experience and understanding of the soul shows us that life is not a product of matter, and consciousness is not an activity of the brain. 

Life is the Experience of What We Experience

Our life is not what we experience, but the experience of what we experience. It is the vision of the ocean, the sensation of coolness and wetness when I am swimming, the taste of the bitter saltiness of the water. All of these are what actually constitutes my life. My life is my experience of both inner and outer events.

Life, a Property of the Soul

Various wisdom traditions have detailed teachings about what happens after death. Here we are concerned with the recognition that life is a basic property of the soul, and that the presence of the soul in the body is what animates it and imbues it with life. It becomes very clear for us, in beholding a corpse and especially if we can perceive the departing soul, that death is the departing of the soul, and hence, life is not a property of the body. Life is not a property that a self-organizing system develops as it attains a certain degree of complexity and self-organization. Life is immanent in the universe; it appears as its self-organizing property, and as it reaches a certain maturity of self-organization it manifests explicitly and fully as biological life.

Living a Life of Truth, Love, Strength and Impeccability

There is no reason why a human being cannot live a life of truth, love, strength, impeccability, dignity, and self-respect. You do not need any special situation. You do not need any unusual occasion. Any interaction, any transaction, is a place for you to be that way, and that is when you see the grace and the beauty of life.

Living to Reflect the Reality of What We Truly Are

As a part of life and earthly existence, we also value relationships and are interested in being able to be with another in a way that expresses the preciousness of Being. But if we continue to relate in our usual patterns and habits, expecting to experience divine eros, we will find ourselves in an exercise of frustration. The marriage of heaven and earth is the experience of knowing who we are as being both beyond time and within the world. Our ordinary sense of self has no such capacity. Only the truth of our nature can encompass the transcendent and the immanent. This nature is what is real. To be real means that we need to be able to live in a way that reflects the reality of what we truly are. It is important to recognize, however, that being real doesn’t happen in a moment. Learning what it means to be a real person is a process of unfoldment and transformation. It is not something you fall into or recognize all of a sudden, as it sometimes can be in the discovery of or awakening to true nature. It is a maturational process. And it begins with being honest, truthful, and real about where you are and investigating that. Every moment holds the possibility of more realness and more in-touchness with the presence of essential Being.

Our Life Can Be Full of Appreciation, Sensitivity and Wonder in All that Surrounds Us

The beauty of life is that it can be a continuous opening to the full range of experience and richness possible for the human being—the dynamic unfolding of the human potential. This life can be a celebration of the mystery of our Being. We can live a life of love, taking joy in ourselves, in other human beings, and in the richness of our home planet. Our life can be full of appreciation, sensitivity, and wonder in all that surrounds us. Such a life can be a thrilling and exciting adventure of learning, maturing, and expanding. But it can also be a life of strife, struggle, misery, and depression, which frequently becomes filled with suffering, frustration, envy, and aggression. We can easily find ourselves leading a life of selfishness, antagonism, and exploitation. When this happens, life soon becomes dull, boring, superficial—while the undertone can feel sadistic and brutal.

Our Life is Actually the Transformations and Unfoldment of the Soul

This line of thought demonstrates that in some fundamental and literal sense our life is our soul. Our life is constituted by the various forms that arise in our consciousness, which is our soul. Our life is actually the transformations and unfoldment of the soul. This is the Essence of our life, the felt core of our experiences. To put it differently, our life is the life of the soul, where the life of the soul is her flow and unfoldment.

Our Whole Lives are for the Development of Essence

From the perspective of the universal level of Essence, what happens in terms of the difficulties of our lives—or the happiness and joy—are not as important as the development of Essence. Our whole lives are for that. From this perspective we see that it is not the truth which actually brings suffering, but the lies. The suffering is already there as a result of the lies. The truth simply exposes it. When the suffering is exposed, the person can let go of it. So the truth is compassionate in that way. It can eliminate suffering by exposing the lies that actually cause it. As you know more completely what compassion is and what truth is, you will see that compassion is the door to the truth. You will go through all kinds of suffering, and compassion will keep the door open for you. You will see that on the other side of the door is a state of Essence that is truth. It is Essence as truth.

The Discovery of Essence is the Beginning of the True Life

The discovery of essence is the beginning of the true life. Essence, as we have seen, is not a state experienced once and then always experienced in the same way afterward. Essence is rich and endless in its aspects, qualities, dimensions, capacities, and possibilities. All of this richness starts unfolding, bringing surprise, delight, beauty, value, and fulfillment. Life stops being the life of strife and frustration, the wish for success and the fear of failure. More than anything else, life becomes a process of creative discovery. Discovery itself becomes the heart of life. Life becomes a continual creation because essence is the creative element in us. Suffering and problems become less important, and creative discovery becomes the actual process of living. 

The Universe is Both Alive and Growing

In our view, life is inherent to the universe, rather than merely being a potential that arises when self-organization reaches a high level of complexity … the universe is not only alive; it is growing. This growth is what we see as cosmic evolution …

True Life

This is a true life, then: instead of trying to get satisfaction, fulfillment, happiness, love, we allow ourselves to have basic trust. Then all that we do, our relationships and all our activities, are an expression of the satisfaction, fulfillment and love. The true life is a spontaneous activity that arises out of our Essence, and there is no need for the efforting kind of will. You've got everything. You simply need to see the truth, and what needs to happen just happens. You don't need to do anything about it. The functioning of true will causes you to do what is needed. 

When the Life of the World Feels Incomplete

If we explore our relationship to the world, we recognize that we have a tremendous love for it. We have a deep love for the world even though many of us have difficulty with it. We have fears and conflicts about the world, and there is much suffering, pain, aggression, and disappointment. Some of us sometimes hate the world. But when we explore very deeply, we usually recognize that we feel love for it as well. At the same time, we have another love. Many people in the world are not aware of this other love. They are only living out their love, their attraction to, and their need for the world. But when somebody becomes more mature or sensitive, the conventional world is no longer enough. The life of the world, regardless of how much we love it, feels incomplete at some point. Every aspect of it, regardless of how beautiful, how wonderful, it is, has something about it that is not completely satisfying. Even with people we love, in our intimate love relationships, and in our connection with nature, we hunger for something else, something more invisible. We can’t even define at first what that is. We become aware of this love in different ways. Some of us feel discontented, incomplete, or we become aware of a sense of meaninglessness. Some of us have a lot of pain and suffering and want to end that; so we seek happiness or freedom. That is why many spiritual teachings see as the motivation for enlightenment and spirituality the need to develop compassion, or to free people from suffering, or to have love for God or for truth. But if we explore all of these, we begin to recognize this other love, the love for what is beyond this world. Anyone who becomes interested in inner work, spiritual work, starts to be aware of this love.

When We Experience Pure Consciousness, We Cannot Differentiate It From Life

The distinction between essence and soul is not easy to make, because it is a subtle differentiation. The main difficulty arises from confusing consciousness with life. When one experiences essence as a conscious presence it is not usually easy to recognize that this is different from aliveness, for one has not differentiated life from consciousness. In our normal experience, consciousness and aliveness are inseparable. We rarely, if ever, experience one without the other. And when we experience pure consciousness we cannot differentiate it from life, because we tend to believe that to be conscious is to be alive. Even researchers interested in death experiences, or out-of-body experiences, tend not to explore the question of whether in these conditions the soul experiences herself as alive or only as conscious. These researchers generally believe that life ends with death, and that even though some kind of awareness survives the death, there is no curiosity about whether this awareness will be experiencing itself as only conscious, or conscious and alive the way it is in the body. The implicit assumption seems to be that the awareness will continue to be imbued with the sense of aliveness, as it is in physical life, even though the belief is that life ends with death. The main reason behind this situation is that even though everyone knows the soul, albeit not explicitly, the experience of essence is rare. When we experience essence we know what pure consciousness is, that it is beyond the sense of aliveness, more fundamental than life.

Your Life is What is Now

When you take the attitude of truth, you will understand that pain and suffering will increase for a while because what you’ve been rejecting will start manifesting. This will happen until you understand it. Then things will change. Things will change, but the change will be slower if you are invested in the change. Change will be facilitated if your interest is in the truth. Truth is nothing mysterious. Truth is always what is there, your experience at that moment, not in the past and not in the future. The truth is now, and your life is now. Do you ever actually live in the past? Do you ever actually live in the future? Your life is what is now. Your mind might be going toward the past or the future, but “what is” is what is now. The verb “is” means being—right now, at this very second. So, there is life only in what is. Anything else is just imagination. 

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