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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Meaninglessness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Meaninglessness

Meaninglessness in Relation to Nonconceptual Reality Refers to the Transcendence of Meaning

At the stage of recognizing true nature, the soul realizes that it is the ultimate meaning of existence and of life. She understands that when she is not in touch with her true nature her mind thinks of it as absence of meaning, which she then tries to find, pursuing a particular style of life, philosophy, activity, or interest. As she realizes her essence she finds that the need for conceptual meaning disappears. She finds that meaning is being, the fact of her existence. But at the stage when the soul moves to the nonconceptual, even being is gone, for being and nonbeing are both conceptual. She may first see this as meaninglessness, as the sense that life has no meaning. Meaninglessness becomes the true condition of things, for any meaning is simply a story the discriminating mind concocts. But precise inquiry into this meaninglessness reveals it to be simply the transcendence of the concept of meaning. Meaning requires recognition, cognition, and now we are simply beyond that. Reality is simply thus, pure awareness without commentary. In other words, to see Reality as ultimately meaninglessness, even when this is idealized as total freedom, is to still view it within the concept of meaning. Reality is neither meaningfulness nor meaninglessness, neither the presence of these nor their absence. It is simply independent of anything that the discriminating mind can grasp. So when we use the term meaningless to refer to nonconceptual Reality we need to realize we are referring to the transcendence of meaning, not the opposite of meaningfulness.

Our Story about Our Lives and Our Identification with Our History

This sense that one’s life is meaningless is related to the boredom and loss of excitement and value that the individual with a narcissistic personality constantly experiences in his various relationships and activities. Writers on narcissism have noted that the experience of meaninglessness is common in very narcissistic people. Narcissistic emptiness underlies the identity of both the normal and the pathologically narcissistic individual, but for the latter the shell has developed inadequately, and hence is vulnerable and brittle. In both cases, this emptiness reveals itself when one’s life situations are not sustaining the narcissistic shell .......... Why does the narcissistic emptiness manifest as meaninglessness? Meaninglessness is absence of meaning, but in this case meaning is not a matter of something we tell ourselves; it is not a conceptual meaning, or a story about our lives. Our story about our lives, and our identification with our history, will actually feel meaningless when this issue is arising. The meaning that is missing is a sense of experiential significance, a sense of profundity and substance in our experience, a sense of the value of our existence and activities. The experience of the Essential Identity clearly involves such a sense of meaning.

Recognizing that Meaningless and Emptiness are Actually Expressions of the Lack of Self-Realization

It is important to understand this significant juncture in the maturation of the normal self for what it is: a spiritual juncture. The sense of meaninglessness, pointlessness, and emptiness in one’s life is not due to being in the wrong life situation, like the wrong job or marriage. The soul is becoming aware of its inner existential emptiness. Changing external life situations will genuinely relieve our inner emptiness only if this change is part of a larger and deeper change. Recognizing that this meaninglessness and emptiness are actually expressions of the lack of self-realization makes it possible to begin looking in the right direction, so to speak: to begin one’s inner search for deeper truth. Various religious or spiritual ideas, therapeutic approaches which “explain” one’s emptiness as a lack of gratification in one’s history or relationships—or even more external factors such as new work projects, new relationships, even new possessions—are all too available to fill the hole of meaning in a person’s life. But if this emptiness is filled, even with notions of spirituality, it is not possible to penetrate the emptiness and become available to the arising of one’s true nature. In our work, we approach this—as all questions—with open-ended inquiry, in which the student is invited to investigate his feelings to discover their truth within his personal experience. The teacher guides him only to inquire sincerely and points out his assumptions and defenses regarding his self-awareness.

The Feeling of Pointlessness is an Indirect Awareness of the Absence of the Essential Point, the Essential Identity

Self-realization fulfills the meaning of our lives. The true significance of all experience is the essential presence. The point of existence is the Essential Identity. It is profoundly significant that the Essential Identity is experienced directly as a brilliant point of presence, a point of Being, which is true existence. We can say, then, that meaninglessness is pointlessness, and the feeling of pointlessness is an indirect awareness of the absence of the essential point, the Essential Identity. When we feel that there is an essential point missing in our experience, without which our existence and life are pointless and meaningless, we might interpret this absence metaphorically. But it is actually a literal experience of our existential condition. The sense of meaningfulness does not define self-realization, nor does such realization give us a conceptual picture that we can then identify as the meaning of life. Self-realization effaces the feeling of meaninglessness by eliminating the alienation from our spiritual core. In ordinary perception, one might experience the absence of presence, but interpret it as meaninglessness because he does not know what presence is, or even that there is such a thing. He interprets the absence from within his known world, in this case as meaninglessness

The True Motive Behind the Spiritual Quest

Experiencing meaninglessness without attributing it to our external life situation confronts us with the fact that we do not know what it is really about. We feel it, without completely knowing the truth of it. If we have the support to not resort to incomplete and indirect explanations and avoidances, and the curiosity to inquire into our experience, we will be able to stay with the sense of meaninglessness, especially if we feel a deep aspiration to uncover its truth. Our curiosity about, and interest in, finding out firsthand about the truth of our experience can become a burning, even a passionate question. This is the inner spiritual inspiration, the true motive behind the spiritual quest, the search for meaning, which is actually the search for the essence of the self. To pursue this search, we need to be interested in the truth of our experience, unhampered by biases about what this truth might be, or even in which direction to look for it. When we sincerely desire to know the truth, we feel that our soul is on fire. We become an aspiring flame, a burning question mark. We aspire towards the truth without mentally knowing what we are searching for. This flame of the search is the soul that has awakened to its existential condition and discovered the emptiness of that condition. We know that something is amiss, and we passionately want to uncover the truth of it. In the very substance of our soul we want to find out for ourselves.

Without a Clear Sense of Oneself, One’s Actions Will Lack a Sense of Significance

A person with an unstable or absent center of the self is likely to feel lost or disoriented, and may have a sense of not knowing what to do. She may feel depressed, for she not only does not deeply know herself, she has no clear or firm sense of who and what she is, and thus does not know what to do. Without a clear sense of herself, her actions will lack a sense of significance. Even if she is able to cover up the lack of orientation by adopting external goals and aims, her accomplishments will feel empty and meaningless since they are not serving her own sense of value, and do not originate from her own initiative. Her life is likely to be pervaded by a sense of meaninglessness, pointlessness, aimlessness, and superficiality. She is vulnerable to a sense of fakeness because her life and actions do not express who and what she is, but support a facade that hides, to various degrees of effectiveness, inner impoverishment, lack of significance, and the absence of an inner center. In some sense, she is not in her life, because she does not know herself in any depth. This precarious situation places her in the position of having always to protect and defend her identity, to try constantly to strengthen and maintain the cohesiveness, stability and positive affective coloring of her sense of herself, and to seek external supports to shore up her identity.

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