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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Obstacles?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Obstacles

Experience Creates Obstacles

It is easy to think that our limitations are caused by difficult things that have happened to us in the past; but actually the simple fact that we have had past experience creates obstacles. The mind solidifies our experience into notions of what we are and what the world is in such a way that we see reality through the veil of the past. This veil is penetrated as we awaken to our true nature.

Imitating a Power in Our True Nature that Eliminates Obstacles

The second level is our lack of understanding, our ignorance about how consciousness works. We can recognize that there are obstacles to our freedom, barriers to our inner peace that make it seem impossible to just be ourselves without struggling all the time. But, as we have seen, because we don’t understand how things function, we end up believing that the way to deal with these impediments is to get rid of them—to remove or annihilate the obstacles, just as we tend to do in the physical world. This is the only way we think we can have peace and quiet and release from suffering. We don’t know that by doing this, we are perpetuating the same suffering, the same frustration. We are dividing ourselves and acting inside ourselves in a destructive way. Our actions dissociate us from ourselves and prevent our True Nature from revealing itself in its purity and richness. So we get stuck in a misinformed, misguided attempt at realization, at freedom, at achieving nirvana. We are ignorant of how reality works. And it takes a lot for us to learn it. But with time and practice, wisdom begins to arise just from our observing what is happening and from learning about our True Nature. We start to see that the inner activity we are engaging in to remove obstacles actually imitates a power in our True Nature that can eliminate obstacles. This power is needed because obstacles such as ignorance, identifications, barriers, and resistances definitely exist. But we need to learn that the way of the ego doesn’t work, because ultimately it is based on hatred, and hatred is divisive.

The Conditioned Obstacles that Pervade the Mind and Personality

So when we begin the Work, we have to work on the emotional parts of our personality, and then we work to expose our preconceptions, assumptions, and beliefs about reality and ourselves. Later, we might have experiences of Essence in its various stages and aspects, and the Work becomes the integration of these refined elements of ourselves. Then the whole personality itself needs to be transmuted and transformed in accordance with these deeper elements of ourselves. We must become more refined human beings, more mature human beings, more evolved human beings, more actual human beings. Then maybe we can live the life of a true human adult. This process is long and complex, and of course it varies from one person to another. But for everyone it entails a great deal of work. You need to understand a lot about your mind, about your emotions, about what patterns constitute your character, and what causes you to behave as you do. This takes time and patience. The process involves a lot of pain and difficulty, although it is also exhilarating and joyful and exciting. A lot of perseverance is required to perceive your essential aspects and then to realize and integrate them. None of this is easy, and it will not be done for you. The teacher can only guide you by pointing to things; you have to do the work, and it is a lot of difficult work. And in the society we live in there is no support for this kind of process. Our social environment does not recognize, does not understand, and does not support such development. You were conditioned by that society, so the obstacles you have to free yourself from are many and powerful, and they pervade your mind and personality.

The Work of Penetrating Obstacles

The work we do has many different components. We work on understanding and realization, generating experiences, penetrating obstacles, and resolving issues. We work on doing and development, living what we understand. We continue to refine the work we do and to introduce new elements to balance the development of the soul. If we evolve without balance, our spiritual development moves in tangents rather than straightforward, moves coincidentally rather than logically. We could develop tangentially and still experience all kinds of wonderful things, but without the balance of mature development, there will be no meaningful transformation.

Three Obstacle Categories

All obstacles to being ourselves can be divided into three categories: ignorance, desire, and aggression. These major categories are known in many spiritual traditions. They are called the three primary poisons or the three primary roots. Many obstacles can be placed in more than one category. Most obstacles, including those we have explored so far—meddling, resistance, and defense—are a combination of all three. In reality, all three categories are facets of the same thing: they are the three supports of the ego-self, which you can also call the ego life or ego experience. We have recognized the need for many essential aspects, many capacities, that enable us to see and recognize where we are. In earlier chapters, we have discussed awareness, allowing, vulnerability, steadfastness, the capacity to cease interfering, and others. Whenever we are faced with an obstacle, one or more of these qualities of presence can be of help to us. I want to introduce now two other necessary qualities that complement each other: the aspects of strength and compassion. These two can help us when we are faced with obstacles in the category that the majority of people find the most painful to deal with: aggression.

True Nature is Revealing and Knowing Itself as it is Practicing Seeing Through Obstacles

On the spiritual path, for a long time, true nature appears as various manifestations that challenge and expose the elements that form the basis of our sense of self. This is how inquiry usually happens. As we begin to inquire, we notice various structures, obstacles, and issues, and the understanding of them frequently occurs in tandem with the arising of true nature in one form or another. So in some sense, true nature functions by way of illuminating delusions, illusions, and obscurations; and through the illumination of what is darkened, it reveals its secrets. That is what self-illumination means. True nature illuminates obstacles by manifesting certain powers and in doing so recognizes something about itself that it hasn’t seen before. True nature is revealing itself and knowing itself as it is practicing seeing through the obstacles.

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