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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Overwhelm?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Overwhelm

Because the Soul is Incapable of Tolerating the Direct Impact of a Traumatic Event or Situation . . .

Traumatic events have similar effects, but are different in emotional content. Trauma is any experience that the soul is not able to tolerate with the resources available to her at the time of the event. A trauma can be physical, as in the case of physical accidents, bodily injuries, severe or chronically incapacitating sickness. It can also be emotional, related to the physical trauma, a response to a trauma in the immediate family, witnessing abuse or trauma happening to others, or being emotionally traumatized by other’s cruelty and mistreatment, by an important loss like a death in the immediate family, etc. Trauma has such a powerful impact on the soul that its influence can last a lifetime and affects our life and experience profoundly even when we have no recollection of the trauma. Because the soul is incapable of tolerating the direct impact of traumatic event or situation, the organism becomes overwhelmed and goes into emergency mode. A dimension of the organism becomes frozen emotionally and energetically, a frozenness that ends up being repressed or split off from consciousness. This then influences conscious experience in ways that might not be obvious to the individual, as has been identified as posttraumatic stress disorder. What is significant for our exploration here is that the soul cannot at the time tolerate the sensations, feelings, and visual images associated to the incident or situation. This intolerance makes the soul dissociate, a defense mechanism often seen in traumatized individuals. The soul deals with the intolerable situation by not experiencing it directly, either by totally blocking it out of consciousness or by retaining the memory while becoming numb to its emotional and feeling significance. But for the soul to do that she would need to limit and lower the intensity of her awareness. Since the essential presence is pure presence of awareness the dissociation will have to include dissociation from this inner ground of the soul for it to be effective. In other words, in order for the soul to dissociate from the traumatic event or situation it inadvertently dissociates from her essential presence.

Ego Cannot but Melt in the Experience of the Overwhelming Precision and Delicacy of Essence

The personality slowly loses its grip. The conditioning is gradually shaken loose, and the ego is exposed in its bankruptcy. Finally, the aspect of death manifests, and then the ego-identification starts dissolving. This marks the entrance into the divine realm of essence, where grace and mercy begin descending into consciousness, dissolving more and more of the ego boundaries. This ultimately leads to the understanding of enlightenment, and the emergence of the Supreme aspect. There is even an aspect that has to do with the search and with the end of seeking. This in turn brings about the manifestation of the magnificence, the majesty, the exquisiteness, the magic, and the beauty of essence. Now, ego does not need to be slain. One does not have to wage war against ego, conquer or destroy it. Ego cannot but shatter at the recognition of the sheer beauty of essence and all of existence. It cannot but melt in the experience of the overwhelming precision and delicacy of essence. It cannot but bow and surrender at beholding the magnificence and majesty of reality. Essence—the teacher, the tempter—becomes ultimately the very stuff of our consciousness, the very substance of our beingness, the beauty of all existence. No wonder that essence is called the agent of inner transformation, the elixir of enlightenment. The elixir is the hope, it is the solution, and it is the fulfillment.

Inner Practice is Basically a Matter of Settling an Into the Simplicity of Just Being Ourselves

In contrast to our modern multiplex cinemas with their Hollywood blockbusters, what many of us would love is to go to an old-time movie theater where the sound is rather tame and quiet and the story evolves slowly, so we can actually follow what we feel about it. And we would love to be able to do the same thing with ourselves in our own experience, to be with ourselves in such a way that we can see where we are, notice what is happening, and know how we feel about it. This would let us feel more real. What we miss when we don’t feel that kind of simple quiet is an awareness of ourselves in our experience in its immediacy, in its fullness. Instead, we are hearing echoes, reverberations, and reflections. All of our ideals, our ideas, our projects, our worries, and our fears become noise that overwhelms our immediate experience and the subtle sense of what we are. The preciousness of just simply being here in the moment is forgotten, lost in the shuffle, lost in the noise. The spiritual journey is not about having experiences, interesting insights, or unusual perceptions, although those will often arise as part of it. I am not saying they don’t have their place and value, but they are not the point of the inner journey. Inner practice is basically a matter of settling and quieting. It is about settling into the simplicity of just being ourselves and feeling our realness—being in reality instead of in the echoes of reality.

Intense Ecstasy, Overwhelming Ecstasy

One of the ways of experiencing Brilliancy is the sense of majesty, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman—gender doesn’t matter when it comes to experiencing Brilliancy or its majesty. Both queens and kings have majesty, for example. The sense of majesty has the qualities of expansion and radiance. So some traditions—the Sufi tradition, for example—don’t call qualities masculine and feminine; they call them the qualities of majesty and beauty. They don’t get into the question of male and female at all. Brilliancy is the most majestic of all the aspects, regardless of whether they are classified as feminine or masculine. The sense of brilliance and majesty transcends the sexes and sexual differences; Essence is beyond physiological differences—it is as simple as that. Brilliancy can go into the genitals, whether male or female, and give them each a different sense. When Brilliancy engorges the genital region, the woman will become more feminine and the man will become more masculine. Its presence will give the feminine more intensity, more power, more strength, more expansion, more aliveness, and more ecstasy. In the head and upper part of the body, Brilliancy feels more like majesty. When it gets into the pelvis and genitals, the sense there is more of ecstasy—intense ecstasy, overwhelming ecstasy—regardless of whether you are making love or not. When it gets in that area, it is activated in such a powerful way that the pleasure becomes intense to the point of overwhelming ecstasy. It also makes the genitals feel clean. A lot of the time, people have the sense that the genitals are dirty or not so pure because of all the prohibitions everybody has regarding them. But when Brilliancy enters there, they feel really clean; everything feels immaculately clean and graceful.

Brilliancy, pg. 253

Mystery Reveals itself as the Overwhelming Truth that Penetrates and Underlies All Experience

The sense is that the progress of my unfoldment from the nonconceptual consciousness, with its unity of Being, to the absence of the absolute, and the ability to move back and forth between being the absolute to being the person who is its embodied extension, has affected me in such a way that I feel no drive to go anywhere. I am home, in a way that only the heart knows. It is clear that what is left of the process of realization is a matter of refinement, stabilization and actualization in life, which is a continuing process. Discovery has done its job; it has lead my consciousness to its final abode, to its source. Now it is only a matter of integration, of learning to live from home. There arises now a sense of wonder and mystery regarding life and death. Living at home, mystery reveals itself as the overwhelming truth that penetrates and underlies all experience. Life is rich and colorful, but it is only the miraculous unfolding of mysterious Being. Regardless of how much I understand it, I still do not truly comprehend it. I also keep feeling the mystery of death, that life as I know it will end. Yet it is unfathomable. How can life end? I know it does, but how can something so robust, so conscious, so vibrant, actually cease? Can life comprehend its own end? In time, I begin to experience the end of life, as I sink deeply into the mysterious depth of the absolute. Consciousness ceases, perception stops, and there is absolutely no awareness at such times. Yet, when consciousness arises, the question of how death happens is still unfathomable. The cessation of consciousness is not a new experience for me, for it is one of the stages in the journey towards the absolute. Now, however, the cessation is happening as part of a new process and a new contemplation, the question of the mystery of death. I recognize that the individual consciousness does not have the capacity to understand that it can end, or that it will end. I also recognize that the death I am contemplating is not necessarily only that of the physical body. It is more fundamental. It is the cessation of consciousness. I begin to see death as final, as the ultimate dissolution of consciousness into the absolute. This comes to pass, but the mind still cannot comprehend it.

Overwhelming Love

I can have the beloved when only the beloved is. This understanding reveals the loving person as a film over the heart. It is the personality showing its bare condition as a somewhat opaque, somewhat soft, layer of soul substance covering the area of the heart. Through the transparency of this personality trace I see a dark emptiness in the heart area, which I recognize as the feeling of absence of heart, or more exactly, of an empty heart. Understanding of this situation of the soul as lover affects this structure by beginning to dissolve it. As I feel my very substance melting and disappearing, I first experience the state of poverty. The emptiness of the heart reveals itself as the state of poverty, in which I feel I have nothing. The love, however, is too overwhelming to allow me to remain in any limited state, even that of mystical poverty. The intensification of love melts away even the state of poverty, where now the emptiness in the heart transforms into the dazzling majesty of the absolute. The love becomes so intense, so passionately deep red, that after a while I cannot tell who loves whom. Do I love the absolute, or does the absolute love me? The passionate love is the intensity of the annihilating power of the absolute as it erases all but itself. I, as the soul, behold the absolute appearing in the heart, occupying it as its rightful resident. The heart beholds the absolute as the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever beheld. It is dazzling and intoxicating, so black it is brilliant with blackness. It is nothing, but it shimmers and shines in such a dazzling way that I can see it has a crystalline quality. It is an infinite black crystal absence, brilliantly shimmering. The radiance is so bright it illuminates the cave of the heart the way a lightning storm illuminates the night. The lightning illumination ricochets in the cavern of the heart with such power I can hear it thundering and exploding.

Qualities that are Necessary as We Explore Unexpected Places and Expose Sensitive Parts of Ourselves

We are learning the subtleties of practice, of how our inquiry can become continual and operate in dimensions of experience that we can’t predict. We saw in the previous chapter that as our practice becomes more subtle, we begin to consider questions of knowing and not knowing, of conceptuality and nonconceptuality. This is following the epistemological thread of the path, which is inseparable from the thread of the heart. The love that is needed for our inquiry to become continual is full of awake interest, full of the joy of discovery, and full of the softness and sweetness that help us feel held and safe. These qualities are all necessary as we explore unexpected places and expose sensitive parts of ourselves that are difficult or overwhelming to face. Even though we have not been focusing explicitly on the thread of the heart, it is an essential part of our practice, an essential part of what we need, an essential part of the human condition, and it is one way that Total Being presents itself in our experience. Total Being not only presents the total nonconceptuality needed for seeing through obscure structures and impediments but also provides the kindness, love, and gentleness that support opening to those places in ourselves.

Sometimes the Truth Might Arise as Overwhelming but that’s Not Generally the Natural Process of the Unfoldment

This brings up a basic assumption in any spiritual work, investigation, or inquiry: the notion that confronting and accepting truth is helpful. We take that as implicit, but not everybody believes that. To accept, or even know, that knowing the truth is helpful, our heart must not have been so hurt or closed down that we lost all contact with our love. If we were hurt so badly that we can’t open up, it might be difficult for us to feel that discovering the truth is a good thing. We might want to dissociate and not be aware of the truth. The question of whether the truth is going to feel overwhelming to us is sometimes a realistic concern. For some people, recognizing certain truths might be too much due to their lack of inner strength and development. And left to itself, the soul tends not to open up to such an overwhelming truth. Usually the soul has built-in defenses to prevent what is overwhelming from arising, unless life presents it with a situation where it can’t use these defenses. Sometimes the truth might arise as overwhelming, but that’s not generally the natural process of the unfoldment. Usually, if we are attuned to the truth in our own experience, our inquiry will tend to reveal things in a way that is exactly what we need and what we can handle in the moment. Guidance never reveals things to us that we don’t need. The revelation of truth is what Being presents in our experience, and Being is intelligent, compassionate, and loving. It will present exactly what is needed in the moment. That is why inquiry is generally a much safer approach than many other methods we can use. It follows what arises, it does not push because it is not trying to get somewhere or achieve some goal.

The Joyfulness of the Yellow Aspect Has an Intense Kind of Sweetness that is Almost Overwhelming

The experience of the presence of the Diamond Guidance is nothing like our ordinary feelings and emotions. It is a feeling of another kind, a freshness and purity that pervades the consciousness of the entire soul. We may feel touched from within by a light that is not only sweet, loving, and kind, but transporting and pure as well. This extraordinary presence changes our experience completely; it is as if the atoms of our consciousness were being cleansed with Arctic ice that has never been touched, with a sense of precision that is crisp and fresh. The sharpness of the diamond consciousness is like the sharpness of an ice diamond: It is always melting at the point where it touches the consciousness of the soul—yet it never loses its precise edge. The essential qualities appear now as precisely cut diamonds of various colors and qualities. We experience Strength, for example, as an exhilarating, strong sense of precision, with aliveness and beauty. The joyfulness of the Yellow aspect has an intense kind of sweetness that is almost overwhelming. In comparison to these essential qualities, our usual experience is old and stale. It doesn’t have the possibility of true vibrancy or alive consciousness, where each atom feels as if it could open a thousand miles wide and explode at the same time with a delicious, tingling energy. The experience of Essence on the level of the Diamond Guidance is a kind of consciousness that memory cannot capture. You either experience it now or you don’t know it. Even if you’ve experienced it continuously for ten years, the day you stop experiencing it, you can’t remember its quality precisely. It has to be that new and immediate to be known.

The More You Experience the Love for Truth the More . . .

Truth is such that when you love it, it will tend to own your love. In other words, when you love truth for its own sake and allow that love to deepen and develop, you begin to see that loving anything else takes away from love for the truth. When you love something else besides the truth, there will come a time in the journey of inquiry when you are going to be faced with a choice. More precisely, the more you experience the love for truth, the more you will recognize that this love must become the dominant and overwhelming love in your life. It can’t be just one of the loves. If you love truth but you also love comfort, loving comfort may at some point become a barrier to recognizing the truth. For example, you might want to lie to yourself so that you can have the comfort you love. The only way you can continue to see the truth about comfort is by loving the truth more than you love comfort. Comfort is one example, but it could be pleasure, riches, fame, love, recognition, creativity, company, and so on. We recognize at some point that our love for truth is natural; it is inherent in our heart. The heart loves what is true. We also recognize that loving truth is the intelligent thing to do because the truth is ultimately what will free us. It is of ultimate value, and it is the source of all value. Life is incomplete—it lacks depth and genuineness—when there is no truth. But even though we might recognize all of that at some point, we still experience the conflict with other things we love. Most spiritual literature takes the position that there is a conflict between loving the truth and loving the world in the form of possessions, pleasure, comfort, fame, and so on. This is an important truth, but in fact, there is no inherent conflict between loving truth and loving other things.

Very Early, when You Felt Some Negativity or Discomfort You Pushed Bad Feelings Outside

To be completely you means being alone. When this is experienced, it will bring very deep grief and sadness. You have to learn to say good-bye to everything you have loved—not just your Mommy and Daddy, your boyfriend and your cat, but to your feelings, your mind, your ideas. You are in love with all of these. Letting go of them will feel like a great loss, even a death. It is not you who dies. What dies is everyone else. In the experience of ego death, you don’t feel you are dying; you feel everybody else is dead. You feel you’re all alone, totally alone. You have lost a boundary which was constructed from past experiences. But this boundary never really existed! It was just a belief. When you experience reality as it is, there is no sense of boundaries or of being separate, of inside or outside. These are concepts you learned at a very early age in order to protect yourself. As a six-month old baby, when you felt some negativity, or discomfort, you pushed the bad feelings outside so that you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. That was the original need for the separateness. When there is no mind, you are not thinking, not conceptualizing, not remembering. When you are in the now, there is no feeling of a you separate from something else. There is no sense in the first place that there is a me. There is One. That feeling, that sense of boundary and separateness, is the personality itself. The presence of the personality is experienced as a boundary and that boundary is not different from ideas of the past. When the personality is gone, you feel alone, because the boundaries—your ideas and memories—are your father and mother. The separateness is your memories of your mother and father, your relationship with them and all your past experiences which you’re bringing into the present. Your past experience separates you from the now. That separation from the now is a boundary around you like an eggshell. To let the boundaries go means accepting aloneness. When aloneness is accepted, there are no boundaries. What you perceive then is just lack of boundaries. This will be experienced as a newness, a rebirth.

We are Not Going to Have One Overwhelming Experience that is Going to End All Our Difficulties and Obscurations

By now, hopefully, we have come to terms with the fact that we are not going to have one overwhelming experience that is going to end all our difficulties and obscurations. People usually don’t see this until after they are enlightened several times. If we are awakened enough, we understand that sudden and final enlightenment, though a nice idea, is not congruent with the reality of being human, with the reality of how our consciousness works. This doesn’t mean that if you are not completely free, you have failed. That is not the point. The point is that we are fulfilling our design by living and maturing and learning and discovering. Being fully human means recognizing the joy and the peace that come from the ongoing development of capacities, of knowledge, of different forms of experience, and even of different forms of enlightenment. The more we learn, the more maturation and the more freedom there is. Freedom is one of those things that is difficult to define, and there is no practice or method to achieve freedom. You cannot strategize it; you cannot plan for it. You cannot evoke freedom, because freedom is not a particular state of true nature. It’s not an aspect, dimension, or condition of realization. Freedom has to do with many things. It includes the realization of true nature because freedom is implicit in true nature no matter how true nature is presenting itself. When we talk about waking up, the primary awakening is usually an awakening to the fact that there is something beyond our individual consciousness, something beyond that is the source of all capacity. Discovering what that is requires an endless journey because each realization is simply a further approximation of reality.

Where the Impulsiveness and Uncontrollability of the Libidinal Ego Can Dominate the Student’s Experience

The normal experience of the ego-self is much more mental than we realize, in the sense that we may experience emotions and impulses but feel them to be vaguely related to a sense of self. Now, however, there is no vague sense of self or identity; we know ourselves intimately as a living, vital, animal organism, imbued with clearly instinctual, primitive, and powerful drives and impulses. The primitiveness of the structure means there is very little representation left in the self, mostly a sense of entitihood with very early and simple object relations. So there is a more direct experience of the quality of presence imbued with animal and primitive energies and drives. At this point the shell does not always feel like a rigid boundary, but is teeming with aliveness and pulsing with desires. There is a distinct dynamism to the experience of the self, but as an instinctual and primitive force, it is loosely structured and poorly channeled. The impulsiveness and uncontrollability of the libidinal ego and its passionately overwhelming nature can dominate the student’s experience here. The student generally finds this transformation exciting and promising, especially if she has had mostly a schizoid kind of personality. Hence, it might take a lot of experience, sincerity, and discrimination for her to begin to feel this sense of self as dystonic to her well-being and to see that it alienates her from her essential nature. If she remains sincerely dedicated to her inquiry, she finds that the instinctual drivenness characteristic of her libidinal ego makes her less transparent to the purity and subtlety of essential nature. She sees now that these instinctual drives tend to fixate her consciousness and direct it in a certain prejudiced direction, which clouds her clarity. These drives confuse truth with falsehood and disorient her in her quest for self-realization. The drives, especially the primitive oral ones, tend to orient the self outward, towards promising objects, and away from itself and its beingness. This outward orientation is one of the most basic and stubborn characteristics of the libidinal ego and becomes one of the main barriers to self-realization.

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