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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Practice?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Practice

Practice Fully Realized is Mature Enough to Accept the Ordinary Simplicity of Whatever is Happening as what Realization is at the Moment

In the Diamond Approach, the central practice of inquiry embodies this open-ended view of reality. From the beginning of doing this work, we find where we are, recognize where we are, and understand where we are. This wholehearted exploration of “where I am” includes exploring the “where,” the “I,” and the “am.” All of them are up for grabs. Proceeding with this kind of open-endedness respects how reality is presenting itself through you, to you, and as you in the moment, and, at the same time, it embraces the particularity of what is happening in your location. True practice means letting ourselves explore what is happening in this moment. For a long time, we can’t help thinking that exploration will take us deeper and will reveal more. And it does reveal more and more until, at some point, we might recognize that the revelation is not headed in any particular direction or to any specific place. We might recognize that whatever is being revealed at any moment, from the very first moment we practice, is realization, is reality manifesting itself. What else could it be? Who else would be doing it? Practice fully realized is mature enough to accept the ordinary simplicity of whatever is happening as what realization is at the moment. But it takes a great deal of work to develop that kind of maturity. We have to fully exhaust all other possibilities for that simplicity to manifest. We have to experience and understand and embody all kinds of spiritual dimensions and all kinds of enlightenment in order to be free and to accept our everyday ordinariness without it having to be anything else. We cannot one day decide to be simple and ordinary. We need only to live each moment as it is, to live each moment fully and authentically without rejection or acceptance, without commentary or second guessing. With such total practice, we begin to live the mystery of the paradox of practice and grace.

Practice is not Limited to Formal Practice

And practice is not limited to formal practices—meditating or inquiry, praying or concentration—but includes all that we do. Practice, which is how Total Being expresses itself, includes our daily actions, communications, and interactions. It even includes our thoughts and feelings and attitudes. We are at the same time true nature expressing itself as the totality and as the individual through which the totality is expressing itself. At some point, it might be possible for us to recognize that the individual and the totality of all that is are exactly one and the same. But even though they are one and the same, they are also distinctly two. When we gather and practice in groups, our work gains power and intensity because it is the same true nature practicing, one true nature expressed through the collected total practice of all its organs as the totality of the field. Practice becomes total, becomes the practice that is realization, when we have the attitude of devotion and reverence, when we are committed, when we are expressions expressing the commitment. When we are not expressing the commitment, when we are not expressing the reverence and love, when we are not expressing the intelligence and clarity, we are not practicing in a total way. Our practice is not as thoroughgoing as it could be.

Practice that is Just Presence with Awareness

Over time and with practice, we become more skilled at seeing, recognizing, and understanding these reactions to our experience—the rejection, the resigned acceptance, and the grasping acceptance. This makes us more and more able to be with our experience as it is. That’s why we say that our practice is just presence with awareness. Presence with awareness doesn’t reject, but it doesn’t grasp either. When we are simply present and aware in our experiencing, we can begin to recognize the true condition that is arising. We notice our inner attitude becoming simpler and more subtle as we are being with our experience. We begin to feel an openness, a vulnerability, an allowing that has a sense of subtle contentment and satisfaction. The fact that our presence is arising in this way reveals the experience to be an expression of our True Nature. This quality in our consciousness does not arise because something specific is happening that is to our liking. True acceptance arises on its own as a result of our being present with our reactions—our tendencies to reject or grasp—without being run by them.

Practicing is Not Only When You are Chanting, or Doing Spiritual Exercises

Think of life and its evolution—does it have an end? Is there some place it is going to get to? Does a human being have an end beyond which there is no more change? A place where there will be no more evolution of different forms, different ways, different capacities? None of the theories of evolution posit a stopping point. In other words, reality is not teleological. It doesn’t have an end toward which it is working. Reality is spontaneously alive and naturally intelligent, and it is always revealing unexpected possibilities. Why would the realization of reality be any different? What does that mean for you right at this moment? You might see that reading these words and receiving this teaching are a form of practice. Practicing is not only when you are meditating, or chanting, or doing spiritual exercises; it can be all the time. As you are receiving the transmission, feeling its impact and exploring it, you are practicing. What else do you think you are doing? This is reality realizing itself as you reading. So as I am expressing this to you, reality is practicing. As you are receiving what I say, reality is practicing. We are interacting, and this interaction is reality practicing and revealing some of its possibilities. Is it you who is doing it, or is it me? You might think, “Oh, it’s the transmission and I’m just sitting and receiving it,” which is true. But you could also say that your taking in of what I am teaching is developing the potential for reality, and that too is true. Yet another way of saying it is that reality is manifesting some of its possibilities through me and you and everyone who reads these words. So you might see that the spiritual journey is not a matter of going someplace—it is a matter of opening up to the possibilities of exactly where you are right now.

Total Practice Means that the Totality of Who We are is Practicing

When we consider everything that is happening in the world, we see that Total Being can express itself in all kinds of ways. But practice is when true nature is expressing its purity, and it becomes total practice when it marshals everything we’ve got—our devotion, our understanding, and our action. Total practice means that the totality of who and what we are is practicing. There are many degrees of recognizing what this totality is. It can be the totality of our present experience, the totality of the individual, the totality of being, the totality of all and everything in all times and all space. This is, in some sense, the secret of practice, and we need to learn this in practice. We need to learn it not only conceptually, but experientially as well. We need to see that when we are practicing, we are acknowledging true nature and expressing our devotion to and reverence for true nature, and we are putting into action our commitment to serve true nature—all of which is at the same time true nature expressing itself as that. This is one truth looked at from two sides: the side of the individual and the side of Total Being. And this is different from the oneness of classical nondual experience, which is a unity that subsumes difference in sameness, subsumes the individual in transcendent reality.

True Nature Might Not Manifest Itself as the Absolute or Pure Awareness at All

<p>We might think that we will be in some condition like absolute emptiness or pure awareness, which constantly manifests things in various ways. I mean something different from that. What I mean is that true nature might not manifest itself as the absolute or as pure awareness at all. True nature might manifest itself in ways that don’t have anything to do with the absolute or with pure awareness. You might find out that pure awareness and the absolute are simply way stations and that every condition is a way station. So realization is endless—there is no final destination. When I say that practice is realization realizing further realization, I don’t mean that practice keeps realizing further realization until we get to the ultimate realization. That is what many of us think. And we are accustomed to this way of thinking because many teachings assert this view. In the view I am presenting here, there is no need to hold the position of ultimate realization. When we become free from the position of being oriented toward a goal, when we let go of that, we will be amazed to discover new possibilities of experience, new ways of living and being. The freedom that can happen is unimaginable—you are free not only from your conditioning and constraint but also from what your experience tells you is the truth. There is no need to adhere to anything at all. Of course, this understanding of practice without goal is bound to be controversial. Even though many teachings talk about not having goals, they still have goals in the sense that they have the state of no-goal as an end. Many teachings hold not having a goal as a particular state or dimension. I am suggesting something different—that not having a goal is not a particular state, not a particular dimension. I mean truly and literally practice with no goal. This could be quite terrifying. “Wow, where am I going to stand? How am I going to orient myself? How is anything going to happen?” But also it ushers in an unprecedented kind of liberation and freedom.</p>

True Nature Needs the Individual in Order to Know Itself and Experience Itself as Enlightenment

True nature as Total Being expresses itself, and its expression of itself can be seen as its practice, and its practice is realization because it is illuminating itself and waking up to itself. The individual can recognize that enlightenment is nothing but true nature revealing what it is and what reality is. And true nature needs the individual in order to know itself and experience itself as enlightenment. Maybe true nature also wakes up to itself through animals and stars and planets. I don’t know about that. But we do know that it does it through human beings. Even if the stars are not aware of themselves practicing, they are nonetheless the expression of true nature because true nature as Total Being expresses itself as all and everything. Nothing is excluded. True nature expresses itself not only through our formal practices and our daily life, not only through our thoughts, feelings, and actions, but also through this book you’re holding and the chair you’re sitting on and the house you live in. It expresses itself as the oceans, mountains, and sky, as the galaxies and the universes—including all the possible parallel and quantum bubble universes.

True Nature, as Total Being, Practices Through Us as Individuals Practicing

There can come a time when we see that we cannot as individuals do the work of waking up; we don’t have the requisite capacity. We are totally helpless and incompetent in the face of what is required. But even when we understand that only true nature awakens, this doesn’t mean that we can be lazy and take for granted that awakening is just going to happen. We still need to practice and to exercise the intelligence, the heart, and the will that true nature is expressing through our consciousness. We do this not to get somewhere but because true nature as Total Being practices through us as individuals practicing, meditating, and inquiring. We can’t loaf around and idly wait for true nature to bestow her gifts. That attitude doesn’t express the purity of true nature. True nature expresses its purity when we are in the mode of practice and the attitude of practice. This means that we are experiencing and expressing true nature through the three centers: as commitment to continual practice through the belly, as love, devotion, and reverence through the heart, and as discriminating intelligence through the mind.

When Feeling Useless or Helpless is True Illumination

Reality first appears dualistically as somebody who is practicing, somebody who doesn’t know what enlightenment is or what true nature is and is trying to find out or to seek it as if it is something else, something far away. However, if our practice always remains dual, it can become repetitive and mechanical, keeping us on the same horizontal plane. We need to apply ourselves with sincerity and devotion and reverence, so this dualistic process can begin to open up in such a way that true nature reveals itself as the force and the light behind the practice, as the intelligence that makes it possible for practice to happen at all. All kinds of issues might arise as we realize that even though we need to continually practice, we cannot do anything and all of reality is the self-illumination of true nature. We might feel that we are useless or helpless, that we don’t have the power or the capacity to do anything. And for a while, we might think this is a bad thing. But it is actually true illumination: The usual self that we ordinarily tend to take ourselves to be can’t do anything. And as we experience how helpless and incapable we are, true nature is waking up—its light is getting more intense and more brilliant.

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