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Practice (Spiritual Practice)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Practice (Spiritual Practice)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Practice (Spiritual Practice)

A Foundational Basis for Spiritual Practice

Understanding Holy Will gives you a foundational basis for spiritual practice. It shows you that to come into alignment with ultimate truth is to first recognize how you are interfering with your reality, how you are in the way, how you believe that you are a separate individual with your own will. Rather than being oriented toward achieving a certain state of consciousness, a practice that makes sense must be oriented toward freedom from wanting certain states. True freedom is not the realization of a certain dimension; true liberation is to be free from all dimensions. It is the freedom of completely accepting whatever the universe manifests through you. If it is manifesting through you as love, or as the Absolute, then that’s how it is manifesting. If it is manifesting as anger or fear, that is how the universe is manifesting. As an individual, your task is not to choose what happens, but to comply to the extent of recognizing that it is not even possible to choose. This is a complete reversal of the position of the ego. 

Facets of Unity, pg. 126

A Matter of Learning to Recognize Realness

So at some point, we see that spiritual practice is a matter of learning reality, learning to recognize realness, learning to be real, and learning to be ourselves in our realness. And we see that we are only interested in learning these things if we have the appreciation and love of being real. We have to love being genuine to go through the trouble and the discipline of inner work. It is because we are being authentic, because we are approaching reality, because we are being touched by reality, that we love it and are willing to go through the various processes of acknowledging and seeing the truth—whether painful or scary or pleasurable. Our first step is to recognize the love and appreciation in us that draws us to reality. Regardless of what motivation we start with for doing inner work, our love of reality at some point reveals itself if we are sincere. We recognize that we just like being near reality, we love being comfortable with it and having no conflicts about it, and we like being as intimate with it as possible. We want to become so intimate that we simply are what is real . . . and that is what we love. 

A Spiritual Practice that Embodies All the Principles of this Work

When I say “real relationship,” I mean one that is developing in an optimizing way, that enables those involved to become transparent to deeper truth and reality. Due to the interactive dynamic force in the relational field, the relationship becomes a field of consciousness that opens to new forms of experience. This means that we can continually become more real; we can continually learn and discover new aspects of ourselves, of the other, and of the potential of relationship. And we can live in a way that actually embodies those aspects, revealing more about them through our living and interacting. “Complete” doesn’t mean “finished.” Completeness is a process; it is always completing. So how do we get there from where we are? We don’t. We don’t get anywhere. The process of maturing means that we nurture the seed that is here. We experience some human development, we come to some recognition of who we are, what we desire, what we long for. And we start with that. When we are speaking to another person, we start with where we are. We are as real as we can be; we recognize what we’re feeling and we experience that as fully as we can. We do our best, without trying to manipulate ourselves or control our experience. This is actually a spiritual practice, which embodies all the principles of this work that we have discussed.  

Believing that We Can Twist God’s Arm

One common and reasonable way of looking at practice is that as we engage the path—as we meditate, we inquire, we exert effort, we learn effortlessness, we surrender, we let go, we practice nondoing—we open up and true nature manifests itself, manifests its possibilities. So far, so good; this is what we would expect. What doesn’t strike us about this view, until our practice deepens and our realization matures, is that there is an implicit assumption in it—namely, that because we practice, truth arises. We assume that the practices that we do, our engagement with the path, are the cause and that realization is the result. This sounds reasonable. I’m not saying it’s not reasonable, I’m saying that it’s a belief intrinsic to the conventional way of looking at things: What we do has results. Applying this view to spiritual practice is similar to believing that we can twist God’s arm. That is implicit in it. The usual view is that the path is a sequence of causes and effects. We do this, and this happens; we do that, and that happens; we inquire into this issue and we get this resolution; we practice meditation and we end up being in samadhi. And it seems self-evident that what we do has a lot to do with what happens. So it’s easy for us to believe that realization is the result of our practices. How else could it be? This is exactly what we are trying to understand. How else might it be—the behind-the-scenes relationship between practice and realization?

Capacities Needed for Psychic Metabolism

Spiritual practice is primarily the cultivation of Presence, understanding, awareness and surrender. These are the capacities needed for the later stages of psychic metabolism. Awareness and understanding are needed for the purification of ego identification. The Presence and surrender are needed for the process of absorption itself. One learns to be open, vulnerable and present to one's experience, in order to allow effective metabolism. This means that one learns to be in direct contact with one's experience, which in turn requires the presence of the Personal Essence, which is the aspect which can make such direct contact without defensiveness. Thus, when one is realized as the Personal Essence, metabolism becomes a natural, spontaneously occurring process. Effective metabolism leads to the realization of the Personal Essence, and the Personal Essence, in its turn, makes metabolism a natural process of living. The life of the Personal Essence is a continuing, ever-expanding process of integration and individuation. 

Inquiry is a Refined Spiritual Practice

Inquiry may at first seem obvious and fairly simple—you just talk about your experience and try to understand what is going on, right? However, inquiry is much more than that. It is actually a refined spiritual practice. And though you may feel you get the hang of what it is by doing it for a while, it is not in fact a “doing” but a practice of nondoing. Inquiry cannot be fully understood until you understand all the dimensions of your spiritual nature. Every time you come to understand another aspect or another dimension, you understand inquiry in a deeper way, and the practice becomes more precise, more powerful. You come to see that the practice of inquiry is an expression of the whole teaching, not just one particular part of it.  However, when people have just begun the Work, all they really know is their body, their personality and their life situation. For a few years therefore they’re bound to be mainly inquiring into and working on various life issues and emotional states, which usually involves a lot of pain and suffering as they uncover and work with all the object relations, identifications and suffering from their past. That’s what arises first as you inquire into your inner experience. And then as you go deeper, you discover that you are an actual organism of consciousness—a soul—which thinks, feels, is present and acts. And you realize that your ego or personality—with all its habitual thoughts and reactions—is just a conditioned and limited manifestation of that soul.

It is difficult to Even Engage in Spiritual Practice if We are Not Inspired by Ideals

It is difficult not to develop ideals into psychic structures that define the self. In fact, it is difficult even to engage in spiritual practice if we are not inspired by ideals. The inevitable presence of ideals based on psychic structures, however, simply reflects the limitation of our self-realization. As long as we are not fully self-realized, some psychic structures define the self, and ego activity is based somewhat on ideals. The more we are self-realized, the less we rely on ideals because we experience a growing trust that the dynamism of Being will manifest what is needed. Ultimately, we do not need high ideals because we have integrated into our being their very source. Our actions might appear from the outside as if they are inspired by high ideals, but in fact, we are merely manifesting our true nature. 

Learning to Recognize Realness

So at some point, we see that spiritual practice is a matter of learning reality, learning to recognize realness, learning to be real, and learning to be ourselves in our realness. And we see that we are only interested in learning these things if we have the appreciation and love of being real. We have to love being genuine to go through the trouble and the discipline of inner work. It is because we are being authentic, because we are approaching reality, because we are being touched by reality, that we love it and are willing to go through the various processes of acknowledging and seeing the truth—whether painful or scary or pleasurable. 

Lollipop Level of Practice

So the various essential aspects are not there simply to amuse and nourish us, but to teach us how to relate to them so that they will have an impact on us. If in our meditation we experience wonderful love and melting, but then go about being aggressive or attacking other people, then what’s the point of having the experience at all? As long as our experience does not actually impact us, does not actually change how we live our life, we are still at the lollipop level of spiritual practice. We want the lollipop; when we get the lollipop, we’re happy for a while and we stop fussing. But eventually we start wanting another lollipop and forget the one we just had. Some spiritual traditions call this the honeymoon stage. But if we want our experience to impact our life, it will have to become something more than a lollipop. Experience will have to be approached as nourishment that will lead to actual growth, actual development, actual evolution. What we need is an education about how to be a human being. We might not have any idea what it means to be a human being. Being human does not simply mean being human in isolation from Essence, in isolation from God or Truth. Being human also means knowing how we are related to other realms. So we need the knowledge of the soul, of Essence, and of objective reality to learn how to be a human being. But what is needed more than anything else is an education that will transform our approach to experience in general. Whether we’re experiencing other people, or daily life, whether we’re experiencing emotions, essential states, or realizations, we need to approach our experiences in a mature way. 

Opening Our Heart

We also need to develop our capacity to feel by exploring what prevents us from experiencing our emotions—or, at least, the particular emotions we defend against. This again is part of spiritual practice and discipline. We can develop awareness by practicing mindfulness, but it can remain mental if we do not feel our emotions. To be able to feel our emotions deeply and fully requires our heart to be open and unobstructed by patterns of emotional conflict or defenses against hurt, fear, loneliness, and so on. Opening our heart as completely as spiritual practice requires can be a difficult and painful process. Yet it is possible, and the process transforms us into true human beings. By the time we have accessed all the idealized aspects, our bodies will have become transparent to presence and our hearts open and receptive to experiencing the affects that reflect the various qualities of presence. We will have developed our capacity to sense and to be consciously embodied, since this is necessary for that transparency to occur. And our hearts will be willing and able to feel any emotion that arises, regardless of type or intensity. This willingness of the heart is what allows us to feel the bare, undefended state of weakness. Justifying or explaining it, covering it up or denying it, suppressing or limiting it is the action of the ego attempting to reject this very real part of our experience. Instead, we embrace the weakness and helplessness as a precious gift. It is our doorway to our authentic being.

Our Understanding of Spiritual Practice

Since the decisions we make about how to live our lives are based upon what we believe about the nature of reality, the more objective our understanding, the more appropriate our choices. In the same way, our understanding of spiritual practice is determined by how objectively we understand that our boundaries are permeable and that we are in direct contact with everything all the time. Without an experiential understanding of Holy Transparency, we will work on ourselves as though we are truly separate individuals, and this will block our progress. The truth of our interconnectedness is basic to the methodology of the Diamond Approach, but it is not restricted to our work—it is an acknowledged principle in most spiritual traditions.

Facets of Unity, pg. 103

Psychological Work Seen as a Spiritual Practice on Its Own

This work demonstrates that what is usually considered psychological investigation can arrive at dimensions of experience which have always been considered to be the product of spiritual practice or discipline. The psychological work is seen here not as an adjunct to spiritual practice, but as a spiritual practice on its own. This is the specific contribution of the Diamond Mind body of knowledge which prompted the idea of this series. Not only can psychological investigation lead to realms of experience previously relegated to the spiritual, this work shows that when psychological understanding is refined by an openness to one’s spiritual nature, such investigation, if pursued deeply, inevitably will penetrate into the realm of spiritual, religious or mystical understanding. In the course of such exploration one result is that many currently prevalent psychological dysfunctions, such as some forms of narcissism and schizoid isolation, are revealed as direct consequences of spiritual alienation, which thus cannot be truly resolved by traditional psychotherapy. 

The Void, pg. ii

Self-Illumination is Happening from the Beginning of Spiritual Practice

Even though I am mentioning the progressive view of the teaching, when I say that realization or awakening or enlightenment is nothing but the self-illumination of true nature, I mean that this self-illumination is happening from the beginning of spiritual practice. I don’t mean that at the beginning we are responsible for realization and that, at some point, true nature steps in. Every single time we experience and understand something about reality, it is true nature illuminating itself. When this illumination happens in a more total way, we call it awakening or realization or enlightenment. This perspective of the dynamic of realization—the relationship of practice and awakening—is an antidote to the delusion that we are liberating ourselves through our own individual efforts and capacities. When we side with this delusion, we are appropriating the liberating power of true nature. We are appropriating the light of true nature, its intelligence and clarity and awareness. The theistic traditions have useful measures to counteract this human tendency to appropriate. They make it clear that we are always at God’s mercy, that whatever good we derive is from God, that we are in a state of paucity and insufficiency. We are told from the beginning that whatever light, whatever intelligence, whatever illumination, whatever goodness arises is always a blessing, is always grace. 

The Diamond Approach Supports Other Human Activities Besides Spiritual Practice

In our work, we address both sides of human evolution: the realization of true nature and the integration of everyday life into that true nature. For the Far Eastern religions, the integration of the world of appearance into true nature results in nondual experience. This is still an impersonal and universal perspective, where all that appears to perception is experienced as inseparable from true nature. This is not what we mean by integration of life into true nature. The Diamond Approach supports living a personal life in relationship to other human beings and engaging in other human activities besides spiritual practice. Integration of appearance into true nature functions as the ground of this personal integration; it does not stand on its own as the only value. Being manifests not only in the transcendental, but also in down-to-earth, practical, and personal forms that are relevant to everyday life. And daily life itself can become spiritual realization. 

The Principle Permeating All Spiritual Practice, All Spiritual Teachings

Calling it a love affair is most appropriate for the subject we are exploring, but it differs from what most of us understand a love relationship to be. It’s generally expected that both people in a partnership will need to accommodate in order to become more intimate with one another. But the Beloved is never going to change for you; you’re the one who has to change to come closer to the Beloved. It is always you who has to accommodate the Beloved. The Beloved does not accommodate. No negotiations, no compromise. Only 100 percent surrender. You have to want to surrender 100 percent or you will usually be shown the door. Regardless of how you define “the Beloved,” this principle permeates all spiritual practice, all spiritual teachings. 

Love Unveiled, pg. 199

The Trap, the Paradox of Spiritual Practice

That is the trap, the paradox, of spiritual practice. You are trying to learn not to do anything, but the very fact that you are sitting implies that you are striving to accomplish something, to reach some kind of spiritual state, or maybe attain an enlightened condition. The moment we go in with that attitude, we are already pushing in our consciousness, in our soul; we are trying to make things go in a certain direction. An operation has been set in motion to achieve a certain result. So even though our spiritual teachings tell us that there is nothing to accomplish, that isn’t real for us, so we keep manipulating our experience. We can’t help but feel that we need to accomplish being ourselves in some way. Now there is nothing new about that self-manipulation; even before we learned anything about spiritual work, we were always trying to change our everyday experience. We judged it and devalued it and tweaked it and squeezed it. We pushed it and pulled it and held on to it. We have always tried to make ourselves feel something that is different from how we actually feel, because we have it in our minds that however things are in our experience is not the way they should be. 

True Spiritual Practice

The impact of this basic tendency of ego on spiritual practice is the often-unconscious belief that working on yourself means making something happen—bringing about a certain state or a particular change in yourself—rather than seeing spiritual practice as a matter of surrender, of getting out of the way. This also means that a true spiritual practice that will ultimately bring about transformation is one that entails a surrender of your own will, prejudices, preferences, choices, and rejections. We have seen that the pride of ego is the belief that you can choose what arises in your consciousness, and that this is essentially an expression of the lack of trust that Holy Truth does and will function as Holy Will. In religious terms, it is a lack of faith in the action of grace. To the ego, freedom means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it. Because this isn’t often possible, you come to see the universe as constraining you and limiting your freedom. But from the perspective of Holy Freedom, freedom is wanting whatever the universe wants. When you are aligned with the universe, what you want and what is happening are the same thing. This is true freedom. This is why the Idea of Holy Freedom is fundamental to the methodology of the Diamond Approach, in which a basic part of the practice is to be present with whatever happens to be your state. If you react to it, interfere with it, or try to change it, then you can’t see it objectively but only through the screen of your projections. If you don’t see your condition or the situation in its natural state, you will continue believing your projections about it and won’t be able to penetrate its true nature. 

Facets of Unity, pg. 136

What All of Spiritual Practice Ultimately Comes Down To

As we go along, you will see that we can learn to be real, to connect with and become aware of our realness. And you will notice that something about this attracts us. We are attracted to the condition of being real. We like being real. And this is because we know the difference between being real and so much of what our usual experience is. Most of these things are not what is real; they are just reflections and distortions. Many people get caught up in spiritual experiences and perceptions and all kinds of interesting, subtle impressions, some of which can be exciting and uplifting. But there is nothing like the simplicity of being oneself—settling into yourself, just being there, recognizing what you are, and feeling the sense of intimacy and realness of that. All of the inner journey, all of spiritual practice, ultimately comes down to this: that we are able to be genuinely what we are. If you want to do inner practice in order to develop certain powers or go to other dimensions or have special experiences, you still don’t know what spiritual work is. And this is because you are not yet recognizing what reality is or what being real means. 

You Cannot Appropriate Your Own Enlightenment

From the beginning of spiritual practice, it is your own enlightenment and your own realization. You cannot, however, appropriate it as an individual self. Although it is your own realization because you are Living Being, by believing that it is your realization as an individual, you appropriate it in a way that disconnects you from what you truly are. The appropriation is neither a sin nor a moral mistake, but simply a delusion. Basically, it is a cognitive error that creates discord, that shows you how Being manifests when it is not revealing its enlightenment and its freedom. Having as complete an understanding and appreciation of the dynamic of realization as possible helps liberate the creative, living dynamism of Being. And as the dynamism of Being is liberated, we recognize that dynamism is always free and always enlightened, but only recognizes its freedom through the mature soul.  

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