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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Prickliness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Prickliness

A Frustrating Kind of Prickliness

Contraction. This is the state of ego boundaries in its purity, devoid of any other function besides that of separateness. This is the specific state of separateness. Here one clearly, definitely and distinctly feels separate. It is as if the separate individuality has been bared to its bones. It is the inner and most elementary structure of ego boundaries. It is the bare minimum of individuality, the sense of separateness itself. It is the basis of all other layers of boundary, and of the ego individuality. Experiencing this ego state gives the final understanding of what ego boundaries truly are. Here one knows that a boundary is not an objective and ontologically real phenomenon, but a reaction, a contraction. In this experience, typically the skin is a little hot, a little prickly, a little dry. One feels somewhat frustrated, but also empty. One feels like an empty shell, and the shell is nothing but a very thin layer of a frustrating kind of prickliness. This state of boundaries is nothing but the sense of surface tension itself, a slight contraction all over the skin. It is ego boundaries in the state of pure contraction, the presence of negative merging affect all around one’s body. The dissolution of this boundary can bring about a state of emptiness, a deep level of Space. One feels as if he is going to fall on his face, and fall forever. One feels so open, so spacious, that there is nothing between one and the world. As these boundaries dissolve one frequently feels as if he is going to lose his breath, because there is no control on the breathing function. One feels directly in touch with everything, as if one’s chest contains the whole universe. One feels as if he extends forever, for then, one is the spacious, boundless void.

A Harsh and Prickly Contraction at the Ego Line

As I contemplate this conditioned state of the soul, I notice that I slowly become it. I finally feel myself as a person, an ego person with feelings. This clarifies my confusion of the crystal heart with the absence of heart. This person of ego recognizes only familiar emotions and feelings as the presence of heart. I experience myself now as a person who is not trying to defend or protect himself. The inner condition is naked, exposed. No more defenses, no more pretenses. There are vulnerability, helplessness, weakness, not knowing, some innocence, and a very deep sadness. The person feels all these emotions. The sense of self, with its accompanying emotional state, appears simultaneously with the ego-line, indistinguishable from it. The contraction at the ego line feels harsh and prickly; there is a feeling of deep anguish. I feel curious about this person whom I have known for most of my life, the person I have taken myself to be for many years. I wonder whether this person wants something. To my surprise, a longing arises, a longing for the absolute. I see the mysterious blackness of the absolute, and as the empty and helpless person, I feel a definite longing to annihilate into it. The longing arises first as a sad and gentle yearning. Then it gradually transforms into a deep and intense love for the absolute.

Frustration Turns Out to Be a State of Contraction of the Organism, Mainly in the Nervous System

If one pays a sustained and meditative kind of attention to this sensation of frustration, one finds that it is basically a contraction in the nerve ends. Frustration turns out to be a state of contraction of the organism, mainly in the nervous system. One feels his nerves are dried up and parched. During a state of relaxation, especially in the state of the Merging Essence, the nerves feel soft, smooth, delicate, as if they are bathed in gentle fluids. They feel like gentle running brooks. But in the state of frustration they feel as if the gentle fluids have dried up, and the nerves feel dry, harsh and prickly. In this state they clearly cannot function well. It makes sense that the state of frustration is a contraction because it is the state of the organism when there is an undischarged tension. In the original experience, the child needs something but does not get his need met. The need is like a rising tension. It is in fact sympathetic arousal, a heightening of the charge of the autonomic nervous system, similar to what happens in the fight or flight reaction. When the need is met there is a discharge of the tension and arousal reaction. The discharge, which is a parasympathetic reaction, is felt as relaxation, satisfaction and gratification. This discharge, as we have discussed, is closely allied to the manifestation of the Merging Essence. The Merging Essence, which is felt as a pleasurable contentment, affects the nervous system, discharging its tension. 

Perceiving the Raw Affect of Frustration

It is possible to perceive the raw affect of frustration, but usually only when one goes very deep within oneself. One’s consciousness must become fine, subtle and minutely discriminating. One must be able to discern one’s state at the subtler levels of personality, which generally requires the aid of essential experience. One starts feeling a kind of heat, as in anger, but it is a dry heat. It is an unpleasant feeling of heat and dryness. This makes it feel prickly, a hot prickly sensation, similar to the sensation of irritated and inflamed dry skin. When one is willing to go deeper into the sensation one feels it as a harshness, a dry and hot harshness, prickly and almost feverish. There is a hot irritation here or there in the body, a restlessness on the skin. Even though the purest form of this affect is very subtle, the reader might recognize these “symptoms” of negative merging, which are actually very common indeed in our experience, but so ubiquitous and so filtered through defense that they are not noticed. When it intensifies, the harshness becomes more prickly, as if one’s skin is being rubbed by sandpaper from the inside. One image that many students report is that of barbed wire inside the skin. One feels as if he is being pricked by a concentration of fine barbed wire. Many individuals believe they are getting a rash when they first experience the frustration on their skin. They might even get a rash. We believe, in fact, that many skin irritations are due to this affect. It is like an inner itching. One wants to scratch but cannot reach it. The sensation is usually defended against by a kind of coating, or by numbness. In fact, all ego defenses are used to resist this feeling. One knows one is frustrated only indirectly, by the sensation translating itself into restlessness, impatience, edginess and irritability, The usual defense against it is a numbness in the nervous system, which feels like a dull, cushiony kind of coating. When this dullness is explored it turns out to be the effect of all kinds of beliefs and ideas that are false. It is the falsehood of the personality covering up the painful sensation.

Tension in the Body Sometimes Felt as Prickly

The belief that you are contained within the body, bounded by the body, related to the body, part of the body will be wholly challenged. You will come to see that belief as one of the major sources of suffering. At some point in our work we realize that our true nature doesn’t have boundaries, that who we are is not bounded by physical partitions. If we continue believing in the solidity of those partitions, then we are trying to compact our true nature to fit into our idea of ourselves. This will bring a lot of tension! We begin to feel this tension in the body, sometimes as prickly, or like iron or leather all around the body. This is inevitable if we take the whole universe, our actual nature, and try to compact it into our little body. No wonder things are heavy; no wonder we have a hard time. And really, that is what everyone is doing all the time. Our identification with the body, with the shape of the body, with the size of the body, brings us deep suffering. Even our desire is yoked to our identification with the body. When you want someone, you want his or her body. When people are falling in love, it’s important that they get the body involved. It is not enough that the person says, “I really love you.” Our response is, “So? When are we going to get in bed? What difference does it make whether you love me or not?” You have to get the body. The body becomes of utmost importance. This is a strong instinctual reality.

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