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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Spontaneity?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Spontaneity

A Spontaneity of Being, an Absolute Given

The experience of Being is not an idea we have of our experience of ourselves; neither is it a conclusion we draw from it. It is the concrete, direct and present experience of ourselves as we are being ourselves. What we are is now, a spontaneity of being, an absolute given. We perceive ourselves, then, by being ourselves, by being. We recognize ourselves by being ourselves, by being. We know ourselves by being ourselves, by being. More concretely, we recognize in the experience of self-realization that to be ourselves is to be aware of ourselves as the presence of Being. It is the direct recognition of the very beingness of our existence, the fact of our “isness.” This facticity is not a thought or idea, not a feeling or an intuition, but a very concrete and palpable thereness. It is not the thereness of one object or another, like that of one’s body, or of a thought. This thereness is a new category of experience. In philosophical and spiritual language it is usually termed “presence.” Coming upon the recognition of one’s presence as Being is surprising in two ways: first, it is so completely, astonishingly outside the normal identity; second, ironically, it almost always feels familiar, as if one is remembering something, or coming home after being gone for a long time.

Absence is a Condition of Absolute Spontaneity

In the state of absence you are completely spontaneous without knowing that you’re being spontaneous. The reflective capacity is not there. This seems improbable because we cannot imagine being aware without some self-reflection, without some consciousness of ourselves. But no consciousness of ourselves is fundamental to the condition of absence, because we are not there! We are aware only of what is actually there, namely, our environment. We reflect neither on the environment nor on ourselves as the perceiver. No consciousness of self remains, because instead of self there is absence. As a result, we do not experience emotional self- consciousness; this is why absence is a condition of absolute spontaneity.

Complete Spontaneity

In Absence one experiences oneself to be a pure subject, that is not an object. One is the source of awareness. One is not the witness, not the witnessing, not the witnessed. One recognizes oneself as an Absence, unknown and unknowable. When one looks inward there is no perception; there is absolute Absence without consciousness of Absence, because Absence is not an object of perception. It is in fact the absence of an object of perception. When one looks at phenomena one observes functioning. There is absolutely no self-consciousness, so there is complete spontaneity. There is awareness of phenomena and functioning, but there is no involvement at all. It does not feel that there is someone or something observing or aware of phenomena. Everything is the same as usual, except that there is no self. There is no person or presence who feels or thinks he is doing or perceiving. The perceiving is present, the doing is present, without being related to a perceiver and doer. This is completely incomprehensible to ego. Ego cannot conceive of perceiving or functioning if it is not present at the center of it. For ego, functioning is always the functioning of the person or self. This experience is dumbfounding to the mind. One realizes that one has always assumed, and has taken it to be the absolute truth, that there cannot be functioning without a functioner. But here, in the experience of Absence, one realizes that one has been wrong all along. Functioning happens smoothly and spontaneously, and does not need the presence of any self or personality. There is perception of the body moving, doing what it normally does; eating, talking and so on. However, all this is seen as functioning, completely spontaneous, not belonging to a person or a self. It is also not seen as separate from any other functioning in the universe. There is Absence and the awareness of the oneness of existence, which is experienced as in a state of functioning.

Feeling Utter Spontaneity, where Each Thought, Word and Activity Arises Before there is Any Recognition

This clarifies how perception always has an “I” except at this stage. We become aware that there has been a continuous and incessant sense or feeling of self or “I,” that was present in all experiences up to this point. Now there is experience and perception of experience, without being related to an “I.” More accurately, any experience is a manifestation of “who I am,” without “who I am” feeling attached to “I.” This realization has fascinating consequences. We feel as if reality has two sides, front and back, the Shakti and Shiva of Kashmir Shaivism. The front is the totality of the dynamic universe, and the back is an absence. In fact, as it develops, it becomes even more mysterious: There is only a front; there is no back. We know then that there is nothing more behind or underneath this vastness; in some sense it is ultimate. There is nothing behind it because it has no back. We feel utter spontaneity, where each thought, word, and activity arises before there is any recognition. We merely witness the expression happening, and recognize it only after it happens. We are so much at the source of all expression that we can only perceive our expression as it manifests. This complete spontaneity can be quite disconcerting at the beginning because we feel no control over what we do or say. The complete spontaneity is due to the fact that, in this condition of self-realization, there is absolutely no self-consciousness. We only see our front; there is no back to look back to, and hence, there is no possibility for us to look inward or backward towards ourselves.

Flow of Experience that has a Fluidity and Smoothness, a Lightness and Spontaneity to It

When inquiry is open and open ended, it discloses the knowledge that is always available within experience. An open-ended inquiry means that the rigid patterns in our experience can be transformed into fluid patternings of a self-organizing flow. Before we enter into the process of questioning and inquiry, our experience is rigidly patterned; it arises in repetitive, compulsive, obsessive patterns. When we look into and challenge what is determining and fixing these patterns, their rigidity dissolves and our experience starts unfolding in new ways. Even with that dissolution, our experience doesn’t lose its sense of pattern, and this is because pattern is the sense and meaning of experience. We still recognize patterns in our experience, but there is a more fluid and fresh patterning to the flow of experience. It has a fluidity and smoothness, a lightness and spontaneity to it. We feel free. When your experience is in rigid patterns, you are in prison. When your experience flows in fluid patterns, you feel the freedom of experience. This freedom of experience is the adventure of Being. For an adventure to be really thrilling, we have to go to places that are completely different. That kind of adventure, with its exhilaration and wonderment, is implicit in our Being. In time, your response to experience is not only delight but pure wonder. You come upon an experience and your mind hasn’t got the vaguest idea what it is, but it is so beautiful, you are full of wonderment. You can’t experience this wonder, though, if you hold on to a particular identity and frame of reference, if experience continues in its rigid habitual grooves. Wonderment arises when you are open to something that is mysterious, new, and fresh, when your old knowledge is completely suspended for the moment.

It is Possible for Us to Live with Absolute Fearless Spontaneity

One thing I am implying here is that we can experience and know reality beyond concepts and history, independent of concepts and history. Recognition of this radical maturity indicates that it is possible for us to live with absolute fearless spontaneity. The fearless spontaneity will manifest as love, truth, confidence, and goodness. We are usually afraid that if we are spontaneous and fearless we will do bad things, we will make mistakes. But we need to learn why we think this way. What are you afraid of doing? What do you think is going to happen? All these doubts need to be thoroughly looked into and understood, for such fear and uncertainty only point to some undigested material in our mind. We probably have not seen and understood something about our motivation even though we might dimly intuit it. This lack of understanding appears as uncertainty, as fear of spontaneity. As I’ve said, we need both to learn and to mature on the path. There is no end to it. There does not come a time when you completely mature and you finish. I don’t think that is possible. As long as you are alive, you mature. You can be awakened, but this does not mean there is no further process of maturation. Our potential is infinite, inexhaustible; hence there is always realization after any realization. You’ll have all kinds of experiences, states, and conditions that may feel like an ultimate state of realization, but then that too keeps changing. The moment you say this is it, you will get stuck with a concept, and tomorrow there will be something else to be realized. So the true state of realization is actually a lack of attachment to realization.

Living Being is Always the Only Arising; it is Continuously Becoming Without Any Appraisal of Spontaneity or Nonspontaneity

Living Being may then appear as the unity of Being, the spontaneous arising of the Dharmakaya, or of nonconceptual freedom. This spontaneity of Being ushers in the fulcrum of realization: the relationship between our individual responsibility and the agency of Being. But as our realization matures, we realize that even to see it as the spontaneous arising of the divine essence or the unity of Being means that we are still looking at it from the perspective of the individual self. Living Being is always the only arising; it is continuously becoming without any appraisal of spontaneity or nonspontaneity. In other words, it is not only arising in the moments we deem spontaneous. That is the perspective of the individual self, looking at reality and thinking, “Oh, something arose spontaneously.” And it is a big deal for us when we perceive the spontaneity of Being. “Oh, wow! I diligently practiced, meditated, chanted, whirled, inquired, and contemplated. I lived authentically and then, without warning, God showed his face, or Dharmakaya arose spontaneously, or the divine essence appeared in my heart!” There is truth to these perceptions. They are one way that we can experience the arising of Being, and there is some true understanding in those experiences. However, from the perspective of Living Being, we can see that this understanding is still an approximation of what is actually happening. In other words, we can understand how Being arises in a way that gives us a more complete and more thorough understanding of practice and how practice is realization. So far in our exploration of the dynamic of realization, we’ve seen our practice and the arising of true nature as a looping dialectic, as two sides of one process, one dynamic.

Spontaneity Means there is No Self-Consciousness at All

To really be in the realm of the night, to really know what you ultimately are, what the secret of reality is, means to be not self-conscious. The moment that you are conscious of yourself, you are conscious of the consciousness, you are conscious only of the daytime. You see the light of day but not the darkness of the night that far transcends and contains the day. You see the transitory but not the eternal. You see the manifestation but not the unmanifest ground. You see the front but not the back. Your back, your ground, is the night. When you are the night, you can behold the day, but you see it as your front. Your back is something you cannot see, for it is the seer itself, the primordial eye of awareness. To be the back means to be completely spontaneous. You are not conscious of yourself; you are aware only of your front, the manifest world. You are then absolutely spontaneous because there is no self-consciousness whatsoever. Your action simply arises on its own, without premeditation, without any prior knowledge. We cannot truly understand spontaneity before then. As long as there is one atom of self-consciousness, there is no spontaneity. Spontaneity means there is no self-consciousness at all. What you say, what you do, comes out without your knowing it is coming out. You don’t know where it is coming from. And only from the night can such complete and utter spontaneity emerge.

The Moment You See the Spontaneity of Manifestation You Realize the Idea of Doing Something with it is Ridiculous

Two people are different in the sense that they feel differently, they appear differently, they respond differently. But they’re not different in an ultimate way. You over there are not different from this chair. You are both generated instantaneously, with neither any prior cause nor any future consequence. The flow is like a magician who pulls a rabbit out of an empty hat. Next he pulls out an apple. That’s how reality happens, like a magician pulling things out of a huge hat. One thing after another. And this perception has no utility. It’s not good for anything, but is simply a way of seeing things. When you perceive the pattern of the flow of the universe, it’s not as if you could do something differently. The moment you see the spontaneity of manifestation, you realize that the idea of doing something with it is ridiculous. That idea is itself also produced by the flow. And thinking that it’s ridiculous is also produced by the flow. Absolutely no escape from the lawful pattern of reality. There’s no exit, not in the Sartrean sense of futility, but in the sense of absolute freedom.

Unless there is Complete Spontaneity, We Create a Shell

This nonconceptual awareness is truly radical. While it does not affirm any concept, neither does it negate or deny any concept. To negate is to affirm and to affirm is to negate, for in both cases a concept is present. This reality is prior to any concept, and hence, possesses no presupposition whatsoever. Purity of Being is now nonconceptual, so it is complete, and recognized as the fundamental reality of all experience. Many lucid insights appear. The reality of the self is beyond concepts, so thinking about it, conceptualizing around it, or remembering it, is bound to make it into an object. Conceptualizing automatically creates a shell, a mental representation. The mind tends to remember experience, to think and talk about it. This can become an attempt to hold on to the experience for the purpose of self-recognition, for identity. There is also the concern that if we do not remember and think about any experience of self—including that of presence—we will lose connection to it, not realizing that presence of Being is fundamental and is independent of memory and mind. We don’t realize that it isn’t going to go away if we don’t strive to remember it. Unless there is complete spontaneity, we create a shell, so on this level of realization, communication and functioning, including thinking, need to be totally spontaneous. Otherwise, functioning relies on ego activity which depends on conceptualizing the self.

We Interfere with the Spontaneity of Our Experience by Perceiving It Through Our Accumulated Beliefs and Understandings

The way you experience the interaction—and, in fact, almost any interaction—is a reenactment of an internalized experience of someone from your past. You are projecting the dynamics of an earlier relationship onto the present one and perceiving the present interaction through that veil. What is happening is not freely, spontaneously arising; you are forming it, you are making it be a certain way. And one indication of this is the fact that somebody else wouldn’t experience that person in the same way. You won’t see yourself as trying to be a certain way. You will think, “I’m just being who I am,” but it is not truly a spontaneously and freely arising experience. It is determined by your historical knowledge, your learned knowledge—all the beliefs and ideas about who you are and what other people are like and what reality is. It is influenced by your ordinary accumulated knowledge. So, looking at this situation of interference with all its subtle activity, we can see that: Our experience doesn’t freely arise. We interfere with the spontaneity of our experience by perceiving it through our accumulated beliefs and understandings. Specifically, our experiences are molded and formed by a subliminal mental process—the incessant activity of remembering, thinking, and reacting according to information from the past. In any interaction with another individual, we impose on our experience an image of who we are, an image of the other person, and a particular feeling tone on the relationship itself. The result is an experience of reality created, at least in part, by past conditioning.

When Functioning Occurs Without Self-Consciousness it is Completely Spontaneous

As Being continues to manifest as its absolute nature, I begin to understand how functioning and doing happen. Whatever I do, I do with total lack of self-consciousness. There is absolutely no premeditation. The action and the awareness of the action happen simultaneously, inseparably. Taking the action and the perception of taking the action are the same experience. I recognize this as spontaneous functioning. When functioning occurs without self-consciousness it is completely spontaneous. The feeling is that the spontaneity is the self, which is the vast blackness. The functioning spontaneously arises out of me, with no self-consciousness, without it ever becoming other than me. I am the source, the black crystalline source of spontaneous action. This is difficult to describe. I am not only the source, but also the spontaneous and non-self-conscious functioning. The universe is the spontaneous arising in me, without becoming other than me. The sense of spontaneity in action brings such freedom and release that it generates both exhilaration and fear. Inquiry into the subtle fear reveals an unconscious need for self-control, and a fear of making mistakes, of making a fool of myself or being inappropriate. I recognize that my action has always been reserved, even when I thought I was spontaneous. Until now, I have never felt that I could be totally and unreservedly spontaneous, not knowing what I am doing except through the doing of it. The fear arises because I feel I cannot have self-control, for I have no self-consciousness. I do not have self-consciousness not because I feel I do not need it, but because there is no feeling of self to be conscious of.

When We are Directing and Controlling Ourselves, We are Stopping Our Spontaneity

As we have seen, when you are trying to make something happen, you are not trusting the natural order; you don’t trust that essence itself will manifest in the way it is needed. The first point of departure from this trust is always a rejection of the now. To apply the perspective of basic trust, of true will, you must have the complete confidence that staying completely with what you are experiencing in this moment, will result in what needs to happen, without your having to think about a certain outcome. When the confidence is there, your awareness of exactly what is happening in you will allow you to see that your organism will do the best it can in the situation. Your mind, however, doesn’t allow that complete presence in the now; it thinks it knows what is best for you, but of course it knows only what has happened in the past, and can lead you only in ways conditioned by your history. Because you don’t know that you have an innate intelligence that knows what needs to be done, you don’t allow it to operate. You are always trying to direct it this or that way; and this is what we usually call “will.” But when we are directing and controlling ourselves, we are stopping our spontaneity. We are not able to trust, and thus are blocking our true will. True will is actually nothing but complete surrender to what is experienced in this moment. From the perspective of the adult, true will is complete surrender of what is usually called “will,” and so is functionally the opposite. True will does not involve surrender to another person, but to yourself, to life, to your experience, to the truth of now. Surrender to the truth of now does not mean that you see what is happening and don’t care. That’s not surrender. Surrender means complete willingness to be with your experience, including your emotional reactions, whether they are pleasurable or frustrated. You are steadfast with the truth.

Without Self-Consciousness, Action and Expression are Totally Spontaneous, and Hence Totally Free

Alternatively, there is total absence of self-consciousness, on all levels and in all senses of the word. There is no awareness of self, and no knowing of this lack of awareness. This phenomenological absence of self-awareness becomes a psychological or emotional absence of self-consciousness. We cannot be self-conscious, because there is no self to be self-conscious and no self of which to be conscious. And without self-consciousness there are no personal issues or conflicts, no personal suffering. The most interesting part of this lack of self-consciousness is the experience of spontaneity. Without self-consciousness there is no self-watching and no cautiousness about our expressions and actions. There is no premeditation and no rumination about what to do. Hence we are totally spontaneous, like young children. We are totally open and innocent, with no defensiveness and no strategizing. There is no holding back, no hiding, no protection, no pretension. There is complete openness, presence, and genuineness. There is no self-control whatsoever. So the spontaneity is total. The absence of control is absolute. We simply experience ourselves as freedom, lightness, delight, openness, and spontaneity. Without self-consciousness, action and expression are absolutely spontaneous, and hence totally free.

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