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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Traps?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Traps

Being Beyond Everything in Personal Life

I experience myself as beyond everything, literally everything, and not just everything in my personal life. I am a silent witness, vast and unchanging, beyond time and all space. I am absolutely still, totally uninvolved, but completely aware. This demonstrates directly that I do not need to be freed or enlightened. I am always free, always have been and always will be. Also, I cannot be trapped, for my very identity is totally detached awareness. I can see my personal life as a drama that I do not have to be involved in. It is like a movie that has a beginning and an end, but it is not me. I feel distant from everything, but acutely aware of everything. I am a silent space, totally empty but containing everything. The recognition, which is a direct perception, is that everything is in me. The body, the universe, essence, personality, everything that can become an object of perception, is not me, but is in me. I am pure awareness, mere witnessing, where everything arises and passes away.

Being Trapped in Our Usual Way of Thinking

We are so trapped in our usual way of thinking and of perceiving things that we don’t allow the possibility that we are the perception, that we are the awareness of phenomena without being separate in any way from the phenomena. We firmly believe that reality is the physical world that we see, the same world that our mother saw. That is to say, we think the world exists on its own as a solid, basic, and fundamental reality. Everyone believes this. In truth, however, the world is simply consciousness that arises from absence, from nothing whatsoever. But realizing this is a radical experience that arises as part of the culmination of one’s work. One way to realize this truth is to understand consciousness. As long as you make discriminations in consciousness and take these to be true, self-existing realities, it is difficult to realize absence. Going from one state of consciousness to another, you’re simply trapped within consciousness. You go from the painful to the pleasurable, from hate to love, from love to clarity, from this to that, through all of the various kinds of states and objects of consciousness. Once you realize that all of these things are consciousness and allow yourself to be there as consciousness without needing to make discriminations, you become the presence of consciousness. Beyond any of the forms arising within it, this conscious presence will at some point spontaneously dissolve.

Being Trapped in the Particulars of Personal Life

This recognition clarifies the significance of a passing feeling that I have had in the past few days, that there is something in my experience of myself that never changes. I did not know at the time how true this feeling was, and whether it had any significance, partly because the inquiry has been focused on a different line of investigation, the trap of involvement in the content of personal life. Now I see that my concern with the limitations inherent in the involvement in the content of the personal life was a first glimpse of this thread of experience. As the nous radiates more intensely, I begin to realize that I am perceiving another facet of the situation of being trapped in the particulars of personal life. The realization dawns on me now that in spite of all the deep knowledge, understanding and realization I have attained so far, which has radically transformed my experience, there is something in me that never changes, is never affected by these realizations, something in me that never moves. I recognize the leaden heaviness as an imitation of the will to exist, along with awareness of something that does not change in relation to the involvement in personal life. The nous synthesizes these observations into the unexpected insight that it is the totality of the personality which does not change. So it is not a part of the ego-self that does not change, but the totality of this self, the familiar self. Until now, my investigation has involved exploring various sectors of the personality, as part of the realization of particular qualities of Being. My inquiry now involves awareness of the totality of the self underlying this experience. Nous illuminates the situation by revealing that what has not changed so far is the totality of the personality. I continue to be the same person, with the same characteristics and preferences, even though there has been an amazing expansion of experience, to include many new dimensions of Being.

Every Kind of Identification is a Mental Operation that Traps Us Into a Particular Form

Every kind of identification is a mental operation that traps us into a particular form. Some of us identify with our nationality. Some of us are identified with our race. Other people are identified with their intelligence or with their beauty. We know that many of us are identified with being a child or with being an abused child. What is important to remember is that every form keeps us trapped, no matter how lofty it may seem. We are not free regardless of what we identify with. I can experience myself as God, but if I am identified with being God, I am lost, I am not free. Then I have to be God and everybody had better know it.

Feeling Like an Individual who is Emotionally and Mentally Trapped by the Physical World

The realization of both the Personal Essence and the Cosmic Consciousness now make it possible to see through the projection of the representational world. The continued experience of the Personal Essence and the Cosmic Consciousness begins to expose a contraction in the psychophysical organism that has been very deeply hidden. One slowly starts realizing that this disharmonious contraction has to do with focus on, or cathexis of, physical reality in general, and not just on one’s own body, Understanding this exposes the self-concept again as an empty shell. However, now the empty shell feels like an individual who is emotionally and mentally trapped by the physical world. Sometimes one feels as if he is fat, or full of fat that covers a deep emptiness. One becomes aware that this sense of being a fat empty shell is coexistent with a state of greed and lust for food and physical comfort and pleasure. One realizes the consequences of the exclusive cathexis of physical reality, which is basically how ego sees the world. One relates to the world as if it can fill one’s emptiness, can satisfy one’s greed for all kinds of physical rewards. One is deeply, though unconsciously, aware of one’s deficient emptiness, and is seeing the world as the source of gratifications. Staying with this realization of the deep underlying relationship to the world will spontaneously lead to a new perception, hitherto totally unsuspected. One begins to become conscious that one’s empty shell feels continuous with, and not separate from, the rest of the world. One feels as if one’s individuality and the rest of the universe make the same entity, at the same level, with the same significance. This is the beginning of the objective awareness of the totality of the ego identity. One starts becoming aware of the totality of the ego structure projected on all of reality.

Finding Ourselves Trapped in Repeating Patterns and Closed Loops

Our lives are rarely the pure manifestation of only one side of our potential—whether it is the freedom or the darkness. Most of us live a mixture of both in constantly varying proportions. Naturally we all work very hard to maximize the freedom and joy, but we know from bitter experience how hard that is to do. We try this and that, listen to this teacher or that authority, lose heart and renew our resolve, but rarely do we feel certain about what will bring us to the states we desire. Rarely do we experience the positive human possibilities we yearn to embody. Yet even when they do manifest in our experience, we frequently fight them or become afraid of them. We yearn to expand and complete our humanity, and make great efforts to do so, but so often end up thwarted and frustrated. Our successes are meager, and never seem to last. When the dynamism of our Being unfolds our experience in its dark and negative possibilities, we find ourselves trapped in repeating patterns and closed loops. Although these closed loops of perception and action are dynamic, they are also compulsive and repetitive, robbing our experience of its freshness, our dynamism of its creativity, and our life of its expansion and adventure. The vast universe of human possibilities becomes restricted to a very limited region of habitual experience. Freshness, newness, development, and the thrill of discovery are all stifled.

If You are Ignorant of the Objective View of Reality You Might Very Well Get Trapped in One Dimension or Another

Understanding what we have been calling the “view of reality” can and usually does make the difference between getting bogged down somewhere on the path, or continuously opening and progressing. This view becomes an important ground for our work, and if we do not have a good grasp of it, we could get stuck in one place or another and not even be aware of it. Because this view is not related to a specific experience, spiritual or otherwise, and is not dependent on experiencing a particular essential aspect or dimension of Being, it transcends all dimensions, and is a formulation of what is objectively true about any experience on any dimension. It is an understanding of how reality is, and how it functions, regardless of which state of consciousness one is experiencing. So the focus in this study is not on the specific content of experience, whether the experience is of the ego self, of emotions, of emptiness, of the essential self, of the body, or even of hearing celestial music, seeing angels, or being healed. The view is unconcerned with these specifics and applies to all of them. When you apprehend the content of your experience from the perspective of this transcendent view, you see that all your experience is part of the greater reality illuminated by this view. Without this perspective, your experience will be grounded in the egoic view, regardless of how exalted, sublime, or subtle, the state. So if you are ignorant of the objective view of reality, you might very well get trapped in one dimension or another, and never know what it means to be free from the ego.

Facets of Unity, pg. 254

Making Available the Energy Liberated from the Trapped Structures of Our Personal History

Thus we use the mind to go beyond the mind’s limitations; we use the capacity of discrimination to reveal subtler levels of mind. But here, the heart’s innate love for beauty and truth is a guiding principle: The marriage of heart and mind is a must on this spiritual journey, for it is the segmentation of our experience that keeps them limited and restricted to conventional reality. The love of truth allows the mind to open to new possibilities that mental logic alone cannot reveal or consider entering. And the heart can be clarified of its historical and emotional content through the mind’s clarity and precision, making available the energy liberated from the trapped structures of our personal history, so it can nurture and enliven our evolving spiritual development. This is the hidden tantra within the work of this path. The term “tantra” refers to teachings that use energy for the sake of evolving spiritual being. Energy can be erotic, even sexual, but energy can also be emotional, mental, or simply energy itself. In this seminar, we made explicit the ways in which newly unblocked and released energies can liberate the spirit and reveal deeper mysteries of relationship and love—whether with God, true nature, or another human being.

Operating Within Our Reifications We will Remain Trapped by Them

We have learned in earlier chapters that our practice is to see the truth about what is happening in our experience in each moment, to recognize what it is and understand it. Now that you have some understanding of how reification operates, you can appreciate how important it is to feel our way through that process, to approach it experientially. Because if we only work with it mentally, we are still operating within our reifications and will remain trapped by them. That is why it is not possible for the thinking mind alone to dissolve reification, despite the claims of some postmodern philosophers. In contrast, observing our experience with awareness and with presence challenges the reifications by revealing them as reifications. It is our belief in them that keeps them in place. We hold on to them, we preserve them by believing that they are real. But once we recognize them as mental constructs, they become transparent, and that makes it possible for us to stop going along with them. It is important to remember here that whatever constructs we identify are not to be treated as the enemy and rejected. Just as in any other part of our practice, we are called to understand our mental operations and recognize our lack of immediacy and the reifications that create it. This occurs simply by being present and aware of what is happening and inquiring into it. Even when we recognize how we are limiting our immediacy, we don’t have to fall into the trap of judgment. As we recognize these things for what they are, the obstacles, the layers, begin to dissolve, and we begin to experience ourselves as more landed, more present. As they dissolve, they reveal the True Nature of the moment, and we feel a greater immediacy in our experience.

The Impression of Being Imprisoned by Everything in One’s Life, Desirable and Undesirable Factors Alike

The further exploration of this overall issue takes the student through the process of realization of the Essential Self, a subject we will discuss in detail in a future book. Part of this realization is the capacity to disengage from ego activity, which is now experienced as the activity of the person as a whole. One learns finally, then, that the realization of the Personal Essence is not final until one goes completely beyond the personal life. This is because ego boundaries and sense of self do not stand on their own but are supported by the personal life and personal history. This insight usually appears as a perception that one is lost in one’s personal life. One has the strong impression of being imprisoned by everything in one’s life, desirable and undesirable factors alike. The student is not usually aware that the impersonal aspect is approaching; he is simply experiencing more and more that the fact of being a person is a barrier to freedom and harmony. He perceives that the totality of his person, including his personal life and history, has not changed. This makes him aware that he is lost, enmeshed in his personal life, that he is so involved in his relationships, work interests, house, family, friends, projects, activities, plans, ideas, thoughts, preferences, prejudices, everything that is the content of his life, that he is trapped by it, and hopelessly limited within it. One becomes aware of the subtle but deep tendency to take the totality of the content of the personal life to define who one is. This is particularly obvious in the case of one’s thoughts. One can think only of certain things, along certain lines, unique to one’s person. One starts to feel one’s roles, one’s personal uniqueness, as limiting and stifling.

To go from Consciousness to Absence is to Break out of the Cycle of Birth and Death, to Escape the Trap

Now, it happens that absolute absence is the ultimate reality, the final condition of existence. It is the beginning and the end of all there is, of humanity, of the world, of creation, of consciousness, of everything. If a person moves toward absolute absence, everything will go right because they will be free in their life, and if a person doesn’t go toward it, everything will go wrong because they will be living in the prison of illusion. It’s that simple. Ultimately, everybody loves absolute absence whether they know it or not. You know you love it when you become aware of pure consciousness. Before you become aware of pure consciousness, you are trapped within the differentiating consciousness, discriminating, rejecting, and prizing one aspect of consciousness over another. You want sweetness and merging or are angry because there is pain; you reject this person because they don’t like you, judge that person because they’re different from you, and so on. Within the differentiating consciousness, you are busy within the knowable world, trapped within your own mind. To go from consciousness to absence is to break out of the cycle of birth and death, to escape the trap.

Trapped in the Ego-Self, You Do Not Trust that Being Itself Will Take You Where You Need to Go

Practices that aim to put you in a particular state have a whole mind-set attached to them, which is the mind-set of that particular state. The problem is that this can become your mind-set, providing you with a mental framework, which means a particular orientation toward your experience. And we want to be free from any mental framework. So true meditation, true practice, according to the Diamond Approach, consists of following your thread, which means being where you are and continuing to be where you are without trying to make your experience go in any particular way. This requires practice because most of the time, you do not know where you are, you do not understand where you are, or you are fighting and rejecting where you are. This is the normal state of the ego-self, for the ego is always trying to get someplace, to make itself be a certain way. The ego-self is constantly judging and rejecting its arising state and trying to fit itself into a certain ideal. It is not just being where it is and allowing itself to unfold freely. As a result, it does not understand where it is, for it is invested in being somewhere in particular, being a certain way, or in satisfying a particular ideal. And even if this ideal is taken from spiritual teachings, the same mechanism of ego activity is in operation. Trapped in the ego-self, you do not trust that Being itself will take you where you need to go.

Usually One Gets Trapped in the Personality

Usually one gets trapped in the personality, in the role, and takes it to be oneself. In fact, one takes the line of contraction to be oneself. However, the conditioning of the personal consciousness is a program that can develop in such a manner that it will self-destruct when the role, its attendant capacities and its work, have developed. It seems this will inevitably happen if the program leads to the impersonal, the silent witness. Developing one’s personal role and work is the same thing as the maturation and individuation of the personal consciousness. This development coincides with the realization of the personal essence, the pearl that Being develops through the friction of the life process.

We’re Hopelessly Trapped Because Our Knowledge is Based on Assumptions

It is only the compassion and love that spontaneously arise from the perception of the facts that have a capacity to dissolve the boundaries. That’s why when we want to cross our boundaries, we try to do it through love. We want a lover. But we go about it in the wrong way—we try to love someone, try to get someone to love us. We don’t let ourselves see that these are assumptions that we take to be facts or that suffering results from them. We have taken ourselves to be separate individuals all of these years, and we have been doing everything that we can to free ourselves from that trap. But we aren’t free, because we don’t know what to do. We’re hopelessly trapped, because our knowledge is based on assumptions. When you see that the individuality that you have taken to be you all these years is trapped and really cannot free itself, from that arises compassion and love. And when the love arises, you will see that the love is you, is your very nature. When you see that the love is you, you will see that there are no boundaries, and that love is also everyone else. Love is the consciousness of everyone, and that consciousness, which is love, has nothing to do with boundaries. The moment it is there, there are no boundaries.

Without Intending it We Become Focused, Actually Trapped, in a Little Corner of the Universe

The Work must continue until you cannot tell yourself apart from the truth, until you cannot tell yourself apart from the totality of all that exists, until you can experience yourself as the vastness of the universe, in all its purity and clarity and innocence. The Work does not stop even there. The work of realizing the truth is immense; the more you learn it, the more mysterious things become. The more you know, the less you feel you know. The bigger you get, the more you feel you need to work, and those who love the truth will love it by wanting to work. They will see that there is more truth to love. If you get into a rut where your small life is more important than the truth, that’s the time to push on yourself ruthlessly, because then you are not really doing the Work. I’m not saying that everyone should want the truth so completely; I’m saying that those who completely love the truth in that way will pursue it with this kind of dedication. Only these students can actually learn from the level of the Work that we are entering. We tend to get lost in our mental concerns, our little preoccupations. Without intending it, we become focused, actually trapped, in a little corner of the universe. The more we are trapped, the darker our world gets, and the thicker and heavier it feels. It is the function of the Work to shake you off your position, until you realize that the Work is infinite—endless wonder, endless mystery, where security has no place. We need to establish our personal lives and our practical lives such that we can support ourselves and live somewhat comfortably. But from the perspective of the Work, supporting our lives should be done for the purpose of the Work, not the other way around.

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