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Work (The Work)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Work (The Work)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Work (The Work)

Being Present to Experience

The Work is nothing more than being present in your experience in an undefended way. When you are present in your experience without defenses, then there is contact between this beingness or Presence and whatever happens in internal or external experience. When this contact happens, there is a process of transformation which we call metabolism or absorption. This process of transformation causes you to get bigger or more expanded. That is how you grow up.

Being Present with What Is

As you see, this work is not a matter of being better or worse, more or less. It is not a matter of getting your Essence, or of achieving enlightenment or freedom. All these are ultimately concepts. The real truth is there, existing as it is, without your mind saying what is good or bad. It is being present with what is. Any rejection of what is there is suffering, even if that rejection is predicated on the hope of reaching God or freedom or enlightenment. The enlightenment or freedom will come as a result of doing this work, but that is not the issue. The issue is not enlightenment. The issue is not freedom. The issue is "what is."

Doing the Work for Yourself Blocks Unfoldment

Doing the Work for yourself blocks your unfoldment. Doing the Work in order to become a clearer and clearer window for the universe is selfless; then you do the Work out of humility, out of love, and out of putting your self (your ego) aside. In this case, your unfoldment will happen more easily and spontaneously. It is not a matter of thinking that you, as a separate individual, are going to help God in this way; that is just a subtler way of expressing your sense of separateness. It is a matter of recognizing your true position relative to God, your true function as a human being, your true connection to the universe—which is being a cell in its body. Reorienting your approach to the Work does not mean you should try to control your motivation (which is impossible anyway), or judge yourself when you see that you are being self-centered. Rather, it means that every time you recognize yourself operating from selfish motivations, you try to identify the barrier that is interfering with seeing things objectively.

Facets of Unity, pg. 101

Freeing Our Capacity to Know

Our work can be seen as freeing our capacity to know. When we become more open and curious about knowledge, we come upon even more basic knowledge. Our experience of our essential nature becomes a kind of knowledge that is more intimate and precise than we have been used to. This opens us up to realms of knowledge we had not imagined existed.

From the Perspective of the Work Supporting Our Lives Should be Done for the Purpose of the Work

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. I know that many people do it the other way around—they want to use the Work so that they can support their little lives, their little selves. But if you do that, you just strengthen the ego, and make your little self more solid.

General Sequence of Events and Realizations in the Work

Still, there is a general sequence of events and realizations that people generally follow spontaneously. There are primary and universal signposts. The variations exist within an overall pattern. This pattern is dictated by the basic general structure of personality. The work starts from the surface layers of the personality and moves deeper and deeper. The structure of the personality determines the sequence of inner experiences and transformations. Because most people have a similar general structure, the developmental work follows a general sequence. Important deviations from this general sequence are connected to deviated structures of the personality—structural deficiencies or distortions. For instance, a strongly borderline structure will begin essential unfoldment with an aspect of essence that the normal structure will not experience until after a long term of development. So in our discussion of sequence we are referring mostly to the normal structure, a structure with a well-developed ego and a cohesive sense of self.



Inquiring Into Experience We will Clarify Our Life and We will Clarify the World for Ourselves

The truth reveals itself in all our personal situations, in the world, in everything. Every perception, every experience, has truth in it. So if we simply and sincerely inquire into experience, we will clarify our life, and we will clarify the world for ourselves. But we won’t clarify only what our inner nature is, we will clarify everything, for the whole world is the revelation of this truth. When we discern the world as it is, we recognize that’s it’s really nothing but Being itself manifesting in various forms. But we ordinarily don’t see the world as it is; we see it through what we believe we know. We believe that we know what we are, we know what other people are, we know what we are doing; we think we know what we want, what we don’t want, what we’re going to do. All these convictions solidify and freeze the world into a certain form, a certain perception that we take to be the truth. But as we see through this obscuration—these beliefs, ideas, and positions—the world becomes transparent in the same way that our inner experience does. Then we recognize that everything is actually the revelation of the truth. And we see that since the nature of this truth is self-revealing, a possible realistic modus operandi is to invoke and quicken this self-revelation. This modus operandi is inquiry, and the self-revelation is understanding. 

Joy in the Work

So the joy in the Work is a celebration of the truth. It’s not a celebration of something superficial or transitory or fake. When I'm working with someone, I don’t necessarily feel joy about their successes in life. Joy comes when I see the person being truthful, being sincere with himself. Joy comes when I see the person turning toward the truth, regardless of how painful it is, regardless of how much he is suffering. Seeing the person suffering makes me feel compassion, but what brings me joy is when I see the person confronting the truth and wanting to live according to it. That's what I enjoy seeing in people.

Overcoming Barriers with Presence

However, when you put forth the effort to be present, to be aware, to be essentially in action, the awareness becomes the understanding part, and the Presence, the Being part of action. You will encounter difficulties and barriers to being present and aware in action. Learning how to deal with these barriers is the actual Work. From this come observations and issues that you might have to work on for some time afterwards. Overcoming these barriers, through continual practice of Presence and understanding, will integrate your realization into action.

Questioning Attitudes and Thoughts

This work is for you to learn to know yourself, to pay attention to yourself, to be watchful of your feelings, attitudes, and thoughts. Observe what your attitude is toward what’s happening inside and outside, to yourself and to others and to the situation. What are you doing with yourself? What is the movement, the action happening within you? What is the commentary? What is the reaction to what is happening inside you and outside you? Be watchful of that, be aware of it now. What are you saying to yourself, what are you wanting to do about what’s happening? Are you saying, “Oh, this is good” or are you saying, “Well, I don’t know about this, I’d like it to be different.” What is your attitude toward yourself, toward your feeling, your thinking? Is it okay to have the experience that you are having? Is it completely okay? Or is part of it okay and part of it not okay? Is it okay for it to be the way it is, or should it be different? And if it’s not okay for it to be this way, how do you want it to be? If you’re looking at what’s happening inside you and you see a part of you that wants things to be different, a part of you that has an idea of how things should be different, in what way do you want them to be different? Ask yourself where you learned that it should be different in that way? Who said things should go the way you say they should?

Seeing the Work Go Through Several Stages

From this perspective of implicit understanding you see the work going through several stages. First there is the personality without an understanding of essence; then as you see the patterns of the personality you can disengage from those patterns and realize essence. This second step allows essence to act on the personality to transform it. Then there is the final transformation of the personality—the implicit understanding. Even when there is no particular essence manifesting, the personality is exactly like essence, completely empty of its patterns. It is then a transformed soul. First you realize your essence and then you let go of your attachment to essence. This is the only way the personality can learn. Eventually, there is only implicit understanding, the understanding of how things really are. At first you think love means such and such. But when love is completely embodied and integrated, being a loving fullness or being a nothing becomes the same thing. The attitude toward feeling loving or feeling empty is the same.

Spiritual Education

So the work we do here has to do with the activation, development, and evolution of the soul, so that it in turn can actualize the various realms of knowledge. The various spiritual techniques we employ are not oriented only toward the experience of Essence or God. Most spiritual techniques are primarily oriented toward a certain education that corresponds with the development of the organ of evolution. That education is a matter of learning how to approach experience. So, the spiritual education, which is a central part of our work, is not a matter of only having experience, but learning how to relate to and understand the experience. How we approach our experience is what will bring resolution, what will bring actual fulfillment, what will bring the awakening, what will bring the reduction of suffering. The generation of new experiences, no matter how sublime, will not by itself resolve anything. What matters is the attitude with which we approach our experience.

The Innate Desire to Know and Be Who We Really Are

So “the Work” means any way, or school, or method, which recognizes the fact of suffering and the cause of unnecessary suffering, and works to lead a person back to his true nature and thus eliminate the unnecessary suffering which is caused by the split in us. The purpose of the Work, however, is not primarily to eliminate suffering. The desire to return to one’s true nature is an innate impulse, which is there in the presence or even in the absence of suffering. The more we are in touch with ourselves, the more we feel this innate desire to know and to be who we really are.

The Practice of Presence Develops Over Time so that You Also Become Aware of what is Present and Who is Present

In our work in the Diamond Approach, we do many kinds of meditations and spiritual practices. One of the practices we emphasize is being present, because it is important in so many ways. Most people are lost in time—with memories of the past or plans for the future—and are lost in the mind. Being present means being in your experience in a different way than you normally are as you go about your life—that is, in a less distracted condition that enables you to hear better, receive better, feel yourself better, and be more aware of your experience. When we talk about being present, we mean being fully aware of yourself in this moment—you are here in the situation, in the experience, instead of being lost in time and completely taken over by your concerns. You are present in the moment; you are feeling the moment; you are aware of what is happening in the now. The practice of presence develops over time so that you also become aware of what is present and who is present. Who is the you that is present? What is the essence of your awareness? The practice of presence becomes an important and significant way of knowing our spiritual nature, of knowing and feeling the deeper dimensions of our Being.

The Reason the Work is Needed

The Work is needed. It is needed to expose many things until a certain time comes when the Work becomes a barrier; when you see that the Work, not just this work, but any work you do on yourself, just gets in the way. The moment you try to do something to work on yourself, you are separating from yourself. But you have to get to the point where you understand this completely before you can let go of trying. When you are convinced of the futility of what you are trying to do on all levels, then you let go. This will mean ultimate surrender. Before this happens, you're going to try, and you might as well try that within the perspective of the Work.

The Reason to Do the Work

The Work is for someone who wants to live a life that’s not vacuous, that’s not empty, that’s not part of the common tide. We don’t do the Work to be special or better than other people, but because we want to be genuine, because we want to be real, because we feel a deep longing for living a genuine life. If we are truly pulled toward living a real life, then even if we suffer and feel miserable for a long time, we wouldn’t want to exchange our life for an easier one because what we value most is the truth. To live a genuine life we have to dedicate ourselves to the truth; we have to make many sacrifices.

The Work (or Search) as Continual Disappointment

You cannot hold on to something unless you don't completely understand it. Because of this we can say that the search, or the work, is a process of continual disappointment. You find something, and then you realize you haven't found anything. You get something, and then you realize you haven’t gotten anything. Whatever we find is not it, whatever we have is not it, whatever we get is not it, and whatever we love is not it. As long as the subject remains separate from the object it’s not it.

The Work of the Diamond Approach is a Certain Kind of Science

The work we do in this school is not metaphysics, philosophy, psychology, religion, or science. Although it’s none of those things, the Diamond Approach is not disconnected from any one of them. This work is a certain kind of science; it includes a definite body of knowledge and employs a specific methodology. If we could give this science any name, it would be the science of what a human being can be. And the actualization of what a human being can be is useful to many other fields, whether science, philosophy, religion, metaphysics, medicine, or healing. The science of what a human being can be applies a certain kind of knowledge that I call the Diamond Knowledge. By knowledge I don’t simply mean information. Although it includes information, knowledge is primarily the direct experience of the content of reality and the methods necessary to actualize that truth. At the present time, the Diamond Approach consists of three main areas of experiential knowledge: the knowledge of the soul, which includes the knowledge of the ego, and the knowledge of the heart and spirit; the knowledge of Essence, which includes the knowledge of states, transformation, and realization; and the knowledge of God, sometimes called the knowledge of objective reality. Each area of knowledge is an immense field, and all three are interrelated.

Two Sides of the Work

The understanding that we glean from the illumination of Total Being is somewhat different from the standard or classical model of mysticism, which emphasizes the various experiences of nonduality—the oneness of reality or the unity of Being. As we work with the view of totality and the understanding of Total Being, we see that reality includes these experiences, sees their place, and expands beyond them. The view of totality reveals that these are the ways, the stations, the states, and the steps that open up reality so that it is free to manifest itself in whatever way it wants to. Following these steps to nowhere in particular opens up the dynamism of Being so that Being can simply and spontaneously evolve. Not being able to experience and realize these states implies that we have issues—obstructions, delusions, identifications, fixed views and attitudes, structures, images, object relations—that will constrain the freedom of Living Being, which is, after all, our freedom. Because of this, the work we do has, in some sense, two sides. One side is the discovery of true nature in the various ways it manifests, including the discovery of the laws of how experience happens and the laws of mind or consciousness. The other side of our work is seeing, recognizing, and learning how to work with the structures and the issues. As we are liberated from these constraints, the freedom of reality to keep manifesting its possibilities and its potential is enhanced. This dynamic manifestation and evolution of reality is our manifestation and our evolution. So the process of realizing true nature and the process of becoming free from the delusions, the structures, and the issues go hand in hand. They are not two separate processes.

We Must Become More Refined Human Beings, More Actual Human Beings

So when we begin the Work, we have to work on the emotional parts of our personality, and then we work to expose our preconceptions, assumptions, and beliefs about reality and ourselves. Later, we might have experiences of Essence in its various stages and aspects, and the Work becomes the integration of these refined elements of ourselves. Then the whole personality itself needs to be transmuted and transformed in accordance with these deeper elements of ourselves. We must become more refined human beings, more mature human beings, more evolved human beings, more actual human beings. Then maybe we can live the life of a true human adult. This process is long and complex, and of course it varies from one person to another. But for everyone it entails a great deal of work. You need to understand a lot about your mind, about your emotions, about what patterns constitute your character, and what causes you to behave as you do. This takes time and patience. The process involves a lot of pain and difficulty, although it is also exhilarating and joyful and exciting. A lot of perseverance is required to perceive your essential aspects and then to realize and integrate them. None of this is easy, and it will not be done for you.

When a Person is Genuinely Oriented Toward the Work

When we become more spiritual, more Work oriented, we begin to experience a passionate longing or love for enlightenment, for God, for freedom, for liberation, for the truth. We're no longer so enmeshed in the details of our life that we can’t listen to our heart, to our soul, and yearn for what the soul is really hungry for. We can feel the pain of the distance of the soul from its source, but we no longer blame our problems or this painful distance from the Beloved on anything or anyone else. We don’t blame our poor health, or the declining economy, or dishonest politicians, or whatever other external conditions exist at the time. We know that it's our own inadequacy, our own ignorance, that is in the way. We even stop blaming our father or mother and all the people who did not love us or value us enough. Who cares? That’s when we say that a person is genuinely oriented toward the Work, toward the truth—because that’s when it is understood, “It’s actually only about me and the Beloved.” You see, blaming is not the point; the point is to get closer to the Beloved.

Love Unveiled, pg. 203

Your Ton of Cabbage

When people begin any path of work, they carry with them their ton of cabbage. This refers to all of their ideas about the world and their expectations that the path will teach them how to be happy in the world they know. They want to be given recipes for preparing tastier cabbage. But real work schools try to get rid of your ton of cabbage altogether, all your ideas and your beliefs about who you are and what reality is. You drop not only your ton of cabbage, but also you drop your clothes, shed your skin, and lose your mind. So the ton of cabbage includes the one who carries it.

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