Although essence is our true nature, we live virtually all of our lives out of touch with it.
Abandonment Of Essence In the beginning of your life, your soul is pure and open. Essential states arise as they are needed. For instance, the Strength Essence came when, as an infant, you needed food, and the Merging Essence came when your needs were fulfilled in a satisfying way. Of course, you didn’t know or understand these experiences. Neither were they integrated into your soul in a mature way. They simply arose in a natural and spontaneous way.
The earliest experiences will be a mix of support and nonsupport. Support allows the unfolding and development of the soul in a way that is open to Essence. The Essential states that arise begin to be integrated into the soul, and the soul develops accordingly. Nonsupport, in the form of abandonment or punishment, constricts the soul’s flow and arrests its development. Insults or wounds to your Being cause pain, and the natural instinct is to close off to that pain. This can occur when parents are out of touch with some aspect of their own being and get defensive when that aspect is present in you.
Consequently, aspects of Essence are gradually lost to consciousness and the functioning of the soul. The various intrinsic qualities of our Being are split off. As this happens, we lose both awareness of these qualities and access to them. Of course, Essence itself is always present in the infant and in the adult, whether it is experienced or not. Essence is not lost; it is abandoned. In adults, this abandonment is experienced as a hole or an emptiness, both psychologically and energetically.
If the Essential aspect of Will is blocked, you may experience anxiety or lack of support
If Essential Compassion is blocked, the hole may feel like an emptiness in your heart and a lack of kindness either toward yourself or toward others. The hole of Essential Strength can result in a feeling of weakness, lack of capacity, or an absence of vigor and passion. The complex psychodynamics involved in splitting painful experiences from pleasurable ones are a central cause of the development of personality structures.
Yet much of the personality structure serves to (1) defend against painful experiences and (2) compensate for lost qualities of Being. The resulting personality or ego is defensive and inauthentic, out of touch with its nature. It is rooted in a sense of deficient emptiness and separation from its source.
As I have said, a soul separated from Essence develops structures and defenses to compensate for the lost aspects of Essence. These compensations mimic the qualities of Essence, but they are ultimately rooted in a defensive avoidance. For instance, out of touch with Essential Will, you may develop a stubborn or willful exterior in order to avoid the anxiety of feeling no support or confidence.
Out of touch with authentic Compassion, you may experience the hole of Compassion as hurt and attempt to “fix” the hurt by becoming loving in a desperate and solicitous way.
There is a tendency in spiritual circles to judge the ego as bad. While seeing ego as a source of suffering and a false substitute for your true nature, the Diamond Approach also recognizes a wisdom in the ego. The ego is, in a sense, the best we could do in the difficult situation of a childhood that did not recognize our Essence.
…it is not the ego per se that is problematic, but the identification with it. More important, the ego serves as a pointer to Essence. Because the ego exists as an attempt to replace or compensate for the loss of Essence, there is a close correspondence between ego and Essence. The qualities of the shell imitate Essence. By exploring a particular experience of the egoshell, the issues underlying it are revealed, and the quality of Essence that had been lost is recovered. The personality is thus a gateway as well as an obstacle. Ego points to the life of Essence.
Recovery Of Essence Once you understand the condition of being out of touch with Being, two things need to happen.
First, the ego structures need to be softened, melted, and seen through so that Being can be more fully experienced.
Since the real wounds are the abandonment of Essence, experiencing them reveals Essence. This is the work of self- realization. Second, these same aspects of Being that were repressed need to be integrated into your life and allowed to mature. This is the work of self-development.
Relating to the childhood wounds makes it seem as if you were “going back” to recover something that was lost. Instead, the recovery of Essence is a matter of realizing its presence and influence here and now and integrating it into your soul. Essence is the ground under your feet, always there but forgotten, longing for you as you long for it.
Individual work on the recovery of Essence includes three broad steps. In the first step, you become aware of a pattern of compulsive emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. This may be felt as a continuing hurt, difficulty, wound, compulsion, or inauthenticity in your life. The second step explores these issues more deeply, often with the use of awareness and mindfulness practices, bodywork, and the guidance and support of a teacher. The ego-shell begins to soften or dissolve. Here, you contact the emptiness or deficiency that lies at the root of the emotional issues or compulsive behavior. This deficiency is the lack of Essence and, if experienced deeply, leads to an experience of space. Space indicates the melting or deconstruction of some part of the personality structure. If you stay with the experience of space, the third step occurs, the manifestation of Essence. Essence may initially be felt as a presence. The particular aspect or quality of Essence that manifests depends on your needs in a particular situation.
This kind of open and sincere exploration of your experience (the first step) is common in psychotherapy and personal growth work. It naturally leads to the experience of space. However, many of these explorations stop here with the discharge or release of the difficulties that brought you to therapy.
To summarize, the experience of Being is abandoned, lost to consciousness, or suppressed when Essence is rejected by the child’s environment. This loss leaves a hole. The ego attempts to defend against this hole by blocking it from awareness, filling it with a compensatory quality or behavior pattern. These compensations form important parts of the personality structure. Those interested in realizing their full potential can use this knowledge in recovering Essence. Exploring a difficult issue or an unsatisfactory experience thoroughly can lead to an experience of the absence of Essence, a hole. Exploring this hole leads first to a sense of emptiness and then to an experience of space. The experience of space, in turn, allows for an aspect of Essence to manifest. The particular aspect of Essence that manifests is the specific aspect that was missing from the hole.
In the first passage here, Ali applies the Theory of Holes to the loss and recovery of Essence using the Essential aspect of Value as an example. This passage also illuminates some of the connections between the Diamond Approach as a spiritual path and the knowledge and practice of psychotherapy. In the second passage, he reminds us that our work on our holes is not merely to overcome our sense of deficiency and suffering. The purpose of working with our holes is to realize Essence, and it is always and only Essence that fulfills us.
The Theory of Holes (The rest of the chapter below is quoted from A. H. Almaas) We know that Essence is something we learn about by somehow remembering it, and that it has many different qualities. Everyone is born with Essence, and as you grow, your physical body develops and your Essence also develops, according to a certain pattern.
The newborn baby is mainly in the state we call the Essence of the Essence, a non- differentiated state of unity. At about three months, the baby is in a “merged” state, which is necessary for the development of the relationship with the mother. After the merged state, strength develops, then value, joy, the Personal Essence, and so on. But, of course, because of interference from and conflict with the environment, this development is only partial.
When a quality of Essence is finally blocked from a person’s experience, what is left in place of that quality is a sense of emptiness, a deficiency, a hole.
So there is created in a person the sense that something is lacking, and therefore, something is wrong. When we feel such a deficiency, we try to fill the hole we feel in ourselves. Because the Essence has been cut off in that place, we cannot fill the hole with Essence. So we try to fill it with similar, false qualities, or we try to fill it from the outside.
Suppose, for instance, that our love for our mother is rejected, not valued. Then that love in us is hurt, wounded. To avoid experiencing the hurt, we deaden a certain part of our body, and in that way we are cut off from that sweet quality of love in ourselves. Where that love should be, we have an emptiness, a hole. What we do then, to get that love which we feel lacking, is to try to get it from outside ourselves. We think that we lost something from outside, so we try to get it back from outside.
Connected with the “hole” are the memories of the situations that brought the hurt, and of the quality that was lost. It is all there, but repressed. We do not remember what happened or what we lost; we are left simply with a sense of emptiness, and with the false quality or idea with which we are trying to fill it. In time, these “holes” accumulate, and as they are filled by various emotions and beliefs, the material filling them becomes the content of our identity, our personality. We think we are those things. And the personality is structured around the strongest deficiencies.
You learn first to sense yourself, to pay attention to yourself, so that the necessary information is available to you. So you learn to be aware of yourself, and you begin to look at your personality.
The work begins by seeing that the difficulties come from inside us, and sensing that the fulfillment we are seeking will also come from inside.
Then, we use various forms of the old techniques, such as meditations, to strengthen different parts of the Essence. We also use various psychological techniques to understand the blocks against the issues around the different aspects of Essence.
.. you will observe that you’re behaving in those ways to fill a certain deficiency or “hole.”
Psychotherapists deal with the issues, but in general they go back only as far as the deficiency, by seeing the original issues and understanding or resolving them. They don’t see that the emptiness is there because of lack of Essence.
We are not interested here in just going back through your childhood, understanding your conditioning and your conflicts. We are interested in going back to the original “hole” and simply experiencing it without trying to fill it. In therapy, if you deal with the conflict that you wanted your father and your father was emotionally unavailable to you, you feel deep hurt and you feel castrated. You see that you can’t get your father in the present, so the resolution is that you relate to another man (sometimes the therapist himself) to fill those “holes,” and this is the therapeutic resolution.
It doesn’t work. You can try to fill the deficiency of the loss of love with the love of another man. But since it is your own love, your own will, for which you ultimately long, you will feel dissatisfied with the love and support from the father substitute, whoever it is you are using to fill the deficiency.
The presence in you of the quality of love will finally eliminate the problem of love for you.
And by remembering it, you will have it. Everything you have lost you can regain by working like this. Everything.
There is no separation between psychological issues and Essence; they are intertwined, woven together. This is why you cannot just set to work eliminating the false personality and, when that’s done and taken care of, start experiencing and developing Essence. Without the retrieval of that which personality was created to replace, personality simply cannot be dissolved.
The reason the Diamond Approach can be precise is that we know that each aspect of Essence is connected with certain psychological/emotional conflicts.
Essence Is the Teacher Essence is a relentless teacher.
This process of Essential development continues as personality is clarified and worked through. The personality slowly loses its grip. The conditioning is gradually shaken loose, and the ego is exposed in its bankruptcy. Ego cannot but shatter at the recognition of the sheer beauty of Essence and all of existence. It cannot but melt in the experience of the overwhelming precision and delicacy of Essence.”
From The Diamond Approach: An Introduction to the Teachings of A. H. Almaas (Shambhala Pub) by John Davis