I’ve been a student of the Diamond Approach since May 2007 when Kate and I attended our first retreat with our teacher Sandra Maitri in the International Retreat Group at San Rafael, California. I was curious to learn more about my inner critic, that voice in my head that has dogged me all my life (you know the one!). My experience of the teaching and the loving support of the teachers – especially Victoria Young, my colleagues and the practices has been transformational for me in so many ways…
What is the Diamond Approach?
The Diamond Approach is a contemporary teaching that developed within the context of both ancient spiritual teachings and modern depth psychology theories.
The Diamond Approach is both an understanding of our deepest human nature and a path to realizing and developing our fullest potential. It provides a precise method for inner work. This understanding incorporates modern psychological insights and offers effective practices for self-realization. Furthermore, it encourages us to live our realizations in our everyday lives. Most of all, the Diamond Approach is a path for living as real, fulfilled, free, and mature human beings.
Students of the Diamond Approach practice open-ended inquiry, a moment-to-moment investigation into the truth of their experience. In addition, meditation and ancient body sensing practices of presence provide guidance for the soul’s transformation. The work is done in large group format, small groups settings, and in private sessions with Diamond Approach teachers.
The Diamond Approach was developed by A.H. Almaas and is offered in groups throughout the world. He founded the Ridhwan School, an inner work school devoted to the realization of True Nature. The orientation of the school is directed toward helping students become aware of and embody their “essence” or essential nature. Almaas has authored seventeen books about spiritual realization, including the Diamond Heart series, The Pearl Beyond Price, The Void, The Unfolding Now, and The Point of Existence.
For more information, about the school and its teaching, and upcoming events see the Ridhwan School Website at www.ridhwan.org and for more on the explorations of AH Almaas the creator of the Diamond Approach to Self Realization and founder of the Ridhwan School for Spiritual Development see www.ahalmaas.com
For the New Zealand group see: www.diamondapproach.co.nz
“The experience self-realization, of knowing oneself as self-pervasive consciousness, is felt experientially as an exquisite sense of intimacy. The self-existing consciousness experiences itself so immediately that it is completely intimate with its reality. The intimacy is complete because there is no mediation in the self’s experience of itself. We feel an exquisite stillness, a peace beyond all description, and a complete sense of being truly ourselves. We are so totally ourselves that we feel directly intimate with every atom of our consciousness, completely intimate with and mixed with our true identity. The contentment is like settling down peacefully at home after eons of restless and agonized wandering. Clarity and peace combine as the feeling of exquisite, contented intimacy, which is totally independent of the particulars of our situation, beyond the conceptual confines of time and space. The peace and contentment do not come from accomplishing anything, nor are they a result of anything. They are part of the actual feeling of being truly ourselves. We are not only intimate with ourselves, but our very presence is intimacy.” ~ A H Almaas
From The Point of Existence: Transformation of Narcissism in Self-Realization, ch. 2, p. 23
Food For The Soul: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization
~ by Joyce Lyke
I believe that most of us living in North America in these early years of the twenty first century have little, if any, sense of ourselves as spiritual beings. We have forgotten who we really are and have become disconnected from our deepest nature. When we scratch the surface, most of us hunger for something more but often settle for fairly empty, though busy, lives that lack any real meaning, purpose or depth.
This sense of meaninglessness or pointlessness in our lives is not because we are in the wrong job or life situation. When we become aware of an inner, existential emptiness, we may respond by trying to change our external life situations, but these adjustments only provide temporary relief. Variations in the arrangement of our lives, although very useful, must include a larger and deeper change within ourselves. The inner emptiness is really a symptom of the lack of a connection to our depths. When we begin to see this fundamental truth about the feeling of lack within our souls, we open to the possibility of beginning to look in the right direction to start the search for deeper truth.
The Diamond Approach is a spiritual path toward a deeper truth. It is a spiritual teaching designed for people who live ordinary lives of work and family. It is a practical method of re-connecting to our spiritual nature and allowing it to become part of our daily life. To experience deep realization and live our potential is possible without living in an ashram, convent, or mountain cave. We do not have to renounce life to walk a spiritual path. The Diamond Approach is a journey toward uncovering the essence of who we really are, beneath all of the layers of social conditioning and cultural expectation. Its aim is to discover the deepest truth of what it means to be human.
Most of us live on the surface of our lives, running as fast as we can to keep up with it all. Occasionally we are aware of a sense that there must be something more, but rarely are we in touch with our essential nature. Instead, we experience ourselves and the world through the veil of our personality which was shaped by our experiences in infancy and childhood.
When we were infants and small children our souls were transparent to our essential nature. The essential nature of children is plainly visible although not fully developed. Those who have been around babies, or who remember their children as infants, know how present they are. Babies are a bundle of presence. Over time and with the normal social conditioning we all go through, that sense of innocence, purity and presence is lost. The connection to our essential nature is veiled through the development of the personality structure.
Our personality, though distancing us from our essence, is nevertheless a natural and necessary development. The ego is not a mistake; it is a natural unfoldment of the young soul. We all need a healthy ego to function and manoeuvre in the world. The difficulty comes when, as mature adults, we are only in touch with this superficial layer. Living on the surface brings feelings of emptiness and superficiality, and the hunger for something more.
In the Diamond Approach we are not specifically interested in making students feel better, but rather in helping them discover the truth about themselves. We encourage them to allow feelings of emptiness and to explore those feelings with openness, curiosity and a non-judgmental willingness to discover the truth of their experience. We encourage the exploration of whatever feelings are present in the moment. Students bring their problems and we explore them. We do not try to solve the problems but use them as a way to help the student go deeper. You may find, for example, that the simple truth of a hurt in your heart has to do with something painful that happened in childhood. By exploring this pain and experiencing it in the moment with openness, curiosity and awareness you may come to a feeling of compassion. This feeling of compassion is one of the qualities of our true nature. When compassion opens and we are able to be with the pain in a deeper, more real way, we see from a more objective point of view. This fresh perspective brings new understanding and insight about ourselves and others and about pain and suffering in general. As we look at the truth of our experience, we may find that in time this truth will go beyond personal, relative truths to the ultimate truth about the nature of reality.
In the Diamond Approach we use the knowledge of western psychology to help students understand and work through the layers of their personality. The personality is based on a certain set of historically based beliefs about ourselves and a worldview that is influenced by our upbringing. Identifying with the personality keeps us bound to a limited way of experiencing ourselves and the world. By identifying, challenging, and exploring these beliefs and worldviews we begin to open and see through the veils. Working with and seeing through the self-images and identifications from the past helps us to understand these beliefs and their origin and uncover their actual, essential nature.
We also use various meditation and body sensing practices in reconnecting and aligning the self with the qualities of true nature. Open-ended inquiry into our personal, in-the-moment experience is the main practice of this path. We encourage students to be curious, open, non-judgmental and without preference about their experience, and to sense into and explore their experience in the present moment. A willingness to explore whatever arises, not knowing how or where it will unfold from moment to moment, is the true spirit of inquiry. In this kind of inquiry the mind is in service of the heart, as the heart loves to know the truth and, when allowed, will find its way home.
Discovering and returning to this potential within the soul is our birthright. Remembering the presence of essence, experiencing it, bringing it forth in our lives and becoming an embodiment of true nature is the real definition of a human being.
The author of this article, Joyce Lyke, is a senior teacher in the Ridhwan School. She teaches on-going Diamond Approach groups in Santa Barbara and Monterey, California; Vancouver, B.C; Northern Germany, U.K. and at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.
The Diamond Approach is an enormous body of spiritual knowledge. The founder of this methodology, A. H. Almaas, has written many books, such as Essence, Diamond Heart Books One, Two, Three and Four, The Void, The Pearl Beyond Price, The Point of Existence, The Inner Journey Home, and others. Another good introduction, written by John Davis, a senior Diamond Approach teacher is: The Diamond Approach : An Introduction to the Teachings of A.H. Almaas: and Soul without Shame, written by Byron Brown, senior Diamond Approach teacher.
The Ridhwan School website is www.ridhwan.org.
Students Share: The Diamond Approach in Nature
by John Davis, Diamond Approach student and teacher
Many, many people have found awakening, nourishment, intimacy with themselves, and direct contact with essence through experiences in nature. I sure have. For almost as long as I have been doing the Diamond Approach, I have also pursued wilderness experiences and connection with the natural world. This nature-based part of my path has expanded my understanding and maturation, and I have come to see nature as an arena in which the soul can come to know its true nature, find guidance, and develop its potential more fully. The Diamond Approach continues to provide the foundation for my path, and I have come to see experiences in the natural world as means of deepening my realization of the Diamond Approach’s teachings.
For me, and for those I have guided on wilderness retreats the past 20 years, direct and immediate contact with the natural world has exposed more of the soul’s innate aliveness, tenderness, flow, and eventually, its transparency to being. Being in nature, especially wilder places, tends to dissolve the crusty, uptight, avoidant, asleep, and deadened structures of the ego-self, leading to dis-identification from conditioned habits, self-images, representations of others and the world, and object relations—the stuff of the personality. When this dis-identification happens, being and its essence are naturally more available. The natural world mirrors the soul’s inherent strength, power, sensitivity, joy, and support. All about us, we see birth, death, and transformation, and the soul relaxes into its ongoing process of transformation. In a word, wild nature is free, and immersed in wild nature, the soul is more free.
There are a number of ways to bring the Diamond Approach into nature experiences, whether they are watching a sunset, strolling in a park, or backpacking in the mountains. They all start, of course, with being there, as awake and open as possible. Recognizing and penetrating the obstacles and resistances to being there is also helpful, if not necessary. The Diamond Approach’s teachings and practices apply directly to this work, deepening our presence. Spending time in nature exposes our instinctual responses, giving us the opportunity to explore, understand, and mature them. Applying the understanding of object relations to our representations of nature reveals our projections onto the natural world and the ways we see nature as a danger, an object to be used, a home and family, or a greater self. Beyond helping us be free of these representations, the Diamond Approach reveals our ultimate non-duality with nature. The Diamond Approach’s understanding of the boundless dimensions is so very descriptive of nature mysticism, from that of indigenous peoples to current transpersonal and eco-psychological research. The characteristics and movement of the soul easily maps onto a pan-cultural, earth-based fourfold model of nature, a model which includes the four cardinal directions and the seasons as well as aspects of human nature, the body’s centers, and ways of being in the world. Though simple on the surface, this model has been remarkably rich for me, helping me contact my soul more deeply in a wide variety of circumstances. Many people have found an initiatory quality to wilderness experiences, whether deliberately on vision fasts and other wilderness rites of passage or not. Such nature-based initiations and rites of passage not only bring deeper meaning to life transitions; I feel they are a means through which the personal essence or pearl matures. And so on…
These are a few of the fruitful connections I have found in bringing the Diamond Approach into the natural world. No doubt, there are others yet to be discovered. I encourage you to discover these connections for yourself. No matter how much contact you have with wild nature, opening to a bit more exposure will help your journey. Bringing a plant into an otherwise sterile room, working a garden, walking in a local open space or sitting by the water, spending time watching clouds or driving out beyond the city lights to discover the Milky Way for yourself, spending a day from sunrise to sundown in nature, or participating in an extended wilderness retreat—these, and countless other practices, are all good ways of increasing your contact with nature, your soul’s inner nature, and ultimately true nature.
Copyright © 2017 Ridhwan Foundation
John Davis is a Diamond Approach student and teacher in Colorado, Vancouver, and the Diamond Heart Retreats program and the author of The Diamond Approach: An Introduction to the Teachings of A. H. Almaas. He leads a wilderness retreat exploring the Diamond Approach and primitive ecopsychology.