Lou Weir is an ordained Diamond Approach teacher and
a founding teacher of Insight Meditation Ann Arbor.
Lou also offers private sessions for Diamond Approach students who wish to practice inquiry with a guide.
An Interview with Diamond Approach teacher Lou Weir
This interview by a certified student in the Diamond Approach was conducted in early 2018. It has been edited for publishing.
Student: How long have you been practicing the Diamond Approach?
Lou: I have been a student for over 20 years, and I have been through a 10-year teacher training program. I was ordained as a teacher in 2017.
Student: Have you done other spiritual practices?
Lou: Yes, early in my search, in my 30’s I was a voracious reader of spiritual or quasi-spiritual texts ranging from Zen patriarchs, Christian mystics, channeled entities and spoon bending in Russia. It was a time of intense curiosity. I have been a practitioner in esoteric Christianity, Gurdjieff Work, Zen and I am currently also a teacher of Vipassana.
And I have learned something from each of the practices. In the Gurdjieff Work, for example, I learned that real spiritual unfoldment comes from diligent application. In other practices I learned that it comes from letting go. Both are important to any practitioner.
Student: Where do you teach Vipassana meditation?
Lou: At Insight Meditation Ann Arbor.
Student: Is it difficult to teach in two traditions?
Lou: Sometimes. Each tradition has its own vocabulary and I try to keep to that vocabulary when teaching. But many things overlap and can be expressed best one way over another. It has become easier as I have done it.
Student: Can you give me an example?
Lou: Sure. Both traditions talk about presence, or being present. But the Diamond Approach has much more emphasis on that, and on presence as a “companion” in your everyday life. So, when I talk of presence it is often informed more by that study than Vipassana. In the Diamond Approach we talk about it even in different “flavors,” so to speak.
Student: What do you mean by that?
Lou: Well, that is a big question. Let me start with an overview of how presence is part of our Diamond Approach work and then touch on the different kinds.
As I think about it, it (presence) cuts across almost all areas of our practice. It is so important, I am sure I will forget some parts of it. First, when we sit in our groups and do our group work together we are encouraged and encourage each other to “be present” in whatever way that we can. In its “generic” form, there is a sense of “hereness,” a felt sense which is noticeable, usually with a sense of centeredness.
When a group sits together in presence there is a kind of magic which can occur.
Instead of being in an environment which pushes us toward our false personality like most of our lives do, this field of presence supports showing up just as we are, authentic and unvarnished. This alone is hugely important.
This support can be there when you meditate, and it’s part of why we meditate, but it has a special quality when done in a group, and facilitates one of the primary aims of the Diamond Approach, to be in the world as your authentic self — often said “to be in the world, but not of it.”
When you consider all the minutes and hours and days and years which we are pulled away from our authentic selves to something else, it is like an oasis to be with a group practicing in this way, and very precious. It is a rare opportunity.
When I do individual work with students, which is part of our practice, a part of what I am doing it helping support a field of presence for that individual work. In our practices we also have a practice specifically designed to bring you to presence. This practice can become a minute-by-minute practice through the day.
Student: Well, what about the different flavors?
Lou: I was trying to get around to that. I’m sure I left out some very important piece of the practice of presence, but let me talk about the different flavors.
When you are closer to your deepest true nature, you may be in touch with your essential nature which has qualities of essence that are present in the moment.
So, essence and presence are at times, quite intermixed. You could say that presence can show up as an essential quality.
These essential qualities are untainted by our conditioning, uncreated by us or anyone else and can have certain effects and can bring capacities which can be exercised from our deepest nature, again without the filters of our conditioning.
These qualities can express different things: peace, power, compassion, love and value are some examples. These qualities are part of our birthright, and never lost, but they are covered up or blocked by our conditioning. Our practices in the first years especially, deal a lot with the barriers to essence.
Student: What would be a barrier?
Lou: There are many things but the main overall category would be our conditioning. Conditioning includes how we were taught by word and deed by our caregivers and our relationships with the outside world in general. And it includes our identifications, the way we take ourselves to be.
Here is an example: If you are brought up by a caregiver who tells you that you are loved verbally, but then does not create a stable and caring environment for you as a child, then you will have mixed messages about love. You might have a fantasy about being loved, but the actual feeling of love is foreign to you. In this case, this person would not be able to identify love very easily and might also mix feeling bad with feeling love. This person might be threatened by the feeling of love and therefore might be cut off from a strong direct feeling of it.
But this is just one example of thousands of events/situations which fix our false personalities in place and create barriers to our deepest true nature.
Student: Why does this create a barrier?
Lou: The false personality brings in your past history into the mix-the conditioning– and in this situation, the usual individual would react with the old patterns and move into a fantasy about being loved and might miss the real feelings. At a deep level, this attitude would probably be reflected in the self representations and self-care.
In a strange way, this is the “comfortable” tried and true way and we go to these conditioned places so regularly, we think that this is who we are.
Our lives tend to be lived through patterned behavior, relying on the past-not in the moment-not in presence. Stale, not fresh.
Student: Is that the way most people are?
Lou: Yes, more or less.
Student: How does the Diamond Approach work with this?
Lou: We would use one of our primary practices, inquiry, to learn more about this situation. As we inquire, eventually we trust our presence, essence and wisdom and as we understand more we see through to the truth of our deepest nature and the false drops away.
We come in contact with our essential nature more and more and the false personality can thin away. It creates what an economist might call a virtuous cycle. The thinning of our false personality allows more space for our essential nature to shine which allows more thinning.
Student: I get the generality, but can you give me an example?
Lou: Sure. Let me use a different situation. Suppose you are working on a project to present at work. You have done everything that you need to do and the presentation is ready, but you can’t shake a feeling of dread about the project.
As you contemplate this the night before, you start to feel a lump in your stomach. You allow it to be there, even welcome it. It is unnerving and unsettling. As you feel into it more, you remember feeling this way with your father growing up. You remember in your school days that your Dad would review all of your homework and be very critical of even the smallest mistake. You dreaded his input.
As you feel into your belly, you realize that your boss looks a lot like your dad. Along with that understanding, your lump in your belly might change to a fluid centeredness. You might notice some expansion as you make this realization. And you come in contact with your true will and strength-essential qualities.
From this place of wisdom, you realize that you are no longer that little person trying to please father and you have all you need to succeed with the presentation. And, best of all, you have a little more understanding of your true nature and it is your own discovery, no one can take it away from you.
So, looking at the barrier, in this case, the feeling of dread, and bringing presence to it, wisdom and compassion, it allowed it to change to qualities of your true nature, will and strength, which allowed a deeper wisdom to see the truth of the situation and the truth of your deepest nature. The place where you were cut off from your true nature, became a doorway to your true nature.
Our work is not designed to make your life work better, although that can be a side product, but to awaken to the truth of our nature, which you could say we forgot.
Now, just a warning. When I describe these stuck places, with a resolution, it seems all neat and tidy. In reality, it might take many understandings to remove the underpinning of even a part of the false personality.
Student: It sounds like a lot of work.
Lou: It is. But as I said to one of my students recently, how else are you going to spend your time?
Student: If I am all of these great qualities at my depth-wisdom, truth, compassion, love, strength etcetera, then why can’t I just go to that place and rest there-why spend all the time with the difficulties?
Lou: Well, if you can do that, then you should. It worked for Ramana Maharshi, and others. But even he and his followers developed a method, though he did not use one for his awakening.
When he awoke, the scaffolding of his false personality fell away to apparently never come back. From then on he knew the truth of who he was. For the rest of us, it seems too much to go right to the ultimate question, such as “who am I?” and expect to find a sustaining and embodied answer.
Instead of trying to skip to the end, we concentrate on looking at the blocks to our realization, allowing them to lead us to the places which need more understanding. Over time these supports for our false personality or ego start to fall away and then the whole structure can fall away too, allowing us to rest in being.
So, our practice is one of gradual unfoldment, although at times of insight it can seem “sudden.”
~End of Part 1~
©2017 Diamond Work Michigan. All rights reserved.