Basic Trust

A.H. Almaas

"Facets of Unity"



     We will begin our exploration of the Holy Ideas by inquiring

into a particular condition or orientation of the soul that is their basis.

The relative presence or absence of this condition in our individual

consciousness, or soul, has a significant effect on our orientation toward or away from Being. When this state is present, the development of the soul moves toward Being; when it is relatively absent, the soul develops more toward ego. The soul always develops an ego and an identification with it, due to the nature of infant helplessness, physical embodiment, and conceptual development; however, the degree of fixedness and completeness of that identification will be greatly influenced by the degree to which this state is present. By understanding it, we can see why spiritual development seems relatively easy for some people and more difficult for others, as well as why that development seems to happen on its own for a few people but not at all for most people.  The amount of presence or absence of this quality does not explain these differences in development entirely, but it is a strong determinant.


To understand the significance of this condition, we need to understand what happens in the process of spiritual transformation. The ego is a psychic structure that is based on crystallized beliefs about who we are and what the world is. We experience ourselves and the world through the filter of this structure. Spiritual awakening involves connecting with those dimensions of experience obscured by ego structure.  In our work, the Diamond Approach, this development is a gradual process of moving through the various facets of this ego structure-particular beliefs and images that we have identify with and

taken to be true.





The Importance of Basic trust


The first step of this process is dealing with any sector of the ego has two parts. The first is becoming aware ofŠactually perceiving and experiencing the particular belief or identification that constitutes the structure. The second is the dissolution of that facet of the ego structure. The latter is the most difficult one in the process of transformation, since it means letting go of parts of oneÕs identity, and this surrendering can be experienced as a dissolution, a disintegration, a fragmentation, or a sense that you are falling apart. This juncture can be very painful of frightening because the old sense of your identity is crumbling and falling away and you donÕt know whatŠif anythingŠwill take its place. What you have held on to has felt real to you, and now youÕre letting it go and heading into what feels like unknown and uncharted territory. It feels like jumping into an abyss and it can be terrifying.


 If this jumping into the abyss is easy, oneÕs transformation tends to

happen easily. But if this letting go of past identities is difficultŠvery

painful or excessively fraught with fearŠone will tend to hold on to

the old, staying aligned with oneÕs ego. What makes the difference is the presence of a certain kind of trust that we call basic trust. It is an unspoken, implicit trust that what is optimal will happen, the sense that whatever happens will ultimately be fine. It is the confidence that reality is ultimately good; that nature, the universe and all that exists are of their very nature good and trustworthy; that what happen is the best that can happen. Basic trust is a nonconceptual confidence in the goodness of the universe, an unquestioned implicit trust that there is something about the universe and human nature and life that is inherently and fundamentally good, loving, and wishing us the best.  This innate and unformulated trust in life and reality manifests as a willingness to take that plunge into the abyss.


 When this trust is deep, it manifests in how you live your life, not

necessarily in what you feel or what you think. Basic trust is experienced as an unquestioned sense of safety and security that is intrinsic to the way you act and live. When deeply present, this trust is so much a part of the fabric of your soul that is not something you think aboutŠit is preconceptual, preverbal, pre-differentiation. Furthermore, it is so basic that events and circumstances in your life cannot disrupt it.


 For this reason, basic trust is different from our usual psychological

sense of trust. Our ordinary confidence in people and situations is highly conditional and dependent on familiarity and reliability. Painful

experiences or personal betrayals can disrupt our trust in the external and internal elements of our life. So ordinary trust is of little value for stepping into the unknown because those elements are always subject to change.


 Basic trust, on the other hand, is not a trust in some thing, some person, or some situation, and so is not readily diminished by life circumstances.  Instead, it gives you an implicit orientation toward all circumstances that allows you to relax and be with them. You feel in your bones that you are and will be okay, even if the events at the moment are disappointing or painful, or even completely disastrous.  Consequently, you live your life in such a way that you naturally jump into the abyss without even conceptualizing that you will be okay, since you have the implicit sense that the universe will take care of you. Your life itself becomes a spiritual journey, in which you know that if you stop trying, stop efforting, stop grasping, stop holding on to people, objects and beliefs, things will be okay, that they will turn out for the best. This doesnÕt mean that letting go or allowing structures to dissolve will necessary feel goodŠthatÕs not what you trust. Even if it doesnÕt feel good, even if you are frightened, you somehow know that this dissolution will be okay. The capacity to accept the most problematic phase of spiritual transformationŠthe dissolution of familiar structures and identitiesŠarises from this innate sense of safety and security.


Basic trust is difficult to discuss because doing so makes it explicit, while it is fundamentally implicit. Those who have it never think about it, never question it, never even know that there is such a thing. When they see someone that doesnÕt have it, they wonder why he is having such a difficult time, why he doesnÕt know that things will be fine. In those who have never lost basic trust, there is an innocence. Only when you have lost it and go through consciously developing it again, do you understand what is like not to have it.



The Presence or Absence of Basic Trust


Basic trust is the soulÕs way of attuning to a fundamental law of reality, the fact that our sense of existing as a separate and isolated entity is false, that our ego experience of isolation and helplessness is an illusion based on identification with the world of physical manifestation. Knowing that we are part of one reality means that our true nature is not defined by ego experience or the physical body and cannot be fundamentally hurt or destroyed. If the individual soul is in touch with this reality of non-separateness, than it will reflect that by functioning in a way that expresses this knowledge. However, to someone that as lost touch with nonseparateness, the first person action will appear trusting in a way that seems unjustifiable. Even to the conscious mind of the first person, her own actions may appear mysterious if she is not in touch with the experience of nonseparateness. For this reason, she can only feel that she simply trust things will work out, but trusts so implicitly that she almost feels she knows. When the soulÕs experience is consciously that of being a separate individual, it can only experience the contact with implicit nonŠseparateness as the sense of the benevolence of life, as basic trust.


Most people do not have a lot of basic trust; they feel itÕs okay to trust in some situations and not in others. Certain conditions have to be met in order for them to trust. This is not an inherent trust in life. This is conditional trust. When basic trust is prominent, it affects

oneÕs life globally.


Each of us some degree of basic trust; it isnÕt something we either have or we donÕt have. Without it, we wouldnÕt be able to function. Its manifestation in everyday life is the way you trust your body based on the physical laws of nature. For instance, unless you are blind, you trust that if your eyes are open, they will function and you will see. It is so basic an orientation that it is hard to call it trust; you just take it for granted.  When you go to sleep at night, you take it for granted that you will wake up the next morning. You donÕt have to tell yourself. ŅI trust that it will be ok if I fall asleepÓ; you just close your eyes and go to sleep. Beginning the work of spiritual transformation indicates that you have a measure of basic trust well beyond what you have in the functioning of your body, and in the course of doing the Work, this trust deepens and becomes more integrated.


Basic trust gives us the capacity to surrender, the capacity to let go,

the capacity to jump into the unknown. With it, you donÕt need assurances that things are going to be okay because you implicitly know things are going to be okay. It isnÕt a trust in something in particular since it is preconceptualŠit is prior to your differentiated ideas about what you trust. So basic trust is even beyond trusting in God, because feeling that you trust in God means that you already have a concept of God.


The presence of basic trust indicates that you have the innate sense that life is fundamentally benevolent, and that that benevolence exists independent of you and your actions. You will have this sense to the extent that your grounding in the universe has not been disturbed. The relative presence or absence of basic trust is a belly quality, something oneÕs whole being is either grounded in or not. The disturbance of basic trust is a significance factor in ego development because the perspective of ego is diametrically opposed to the sense of basic trust.  The ego perspective arises out of lack of this trust. It is based on distrust, on paranoia, on fear, on the conviction that youÕre not going to be adequately taken care of and that the universe is not there to hold and take care of you in the ways that you need. This conviction causes you to believe that you have to engage in all kinds of manipulations and games to get your needs meet and to make things work out.



Unfoldment of the Soul


Now we can see how the presence or absence of basic trust is crucial to the initial step in the process of the transformation of any sector of the ego.  This step is only completed by giving up the particular structure we have been holding on to.  Basic trust gives you the capacity and the willingness to let go of the images, identifications, structures, beliefs, ideas, and concepts Š the remnants of the past that make up the ego.


Implicit in this initial step is the second one: If you are able to surrender, then you are willing to be.  You are willing to not try to change things, to not manipulate them, to not push and pull at them.  You are willing to just be present, which is sort of realization itself.  First, then is the death of the old; second is the realization of Being.  If you don't have basic trust, you will react to what arises in accordance with your conditioning and will want your process to go one way or another.  You won't let yourself just be present; you'll be tense and contracted. So basic trust is needed for you to be able to allow the ego to die, and also for you to be willing to just be, without teaching. 


The third step of transformation also requires basic trust.  The third step is to allow things to develop spontaneously and naturally the way they want to develop, without trying to channel them in ways that you think they should go.  This means not trying to determine the course of your development or push it one way or another.  So if you have basic trust in your process, you not only are willing to jump into the abyss, you not only are able to be with whatever arises, but you also trust that wherever things take you will be okay.  This allows the natural unfoldment of your soul, opening to your inner nature.


So if basic trust is present, the soul will more easily let go of old structures, will more easily settle into simply being, and will tend to let its process unfold without interference, which will lead naturally toward essential development. Without basic trust, the attitude of ego will predominate; the soul will lack implicit confidence in her life and process.  The ego will try to take things into its own hands and manipulate, pushing things one way or the other, resulting in the further isolation and entrenchment of ego. 


Basic trust is an inherent condition of the soul.  Your soul has basic trust like your bones have calcium.  It is that fundamental, that basic to the nature of the soul.  It is beyond nonconceptual;  it is not even an experience.  Rather, it gives our experience a sense of ease, of safety and security, with a carefree state in the mind.  A lack of basic trust is evident in all the insecurities of ego.  Like all qualities which involve a sense of support, the presence of the quality which underlies basic trust tends to remain unconscious or implicit until this absence is felt.  And since ego strictures and activity are connected with the sense of the lack of trust, the focus of the personality will be on this lack, on fear, on worrying, and planning and compensating for the perceived lack of support.  This is why we can say that this quality is inherent in the soul while at the same time the sense of lack of support predominates in oneÕs conscious experience.


The more that basic trust is present, the more the process of realization and transformation can proceed smoothly.  If we lack basic trust, it becomes important for us to develop it.  Development here does not mean building up some new experience of self.  It means experiencing the factors which brought about the original profound disconnection from reality, and in particular, experiencing repeatedly the fundamental truth of nonseparateness to the point where the soul can again rest in the knowledge of that truth.  Each new experience of essential truth depends the soulÕs contact with her own basic trust.


Ease and Freedom in Living


In a sense, basic trust is a bedrock for the process of spiritual development, but it also affects the quality of the whole of our lives.  It gives us the sense that our lives are evolving naturally, moving and progressing in ways and directions that we may not yet know or understand but that we feel confident will be okay.  If basic trust is present, our lives have a sense freedom.  Then the desire to know where things are going arise not our of wanting to control the unfoldment, but out of simple curiosity.


When you are functioning from basic trust, it is implicit in how you live, how you interact, how you act in the world, how you go about your life.  It is a fundamental quality for human living, as well as a necessity for the work of transformation.  We can see to what extent it is present or not in observing the way we live our lives.  Basic trust manifests through our actions rather than through our thoughts or feelings, since it is knowledge in the belly and belly knowledge shows through action.  So it is a type of knowledge that we donÕt usually think of as knowledge. 


To understand basic trust in action, we need to distinguish it from the egoÕs tendency toward inertia and inactivity.  To have basic trust does not imply that you donÕt act.  It does not mean that if someone is pointing a gun at you, you donÕt do anything to defend yourself.  It means that you trust your impulse to run Š you trust your inherent intelligent functioning.  Likewise, trusting that the universe will take care of you does not mean that you stay in bed all day.  The universe will take care of you by making you get up and tend to your business.  The universe unfolds in an optimal way, and part of that unfoldment happens through out and your actions. 


When you have a lot of basic trust, you  are courageous and authentic.  You take risks.  You donÕt sit on your capacities.  You engage in life whole heartedly, doing what feels appropriate to you with the confidence that it will work out.  Without much basic trust, you are paralyzed with fear of failure and fear of rejection.  If you are looking for a mate, basic trust means taking the risk of talking with someone youÕre attracted to.  You may be a little frightened, but the fear is not a big deal and you act anyway.  If she rejects you, so what?  You feel resilient.  After all, there are millions of people in the world.  But without basic trust, rejection can feel like the end of the world.  You feel hopeless.  So basic trust implies real hope, which we will discuss the new get to the Holy Idea of Holy Hope.


When your basic trust deepens, you have an inner sense of relaxation that allows your soul to unfold spontaneously and naturally.  The trust affects your mind in such a way that you begin to see that whatever happened is right even if itÕs painful, and things that you had thought were bad turn out not to bad.  You have a different outlook, seeing a more fundamentally true view of the universe.  You see that everything that exists in the world is just right and that whatever happened is just right, that what is canÕt be added to or subtracted from.  This is the Idea of Holy Perfection.  To see this truth, you have to trust the universe. When there is a depth of basic trust, you perceive the universe through the Holy Ideas.  If there is little basic trust, you see the universe through a closed mind, through the filter of the fixated structure of the ego.


Without feeling the loving holding of the universe, we can have no basic trust.  How can you really let go and let yourself be if there isnÕt trust that things are fundamentally okay, that whatever happens is appropriate?  If you donÕt have this trust, you are constantly scared, constantly tense, constantly fighting reality Š inner and outer.  So we need to reclaim our basic trust. All work on oneself is necessary because oneÕs basic trust in not complete.  If it were, you would feel completely relaxed and you would spontaneously grow to become what you are supposed to be.


Since our basic trust is not complete, we fight, resist, and struggle; and then we need practices and teachings to see that our struggle is fruitless and is actual the problem.  We all want to be at peace with ourselves with our lives, with whatever situation we find ourselves in.  We donÕt know how to do that so we are always struggling and fighting with our reality, trying to bring about some harmony and relaxation, some lessening of worry and fear.  But all we need to do is to quit struggling with ourselves and with reality.  When it is said that suffering ceases when one is realized or enlightened, what is meant is that the struggling ceases.  Enlightenment is not a matter of not feeling pain, but of not fighting it.


Basic Trust and realization


Basic trust, then is synonymous with being realized, with being settled, with not struggling.  When we say not struggling, we mean not struggling with yourself.  This doesnÕt mean that you donÕt need to make efforts.  If you need to chop wood, you chop wood, but you donÕt hesitate and wonder if it is the right thing to do or judge yourself for how you do it.  You simply chop the wood.  Most of us canÕt simply do that because we are fighting with ourselves.  When we investigate, we find that we fight with ourselves because we donÕt trust.  We donÕt trust that if we relax we will have the capacities, we will have the intelligence, we will have the strength, we will have the compassion that we need to deal with our lives.  We donÕt trust that reality as it is fundamentally fine and will work for us and support us without any interference on our part.  Basic Trust is learning that life is manageable, is workable; that we can relax into it and just let it be.  It is the trust that the universe itself supports us and that we have the inner resources to deal with whatever life presents us. 


So basic trust means trusting enough to let your mind stop, to be silent within, knowing that there is something you need to know, the knowing will come.  It means trusting that if you need to do something, you will be able to do it. It means accepting and trusting the silence, the stillness, the Beingness.  If we donÕt trust, we canÕt let our minds be silent and we canÕt let ourselves be still.  We think we always have to be on the go, always making one thing or another happen or not happen, so we donÕt let our minds our bodies rest.  We believe that if your minds are quiet, when we need certain information, it is not going to be there.  We believe that if our bodies are still, when we need to act, we wonÕt be able to.


Without basic trust, we donÕt have trust in our nature, our inner resources, and in the universe that gave birth to us and is constantly supporting us, constantly providing for us, and will continue providing for us whatever we really need.  Without that trust, we donÕt experience ourselves as the children of the universe that we really are.  We experience ourselves as abandoned, outcast, left on our own, - and not only on our own, but lacking and deficient in capacities.  We experience ourselves as alone, isolated, separated, not being provided for by the universe, and at the same time, small unable, and without what it take provide for ourselves.  So we arrive in a content state for fear.  This is the basic position of ego.


To experientially understand basic trust and to develop it, to let ourselves surrender, let go, and relax into what is, is not simple because our minds have become so complex in our attempt to deal with our ignorance and distrust.  Our minds are split into so many fragments that are constantly fighting with reality and with each other.  Because our minds are so complicated and disharmonious, it takes a lot of work, intelligence, and energy to penetrate the thick complexity and darkness, to discover what the actual truth of reality is.   Reality itself is very simple and straightforward, but we canÕt see that simplicity, we canÕt see the normality of our natural state.


LetÕs look at some examples to understand what we mean by simplicity and complexity.  How often is it that you feel hungry and eat a meal and are really at peace and not in some kind of conflict with yourself about it, worrying about whether it is the right time to eat or not, whether you are eating too much or too little, whether you are eating only because your stomach is empty and you want a little food?  The mind complicates the experience by thinking about it, reflecting on it, judging it, telling you that you shouldnÕt eat now or youÕre bad for eating what you want.  Or you are tired, for instance, and you want to just relax and maybe read the newspaper or watch a little TV, but does your mind leave you alone? ŅHow can I rest when there are things I havenÕt done? How about my responsibilities? Am I wasting my time or not?  Am I being indulgent?  I should have rested before Š IÕm tired because I donÕt give myself time to rest.Ó


If you observe yourself, you will see an almost continuous commentary going on inside.  One part of you is always critiquing what you are doing, feeling, and thinking, telling you that you are wrong for what youÕre feeling or thinking, you are arenÕt doing it right and you never will, youÕre basically a bad person anyway, you shouldnÕt do it this way, you should do it that way, and so on.  What about just resting when you are tired?  What about just sitting down, reading your book, having a cup of tea, watching TV without doing anything else?  Can you do that?


When you start working on yourself, the situation gets even more complicated.  You are sitting there watching TV, and you start thinking, ŅI shouldnÕt be watching television Š I should be meditating or reading some holy book instead of wasting my time watching this dumb television program.Ó  You bother yourself, criticizing your state:  ŅI should be more cosmic, not enjoying this stupid comedy.Ó


This is our suffering;  this is our pain. We donÕt leave ourselves alone to just be.  Even when we meditate, itÕs rare that we just sit there and let ourselves be.  ŅAm I doing it right? Nothing is happening.  IÕm wasting my time.Ó  Seldom do we just sit and allow whatever happens to happen.  This is what we mean by the discord that arises because we have no trust.


If basic trust informs your experience, your psyche is relaxed.  Your soul is at peace with itself and with your situation, resting in the unquestioned confidence that the universe provides, that you have, and will receive, what you really need, and that things are workable.  If we really have this trust, this deep inner relaxation, it becomes possible to live our lives out of love, out of an appreciation of life, out of enjoyment in what the universe provides for us, and out of compassion and kindness for others and ourselves.  Without it, we live our lives defensively, in conflict with others and with ourselves, becoming self-centered and egoistic.  To find our basic trust is to reconnect with our natural state that we have become separated from.  When we are innately infused by reality, our soul or consciousness is completely transparent to the truth that we and the universe are one, that we are supported by reality and that that reality is by its very nature good, and that what happens is inevitably right since it emerges out of that inherent perfection.  When you understand this, it becomes obvious why it is so difficult to relax and let go, and why it is so important to regain our basic trust.