Hi everyone! Here’s a run-down of what we did this past week:
Encountering the Multi-Layered Self
Discussion of homework:
I had asked folks to spend 30 minutes doing one thing that helped them go inward. We checked in to see if anyone wanted to share how that went and what they noticed. One person commented that having it as a “requirement” helped her make time to do it, and we talked about how it can be great to create structure or deadlines to make us do the things we want but that can be hard to get ourselves to do.
Looking back on last week’s reading:
- Fear of silence: of what lurks there, of a boundary-less state
- Emotions are not bad, have a message for us/asking us to grow
- External actions are a reflection of inner state/ less important than inner work
- Inner work is always in service to what is greater because the soul has an agenda/a direction
- Journey from the self to the Self
II. BIG IDEA OF THE WEEK: Layers of self
- What do I find when I go inward?
- What are the different voices or parts of the self?
- How do they relate to each other?
- How do I navigate those different parts?
When we go inward, we can find many “voices” or aspects of the self. Sometimes it can seem they are all in conflict with each other. This is complex stuff, which has been addressed over time and in many different ways by many different psychological and spiritual schools of thought. Just a few that come to mind are:
Freudian psychology: Id, ego, superego
Transactional analysis: the inner parent, inner (rational) adult, inner child
Body, mind, spirit
Martha Beck: the social self/mask and the true self
There is a branch of Zen Buddhism which views the different part of the self as “subpersonalities,” each of which has an inner voice. ( If you are interested in this, look up Cheri Huber’s excellent book, That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek )
Throughout our lives, we hear very different advice: “Use your head.” “Listen to your heart.” Some of us are by nature more logical, some more emotional, and we tend to prioritize different parts of the self.
Some parts of us are judged “bad,” some are judged “good.” We’re told we “should” listen to this part and not that part. We may think it’s right to shut down certain voices in ourselves, even in the name of spirituality. It gets very confusing.
For the purposes of this class, we’re going to try and keep it simple, and focus on two parts of the self, the lower self and the Higher Self. That’s how the Guides tend to talk about it, so I will follow their lead.
For the purposes of this class, we’re going to try and keep it simple, and focus on two parts of the self, the lower self and the Higher Self.
lower self: self, small self, ego, human personality, mind, lower vibration, who we think we are
Higher Self: Self, soul, Divine Self, Godself, Being, Presence, high vibration, Who We Really Are
The Guides tell us that our goal, ultimately, over the course of our life or even lifetimes, is to move from the lower to the Higher Self. To recognize ourselves as Divine beings and to gradually change our default setting to the soul perspective or a state of unity. Last week’s reading talked about “the inner journey from the self to the Self” as the goal of human life. However, that is a long process of growth, and along the way we must embrace, accept, and learn from the human emotions that we have on this plane. It is important never to make ourselves “wrong.”
I shared the following guidance (which I’ve also included in the week’s at-home reading):
The self is who we think we are. It is the small self, the place where we struggle. The personality. The lower emotions. That part of us that lives in scarcity and lack. The part that wants or craves control. The part that is afraid. The part of us that we think of as ourselves, the everyday self. That self is not “all bad,” but neither is it Who We Really Are or why we are Here.
The Self, on the other hand, is Who We Are. It is our Godself. It is the part of us that Knows. It is the Observer, the Infinite Presence, the I in I Am. The Self is always there but we do not see it. Or better said, we do not see that we Are it.
And that is our journey, in this lifetime and in every lifetime, ultimately—the journey from the small self to the Higher Self. From who we think we are—or who we fear we are—to Who We Really Are. From separation to Oneness within ourselves. It is a gain of an identity that only seems to involve to the loss of one, when actually it does not. Not at all.
Bless your ego. Bless its sufferings, its rantings and ravings, its fear and discomfort with everything that’s happening that it doesn’t understand. Tell it to breathe. Take it in your arms like an unruly child—beloved, but unruly— and say to it with a smile as it kicks and screams, I’ve got you. It’s OK. Everything is going to be all right.
Love for the self is accepting the self for all it is. Accepting the pain, the suffering, the uncertainty, the yearnings, and yes, the inner greatness that can be uncovered when the work of the lower self is done. In other words, loving the self is loving ourselves as we are, and as a mother loves, ideally anyway. With tenderness and acceptance and curiosity and patience. Warts and all. Pain and all. Longings and all. Greatness and all.
III. “INNER BODY’ MEDITATION
We did an Eckhart Tolle meditation using a recording from the audio book. I wasn’t able to attach it here, but let me know and I can get you a written copy.
IV. MIND MAP EXERCISE: TRACKING INNER VOICES
Next we did an exercise exploring the different parts of ourselves as they express themselves through everyday challenges. Here were the instructions:
- Get a few blank pieces of paper and a pen.
- Choose an issue you’re struggling with or that’s unresolved, one that “lights up” for you intuitively as the one to address today.
- Using the “mind map” technique, write the issue in a circle in the middle of the page, and use the rest of the page to jot down your fears, worries, painful feelings, questions. Include areas of concern, struggles you’re having internally, the voice of self-criticism, judgment, whatever comes up. Include all the hard stuff. A mind map looks like this (I chose worry about my kid’s technology use as an example):
- Now take a moment to look over what you’ve written. How do you feel? Do you notice any judgment or self-criticism as you look at this struggle you’re having within yourself?
- Now hold the mind map on your lap, put your hands on it, and close your eyes. Send the “you” that is struggling with all of this as much love and compassion as you can from your Higher Self, or the part of you that can step back and be forgiving/loving to yourself.
- What might your Higher Self or Guides have to say to you regarding this situation?
- On another piece of paper or in your journal, write down whatever your Higher Self seems to be communicating to you. (If you were your own loving parent, what would you tell yourself? What is the Truth of the situation?) This might seem difficult, and it might only be a few words, and you might only get a feeling or a silence, but just give it a try!
The goal is not to obliterate or silence the voices of the ego or the lower self, but to make room for them, treat them with compassion, accept them, release the emotions, and ultimately change our relationship to them. To go from identifying with them completely to seeing them as one aspect of reality on the human plane but not what is ultimately Real.
“Each time you meet an old emotional pattern with presence, your awakening to truth can deepen. There’s less identification with the self in the story and more ability to rest in the awareness that is witnessing what’s happening. You become more able to abide in compassion, to remember and trust your true home. Rather than cycling repetitively through old conditioning, you are actually spiraling toward freedom.”
― Tara Brach
V. CLOSING READING:
A Place to Sit
Don’t go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.
—Kabir, 15th c. Indian mystic and Sufi
Do the Week 3 readings!
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