Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Through the ages, the Higher Self has been given many names: the inner Self, Soul, Christ-consciousness, Beloved, Buddha-nature, and Spirit. Regardless of what we call this fundamental inner Core, it is our deepest, most Divine essence.
Yet despite being familiar with these concepts, many of us still struggle to understand the Higher Self and its role in our lives. In other words, how can we transform this topic from an intellectual concept into a feeling that we experience?
What is the Higher Self?
The Higher Self is your True Nature: it is your wise, unconditionally loving, creative, Whole, and eternal inner Center. Deep down, we all carry a certain level of resonance with these words. We recognize that there is something mysterious within us, something sacred. What few of us manage to come to terms with, however, is that our Higher Self totally goes beyond our conditioned fears, limiting beliefs, wounds, and ego fixations. It actually represents our most authentic state of being that we’ve lost touch with in modern life. While our Higher Selves are completely free, they can be blocked, repressed, and denied by the limited ego (or small self).
The Shaman & the Lake Story
You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself. Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.― Alan W. Watts (The Book)
I want to share with you a story that will help illustrate what the Higher Self is:
Once there was a Great Ocean. All of existence was birthed from this Great Ocean, lived off this Great Ocean, and returned back to this Great Ocean. In the beginning, millions upon millions of tiny rivers sprung from this Great Ocean. Each river snaked across the land like delicate veins. But one day, a great drought came. No one saw it coming. The scorching sun dried up each snaking river so greatly that they all turned into lakes. No longer were they connected to the Great Ocean, so they felt great loneliness and isolation. As time went by, each little lake became more and more depressed, forgetting the Great Ocean.
One day, a shaman came to drink from one of the lakes. He noticed that it was depressed. “Why are you so sad?” he asked. The lake, despondent and gloomy responded, “Because I am nearly dried up and there is little water left. Time is running out. Soon I will be gone forever.” The Shaman peered intently at the lake and laughed hysterically. “Silly lake, don’t you know that you are connected to the Great Ocean? Although you change, you are changeless. Your water evaporates and returns back to the Great Ocean. It is then reborn, repurposed, and redistributed. How can you live or die? You are birthless and deathless. You are in all things. You are all things.”
This story is the best way I can think to describe the Higher Self.
We are all like the lakes in this story. We believe that we are separate, isolated and cut off because of the ego. But something within us (the Shaman) continuously drives us closer to the truth through the voice of intuition, instinct, and deep knowing.
Eventually in life we have an illuminating moment of self-realization or remembrance: that we are rivers that are connected to the Great Ocean. The river represents the Higher Self. The Great Ocean represents Spirit, Source, or Oneness.
‘Benefits’ of Connecting With Your Higher Self
Here are some inevitable benefits of reconnecting with your True Nature. In fact, I prefer to think of these “benefits” as “semi-permanent to permanent shifts of being” depending on how strong the encounter is:
- Lowered or completely diminished anxiety
- Lowered or completely diminished depression
- Openness and receptivity to life
- Creativity and inspiration
- Enhancement of intuition and spiritual/personal gifts
- Greater tolerance and patience
- No longer fearing death
- Developing a mystical perception of life
- Cultivating unconditional love for self and others
These “benefits” touch only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing your Higher Self! Because the experience is so individualized and personal, we all taste different benefits to varying degrees.
11 Ways to Reconnect With Your Higher Self
I first encountered my Higher Self during an intensely traumatic shamanic experience. In this encounter, I lived through what felt like hell.
All of my deepest fears were exposed and laid completely bare in front of me.
For about an hour or more I experienced waves of the purest forms of anxiety, paranoia, terror, insanity, and loneliness imaginable. Despite constantly feeling on the verge of madness, I managed to surrender and accept what was happening. This shamanic experience awakened me to the existence of my Higher Self, or what I prefer to call “Divine Nature.”
Thankfully traumatic experiences aren’t the only way to reconnect with your Higher Self, however!
Other people encounter the Higher Self during activities such as meditation, fasting, wilderness retreats, dreams, visions, or even near-death/out of body experiences. However, for everyone the situation or technique is different — there is definitely no one “prescribed” way to experience the Higher Self. Sometimes, we experience our Higher Selves in completely spontaneous and ordinary circumstances!
Here are some paths and practices that may help you reconnect with your Higher Self:
1. Discover the face of your Higher Self
What does your Sacred Self look like or resemble? You might like to use visualization, inner journeying, or self-hypnosis to help you with this. Although your Higher Self is ultimately beyond all labels and forms, it helps to have a visual depiction to aid the human mind.
2. What does your Higher Self feel like?
For example, when you have a mystical experience or a spontaneous meeting with this deeper part of you, what sensations arise within your body? How does your chest, belly, head, and body as a whole feel? You can also connect with your intuition to help you answer this question. As your intuition is the voice of your Soul/Higher Self, it provides direct access to this eternal part within you. Pay attention to what the voice of your intuition feels like within you. Is it a soft whisper? Perhaps it is a feeling of inner stillness, calmness, compassion, or deep knowing.
3. What message/s does your Higher Self have for you?
You might like to explore automatic writing, dream analysis, and even the use of oracle cards to connect with the messages of your Higher Self. You can also try developing more body awareness and use inner visceral mindfulness as a way of tuning in to present moment guidance. Meditation is another powerful way of connecting with the insight offered by your Higher Self.
4. Make time for silence and contemplation every day
Start with a minimum of 10 minutes daily. You can use this time to meditate or to simply revel in nature and the wonders of existence. What feelings or thoughts do you have during this time? You might like to record them in a journal.
5. Explore what things you can surrender or let go of
One of the biggest reasons why we struggle to connect with our Higher Selves is that we are carrying too much mental and emotional baggage. What needs to be surrendered and removed from your life? How can you practice letting go more? Introspect and examine what beliefs, ideals, assumptions, and/or conditionings are causing you to feel separate and unhappy.
6. In what ways can you accept and love yourself (and others) more?
Love opens your heart, and your heart is a direct doorway into your Soul. What could be a more powerful way of reconnecting with your True Nature? The more love you feel, the more life expands, and the more deeply you can embody your Higher Self. Learning how to love yourself is a crucial way to experience your True Nature. Ask yourself, “What within me needs to be held in the loving arms of compassion and self-forgiveness right now?”
7. Try non-resistance (“going with the flow”) for one day
Here’s an experiment: commit to allowing everything to happen as it happens, including your thoughts, emotions, and external circumstances. Try this for at least one day. How do you feel? The more we resist life, the more we are stuck within our dualistic minds. Non-resistance doesn’t mean being a push-over or doormat (it’s important to create boundaries and say no). Instead, non-resistance is a philosophy toward life. It honors reality – and the more connected we are with reality, the more access we have to our Higher Selves.
8. Discover who (or what) your Spirit Guide is
Spirit Guides are powerful beings that help us to connect with the truth, courage, wisdom, and love within us. Whether you believe them to be archetypes or actual independent energies is irrelevant: they can help you connect with your Higher Self by guiding you into rediscovering who you really are.
9. Find your soul place
We all have at least one soul place on earth. A soul place is a special site or spot where we experience unique feelings of belonging, empowerment, and energetic rejuvenation. Finding your soul place will help you to connect with your True Self by relaxing and slowing down your nervous system, as well as inspiring you to be introspective and mindful.
10. Practice mirror work
When you stare gently into your eyes in a mirror and call on the presence of your Soul, what do you feel? What do you experience? The eyes, after all, are the mirrors of the soul. See if you can gently move past the voices of self-judgment that naturally arise when doing this activity, and tap into your inner Source. This is a powerful and rapid way of reconnecting with your Higher Nature. Read more about mirror work.
11. Connect with the present moment
Awakening to your True Nature can only (and ever) happen right here, right now, in the present moment. This is the secret passed down through ancient traditions and spiritual teachings: Paradise is here within you, the Kingdom of Heaven is Now.
The difficulty we face is the monkey mind that is constantly running around, trying to get us to some special future place. But the beauty and ultimate compassion of Life is that you don’t have to find your Higher Self/Soul in the future: it’s right here within you!
Unfortunately, most of us struggle to settle into this simple but sacred truth. Our minds have such a strong grip on us that we can barely sit still for two seconds without squirming and trying to avoid how we feel. This is why a combination of spirituality and psychology is so important. We need psychology to help untie our inner knots, and we need spirituality to help loosen the mind. (See our article on spiritual psychology for more guidance.)
To connect with your Higher Self, try establishing a regular meditation practice. Explore different meditation techniques (such as following the breath, open awareness, body scan, self-inquiry, etc.) and see what works for you. Sometimes a combination of techniques works the best. If you need help, try downloading a free meditation app such as Calm, Headspace, or InsightTimer.
“Higher” Self is Not Exactly True
In fact, any label that describes That-Powerful-Presence-Within-Us isn’t correct as it both transcends and integrates all labels. On an absolute level, our True Nature simply is – it is beyond time, beyond duality, beyond even thought.
However, for the human mind it does help to refer to that Powerful Presence within us with a phrase such as Higher Self because it does indeed feel ‘higher’ than the ego (and so it is in a sense). But that is not all it is and we need to be careful of making the mistake of associating spirituality with nothing but the ascending, transcendent path.
Remember that true spirituality, your True Nature, encompasses everything. It is here in the dull moments just as equally as it is in the ecstatic and blissful moments. It is here while you’re scrubbing dirty pans in the sink just as much as it is while you’re gazing at the stars.
Terms such as ‘Higher Self,’ ‘Buddha Nature,’ and ‘Soul’ are useful, but they’re ultimately limited. Who you are is so much more than a concept. Remember that as you seek to reconnect with the Truth of Who You Really Are.
Higher Self Q&A
The best way to listen to your Higher Self is by learning how to trust your intuition. Your intuition is like a conversation between your mind and heart: it communicates the deepest and wisest truths that you need to be aware of in the moment. Start by journaling about any intuitive ‘hits’ you’ve received during the day and check back on them. What happens when you listen to vs. ignore these intuitive tugs or gut instincts?
Yes. The ‘Soul‘ is just another way of saying Higher Self. These words can be used interchangeably.
Your lower self is your small, limited ego. It is the self that believes itself to be separate from existence. Your Higher Self, on the other hand, is your True Nature that recognizes itself as one drop in the Ocean of Life. While your lower self is defined by fear, isolation, and paranoia, your Higher Self is defined by love, interconnectedness, and expansion.
When reconnecting with your Higher Self, try to think carefully of deep and significant questions you’d like to be answered. Questions might include, “What is my life’s purpose?” “What are my gifts?” “Why do I keep repeating this negative pattern?” and so on. Remember that the answers may be revealed to you slowly, so be patient but receptive.
There are numerous ways of connecting with your Higher Self. Some paths you may like to consider include meditating, going out in nature, practicing dream work and mirror work, using oracle cards, doing guided visualizations, and so on. Choose a path that resonates with you.
Learning to connect with and embody your Higher Self can completely transform the way you perceive yourself, other people, and life forever. For me, the experience was so profound that I’ve never looked at myself, or life, the same way ever since.