Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Through the ages, countless cultures and their holy figures, poets, teachers, and mystics have pointed to something deep within us that transcends everyday life.
This deeply wise and ancient part within us has been given a variety of names such as the inner Self, True Nature, Soul, Christ-consciousness, Buddha-nature, Spirit, and many others. However, in this article, we’ll refer to it as the Higher Self.
The Higher Self is our innermost Core and our deepest and most Divine essence – it is also a popular topic discussed in many modern spiritual circles, and one that has been misrepresented by the new age movement many times.
So what actually is the Higher Self? How do we connect with this wise part of us? And why might the term “Higher” Self be inaccurate?
Table of contents
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.
However, while our Higher Selves are completely free, they can be blocked, repressed, and denied by the limited ego (or small self), like a hoard of dark clouds smothering the sun.
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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 our egos. 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 the river that is 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
So why bother exploring this topic? Why seek out our Higher Self at all?
There are many “benefits” that slowly emerge after committing to the inner work of dissolving those dark clouds that smother our Inner Light (which we can also think of as a process of ‘Soul Retrieval‘).
Here are some inevitable benefits of reconnecting with your True Nature:
- 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
- Loss of the fear of death
- Development of 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 reconnecting with our Higher Self – and they can also appear as permanent to semi-permanent shifts within us that change our entire outlook on life.
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 thanks to the (completely unexpected and spontaneous) emergence of a warm and wise presence within me.
It was this precise shamanic experience that awakened me to the existence of my Higher Self, or what I also call my Soul.
Thankfully, however, traumatic experiences aren’t the only way to reconnect with your Higher Self!
Other people encounter the Higher Self during activities such as meditation, fasting, wilderness retreats, dreams, visions, sudden kundalini awakenings, or even near-death/out-of-body experiences and altered states of consciousness.
Reconnecting with and experiencing the Higher Self is different for everybody – there is definitely no one “prescribed” way to have this shift in awareness. In fact, sometimes we experience our Higher Selves in completely spontaneous and ordinary circumstances!
If you would like to intentionally create a bridge of connection and tap into your Higher Self, here are some helpful paths and practices:
1. Discover the hidden 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. I recommend using the imagery of stepping into an orb, stream, or circle of light (as light is symbolic of the Higher Self), and then asking to meet your Higher Self.
2. What does your Higher Self feel like?
When you have a mystical experience or a spontaneous meeting with this deeper part of you, what sensations arise within your body? How do your chest, belly, head, and body feel? Do you feel spacious, expanded, tingly, hot, or some other sensation?
You can also connect with your intuition to help you explore what your Higher Self feels like on a physical and emotional level. As your intuition is the voice of your Higher Self, it provides direct access to deep wisdom and insight.
Pay attention to what the voice of your intuition feels like within you. Is it a soft whisper? Does it feel like goosebumps running down your spine? Perhaps when you get an intuitive spark of understanding you feel a sense of inner stillness, calmness, compassion, or greater awareness.
By tracking the physical and emotional sensations that flare in your body after having a spiritual experience or glimmer of intuitive knowing, you’ll be able to know when your Higher Self is closer to you.
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. One simple question I recommend asking is, “What would my Higher Self like me to know right now?” and also, “How might I stay more aligned with my Higher Self?”
Meditation is also a powerful doorway to accessing your Higher Self and anything it wants you to know. By placing a hand over your heart (which is the gateway to your Higher Self or Soul), you can simply sit quietly and notice what emerges within you or even ask a question to your Higher Self and listen for the response.
4. Make time for silence, contemplation, and relaxation every day
Start with a minimum of 10 minutes of silence and contemplation daily. You can use this time to meditate or 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.
Silence and contemplation help us to slow down, access our inner being, and relax. If we’re always running around and filling every moment with something new to do, we’ll have a mighty hard time reconnecting with our Higher Self. So give yourself the permission to build in pockets of silence and simplicity into your day.
5. Explore what you can surrender or let go of
One of the biggest reasons why we struggle to connect with our Higher Selves is that we’re carrying too much mental and emotional baggage.
Think of the sky, for example. How can we see the vibrant and dazzling sun if the sky is cluttered with too many clouds? Clouds, of course, are normal – they come and go. But imagine if we held on to some of those clouds because they were pretty, or we liked the shape of them, or we felt we needed them for comfort. The way of nature is constant change: to let go!
Therefore, consider 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 habits are causing you to feel separate and unhappy. Then, write them down. (And if you would like to do a little letting go ritual, take those pages and burn them in a safe space, watching each limiting habit or belief crumble into ash – this can be tremendously liberating!)
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. Therefore, learning how to love yourself is a crucial way to experience your True Nature – perhaps even the main path I would recommend first, even above all others.
Ask yourself, “What within me needs to be held in the loving arms of compassion and self-forgiveness right now?”
Examine where you’re holding on to anger or resentment toward yourself, and know that you can accept even your lack of acceptance and embrace even your inability to embrace. Yes, you can be open to loving even your inability to love yourself! This is a nuanced practice where the only requirement is showing the utmost gentleness to ourselves so that we can eventually pass that on to others.
7. Try non-resistance (or “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 for one whole day – without trying to control, “fix,” or change them. How do you feel afterward?
The reality is that the more we’re in chronic resistance to life, the more we’re stuck within our dualistic minds and egos. But non-resistance doesn’t mean being a push-over or doormat (it’s important to create boundaries and say no when needed!). Instead, we can see non-resistance as a philosophy toward life that honors reality just how it is. And the more connected we are with reality (rather than the illusions of the mind), the more access we have to our Higher Selves.
8. Discover who (or what) your innermost Spirit Guide is
Spirit Guides are powerful beings that help us to connect with the truth, courage, wisdom, and love within us. Regardless of whether you believe them to be figments of the imagination, psychological archetypes, or actual independent energies, our Spirit Guides can help us to connect with our Higher Selves by guiding us in facing and dealing with inner blockages, complexes, and obstacles in our lives.
To find your Spirit Guide, I recommend first setting a clear intention for what you’d like to discover about yourself, then accessing an altered state of awareness (such as through meditation, visualization, or breathwork), and finally requesting to meet your Spirit Guide who has your highest and best interest in mind. Make sure to record what you discover in a journal or notebook afterward.
9. Find your soul place
This sacred place might be in your backyard or room of your house, in the local park, in a corner of the city, in a library, in a traditionally holy site, or any place where you feel truly at home.
Take a moment and pause to consider whether you’ve ever been in such a space. Do you still have access to it? If not, are there any places you feel mysteriously called toward that might be your soul place? (Note: we can have many soul places.)
Finding your soul place can help you to connect with your Higher Self by relaxing and slowing down your nervous system, as well as inspiring you to be introspective and connected to the present moment.
10. Practice mirror work
Mirror work can be a surprisingly intense and rapid way of reconnecting with your Higher Self – and all it requires from you is to gaze into a mirror!
When you have the chance, gently look at yourself in the mirror and call upon the presence of your soul or Higher Self. 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. 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 simple reality is a secret passed down through ancient traditions and spiritual teachings. Paradise is here within you and the Kingdom of Heaven is Now.
The difficulty we face is the monkey mind 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 or Soul in the future: it’s right here within you, in this exact moment that you’re reading these words!
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 mental struggle 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 best. If you need help, try downloading a free meditation app such as Calm, Headspace, or InsightTimer.
“Higher” Self is Not Exactly True
Now we come to the point in this article where the question must be asked, “Is calling that wise part within us the ‘Higher’ Self accurate?”
The short answer is no. “Higher” Self isn’t technically the right expression (even though some new age movements will claim that it’s called the “Higher” Self because it’s superior to our boring, flawed, and unenlightened human selves).
In fact, any label that describes the Inner Light within us is incorrect as it ultimately transcends and integrates all labels. On an absolute level, our True Nature simply is – it is beyond time, beyond duality, and 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 being greater than the ego is not all the “Higher” Self is and we need to be careful of making the mistake of associating spirituality with nothing but the transcendent path of spiritual ascension.
Remember that true spirituality, your True Nature, encompasses everything. Your True and Authentic Self 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.
Synonymous terms such as Higher Self, Buddha Nature, and Soul are all 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 present 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 and gut instincts?
Yes. The ‘Soul‘ is just another way of saying the 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 reconnecting 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.
To summarize a lot of what has been shared in this article, I’ll leave you with some closing thoughts from Sufi teacher and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,
Spiritual work takes many different forms. Inner purification is an important preliminary work, which involves changing patterns of our behavior and freeing ourself from attitudes and responses that interfere with our aspirations. Psychological inner work is part of this process—confronting the “shadow,” the repressed, rejected and unacknowledged parts of our psyche; accepting our wounds; and transforming psychological dynamics and patterns of conditioning. Only when we have gained a degree of inner harmony and emptiness can we hear the voice of our higher Self, and learn to discriminate between inner guidance and the desires of the ego.
Have you ever “met” or experienced your Higher Self? What was it like for you? I’d love to hear in the comments!