I’ve always been, since I was a child, someone who is very tapped into my soul.
”Soul” is one of those slippery terms that varies too much based on the person, so I’ll define it as I understand it. I can’t claim to know what the soul is made of, its exact properties, nor exactly how it operates.
But I have always had a strong awareness (and sense) of a part of me that I would call simply an awareness in itself. It does have its own attributes — it is ME, in the deepest sense. But it is something that remains constant while the rest of my human character does not.
As humans, we define ourselves by humanly things: genetics, various factors in the environment, values, likes, dislikes, and so on. The soul is outside of this. It is a constant presence — an essence — and many describe the soul as having more of an “observer” role throughout our Earthly journeys.
Being aware of my soul to the degree I am today often makes me feel like I am simultaneously in two worlds.
All of this generally sounds like a positive thing, and it is. But now that I have been through multiple types of consciousness-breakthroughs as well as various types of spiritual experiences that came to me rather spontaneously, I’ve become increasingly able to differentiate between the “soul” part of me and the “human character” part of me.
The Challenges of Increasing Awareness
As I become more aware of my soul as I am experiencing being human, I’ve realized that there are inherent difficulties that can come with this.
Part of the difficulty for me has been the fact that learning to follow your soul has been very much like walking blindfolded in a pitch dark place, having to learn to use another set of senses to guide your way.
You have to develop this set of senses, and keep developing them, if you want to fulfill your soul’s desires and understand yourself to the very core. This requires discernment: you have to know when to shut out outer influences and trust your inner voice.
There is a time to acquire knowledge from outside yourself, and a time to shut it out and pay more attention inwardly.
I’ve noticed that the majority of people I meet don’t really know how to trust themselves, let alone listen to themselves, and it’s not really their fault. We are part of a time when we look to external authorities, common knowledge or perhaps the “latest” knowledge in order to decide what anything means. We are taught this from a young age — we get our knowledge from going to school and having someone tell us what things mean.
It’s not a surprise to most at this point in time that as a whole on Earth, we are spiritually lacking, because we are mostly cut off from our selves.
The idea that there is wisdom to be gained from our own selves — from a part of our selves — sounds ridiculous to many. So they don’t even attempt to believe in themselves or begin to listen. They see themselves as just another human going to school to “get smarter.”
From the time I was 17 years old, I began to have significant things happen to me psychologically (including my first “consciousness-expanding” experience at 18). If I, for example, had had a parent who was not very open-minded and I had told them what happened to me, I could’ve been committed to an asylum.
Instead, I learned to follow what my intuition was telling me. Because it was sending messages to me loud and clear, and honestly, those messages were hard to ignore even if I had wanted to.
The other difficult thing that happens when you begin to align more with the “soul” part of you, is that you begin to have things happen to you that make it more difficult to relate to others at times.
You may begin to feel, see, and desire different things that sets you apart from the rest. You may become more detached and potentially not enjoy the things you used to enjoy in the same way anymore.
Values or other perceptions you felt once were a part of who you thought you were may begin to fall away as your human character expands beyond what you thought it could ever be.
Seeing the Duality More Clearly: My “Higher Self” Is a Parent to Me
I like to say this journey of awareness really accelerated starting at age 17, and I am now 35. It has taken me this long to be aware of this “soul” part of me to the degree I am now, after developing my mental tools.
In one key experience I had which was some type of random out of body experience, I sensed my “higher self” presence there directly. It felt as though it was the parent and I was the child, yet both were me! It’s hard to make logical sense of with the way we understand things, as it did feel like a separate presence from me in some way, but it was pretty clear that it wasn’t somebody else.
After that for about two weeks, I felt this incredibly secure, beautiful, unimaginable sense of love. It felt like something was taking care of me, showing it loved me and wrapping me in the most unbelievable security blanket. It wasn’t a presence I sensed at that time, but rather just the love itself.
I still don’t fully know where that sense of love came from, but I believe it may have been a result of experiencing that higher consciousness state in the way I did.
The Expansion of Your Understanding of Your Identity
As you continue to wake up to your soul’s presence and understand that you are not just merely the human character you’ve been playing for so long, there is usually a bit of an initial shock or time period of integrating this knowledge. Because quite honestly, it changes your life completely. But it only comes to you when you are ready.
When this integration happens, over time you slowly start to uncover things that feel like you simply had long forgotten them. But at the same time, you can’t put these memories on any kind of timeline. They feel like they are coming more from another dimension (for lack of a potentially better term) than they are another “time.”
For one thing, I began to constantly get what feels like pieces of memories coming from this “soul” part of me. I was able to feel that it not coming from the same part of me that my typical human memories come from. But these memories are so vague that I can’t hold on to them for more than a second. However they often offer me some recognition of something. They often feel like a very sudden remembrance and confirmation of something I experienced but once again, on a timeline I cannot pinpoint.
No matter where you’re at in your life in terms of understanding who you are and how things work, I think the most important thing to take away from all this is simply to believe in yourself and trust in yourself. Learn to go within.
Sometimes this starts by simply questioning who you think you are and why. Where do some of your opinions and perceptions come from? What types of emotional attachments might you have that drive your desire to interpret something one way or another?
Try to look at yourself objectively and with an open mind, and watch how your thoughts tend to process things. Are you mostly negative or positive? Where is the negativity coming from, and does it have any basis?
The journey within typically starts with questions and really learning to acknowledge why you are feeling what you are feeling, without judging yourself.
It’s all easier said than done, but it is one of the most worthwhile journeys there is — and it becomes an endless river of learning as well as many rewards along the way. Over time, you’ll begin to have more confidence, depth, and clarity than you could’ve imagined having.
In this world we will continually experience battles between the ego and the “soul” or higher self parts of us, whether we realize it or not.
Personally, my first most obvious battle in this way happened when I was 21, when I reached a very crucial point in my meditation sessions (I had been meditating constantly at this age). I had been spending two hours per day, five days per week, at a Zen Buddhist center in New Mexico where I had been living. I had been doing this for months.
Later on that year, I went on a camping trip where I camped out at a music festival for a week with my mom. I was dedicated to my meditation at this point, so I really didn’t do much except meditate there. It became kind of like a meditation retreat, meditating for most of the entire days I was there.
The more I meditated, the more I began to progress into this higher awareness state. This is when everything began to change.
For one thing, my senses were greatly heightened. I remember being able to hear a cat’s footsteps as it was walking around outside, and I could hear them so insanely acutely. The cat wasn’t even that close to me.
I began to sleep in a completely different way. I didn’t like this at all, because I could never tell if I was actually sleeping or not. Some part of me always felt really awake even while asleep, and this was maddening. It was nothing like a lucid dream, in fact I’m not sure I was dreaming at all during this time. If anything I would probably say I was constantly awake, and this worried me as I truly didn’t know if I was ever getting any real sleep whatsoever.
The pressure in my forehead (which I guess would be called the “third eye” area) would become so overwhelming at times that it would practically force my eyes shut, and I would often then fall into those sleep states.
I also became hyper-aware of the concepts we understand ourselves and the world through, and how limiting those can be. They literally serve as a box that keep us from experiencing the true expansiveness of ourselves and the world.
When I talked to people, I felt myself responding with my whole self, rather than just my mind. This is difficult to explain. But usually when we are talking with someone, our mind is conjuring up in the background how we want to respond, or how we want to word it, or just feeling out the response conceptually in general. With the constant meditation I was doing, my mind was not in the way nearly as much as usual, and it was like the responses to people came from the depth of my being without my mind in the way at all. It’s almost as though I had no awareness of myself as I responded to people. I just responded. I was one with the response.
I also began to be able to see all of my mental states happening simultaneously, as though I were watching a movie where these “worlds” were being created. There was a world that my speech created, a world that my thoughts created, and a world that my actions created. Then, there was the pure awareness state outside of all of these, that I was merging with more and more.
I felt intuitively that I needed to have the world of my speech, thoughts, and actions completely in tune. It felt extraordinarily important for these to be completely in harmony, or else I would not be able to maintain higher awareness.
However, as I kept myself in this awareness state through meditation, I also began to become increasingly dissociated. Thoughts felt slower, and I began to feel very disconnected from my body. And the more that I became disconnected from my prior concept of myself, the more I felt like I was walking on air, and not the ground. I was becoming ungrounded. This went on for days. I told myself this was my new mode of being, a new experience of love and expansiveness. The problem was I realized over time that I was becoming out of balance.
I started to feel anxious, and like I was playing with fire. The anxiety spiraled with the pressure of knowing that the fear-filled thoughts I was having was keeping everything out of harmony, and I wouldn’t be able to keep higher awareness this way. But I couldn’t control it. I was beginning to experience a world where I didn’t know the rules or what anything was anymore. I also didn’t know how to consistently operate in a world where my conceptual understanding of things was falling away.
My ego felt the need to cling, to hold on to my prior understanding of myself and the world.
I got to a point where I got a very clear intuitive message that told me in order to continue, I would have to abandon everything I “knew to be real.” I literally had to abandon my understanding of my self, and any conceptual frameworks I had developed of things. Because ultimately, these concepts were limiting me.
The fear that I was feeling took over. It won. It had felt too much to me like I was traveling into no-man’s land, where I was out of control, and the fear of the unknown progressed into full blown panic attacks. For a year or two. I thought I was going insane at this point, because I felt like I had gone too far into this strange land to even come back the same person (I wish I had known at the time that this was just the fear talking).
A counselor I saw later on that was knowledgeable in spiritual things, told me that because I was so young and my ego had not developed yet, if I had “jumped off the deep end” into the unknown, it may have resulted in massive confusion and psychosis. She said very matter-of-factly, “ironically, you have to have a very stable ego in order to be ready to explore the realms of the soul.”
To this day, I still don’t know if that’s true. It is very clear to me now that the intense fear I was feeling came from the loosening of my entire framework of reality. Honestly most people would be scared shitless if, for example, they were to be thrown into the massiveness of space suddenly, feeling as though they were at the mercy of whatever. I did not know how to trust that process. How to trust that if what I understood as my self died, that I wouldn’t really die. Just my sense of self would.
In the moment, our ego can’t differentiate. We don’t realize how tightly we hold on to our sense of selves, because it is what we use here on Earth to operate as a self. It’s all we really know, unless of course we have a taste of our higher selves, and of higher consciousness states.
It was a very scary battle between who I thought I was and everything that encompasses, and my real, higher self. But, this battle was happening at a very rapid pace. At one moment I was embracing my new experience of life, a higher sense of love and oneness, and a temporary new way of operating. Then the next moment I was cowering in fear, extraordinarily scared I was losing control, and losing myself.
My ego won. I stopped. But that’s okay. Because I felt I did indeed delve too quickly and deeply into this new world, and I needed to take a step back. I think the whole process of loosening ourselves from our clinging to our concept of ourselves and the external world is something that needs to happen slowly, over many, many years of time.
It has also taken me years since that experience to even understand that my inherent desire to reach new heights of awareness was due to having a natural awareness to some degree of the higher self, and longing to return to the richer experiences of life that are available through these higher awareness states.
It’s a part of my self that is consistently wanting to bring my “lower” or ego-self up to the higher self’s level.
Having any awareness and experience of this higher self makes it more difficult to live in the contrast of the “lower” self. Therefore, it creates a sense of longing to return to the higher self’s reality. The reality that is far, far more expansive than the limited reality we typically experience here.
Another very important thing that hit me just recently is how real these higher experiences of love, of existence, of understanding, actually are.
The most unimaginable joy, pure love, and living with a higher level of awareness is very. fucking. real. These are not just dreams, a desire for an escape (though it can serve as that), or a plight of the imagination. It is totally achievable. But here on Earth, it’s very difficult. We have to be in such a place of mental freedom and openness before we can ever experience these things without our clinging to our conceptual understanding of things, as well as other mental obstacles bringing us down.
I also realized intuitively after this particular meditation experience that the different part of my selves were out of harmony. I was trying to experience a reality that I didn’t have the tools to integrate. Kind of like when you go on an acid or shrooms trip (which I haven’t done before), you gain great insights, but then you come back down and ultimately it fades into a memory, with very little or no integration into your daily life.
I had slightly more integration with this consistent meditation I was doing, but I also realized quickly afterwards that it was going to be a long road of developing my own tools and everyday awareness before I could hold and process the intensity of the reality I was experiencing during those temporary states.
Nowadays, as I go through this life, I get to experience that higher sense of joy and love much more consistently than I did before. The more I learn and grow, and the more aware I become, the more my mind expands and naturally allows for this reality to be experienced more regularly.
But all of this is where the battle of the ego lies. You might be lucky enough to be faced with the most unimaginable, otherworldly beauty you have ever seen on this Earth, whether it comes in the form of a higher consciousness state or a pure love, and you may experience it for a moment. But then if you have not worked on overcoming your mental obstacles, this beauty will simultaneously arouse all of your fears and any blockages you have that keep you from realizing higher awareness.
It can be scary. And if you don’t surrender, your ego will win, and you will shrink back down into your normal understanding of things, and you may even pretend what you saw wasn’t real. Or maybe you were just going crazy. You might even feel intense fear, anxiety, and anger, depending on the situation. It will all be your ego kicking and screaming, trying to hold on to what it thinks is real.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
But it’s all okay. It’s all part of the learning process. It takes many years, a lifetime, for us to surrender who we think we are and not allow the ego to have such a hold on ourselves. Some of us may never experience higher awareness states at all, until death. That’s okay too — we are all on our own personal journeys, and we experience the things we need to to help our own growth, at our own pace.
“In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
A long time ago, my talented best friend and spoken word artist Cory Russo wrote a poem about the power of pain and how it can change us entirely. For me, one of the most meaningful lines from this poem was, “I can make an atheist drop to his knees and pray — I AM PAIN.” (Click here to listen to her entire poem!).
This line is meaningful on many levels. For me, it has only become more relevant and meaningful over time, as I relate it to my journey of life’s experiences kicking my ass and deepening my character in the meantime.
It is my journey of a dominating skeptical attitude into openness, as I became more aware that this skepticism was primarily due to my own lack of awareness and knowledge, which in turn led me to believe that I was knowledgeable enough to assert my opinion on things I didn’t know enough about.
Like most people at one time of our lives or another, I was more aware of popular opinion regarding certain topics that seemed “illogical” and this is the stance I would take, without actually having proper experience regarding that topic.
Skepticism obviously isn’t necessarily bad — as everything should be examined properly and skepticism often exists for a reason.
However at the same time, it has the great potential to keep us closed, and doesn’t always allow us to actually examine from a neutral and open mind state. We don’t have to believe, but we don’t necessarily have to be skeptical, either.
Being open is ultimately about getting to a point in life where you have enough humility to understand that our levels of knowledge are always relative and life truly is a much more multi-dimensional place than we can fathom or experience easily here on Earth.
After 34 years on this Earth, I’m at a point now where I look back and see how much openness has given me vs. how much skepticism did. There is no comparison.
For example, if I had allowed skepticism to dominate what was happening to me during any consciousness-expanding experiences I had at a very young age (without knowing what the F was going on with me), I wouldn’t have learned from it the way I did.
During that sensitive time, I had to completely shut out the noise from the external world and really pay attention to what my own self was telling me about this experience. If I had listened to some others, I might have believed instead that I needed to be reeled in with some medication.
Now, to elaborate on pain and suffering.
Many of us that are trying to understand the mystery of our existence often wonder why, if there’s some sort of higher power, that pain and suffering are allowed to exist to the extent that they do. What is their purpose? Why would a higher power make us suffer seemingly needlessly at times, if there is one?
It is something I had pondered on some occasions myself, but as I grow in awareness I feel I’m starting to understand it a bit more.
There is not necessarily one easy answer, as there are multiple reasons why pain and suffering occurs. Sometimes we cause our own, from our own lack of awareness. In those cases it is just simply cause and effect.
For whatever reason, from a young age I had multiple consciousness-expanding experiences that shattered my reality as I knew it.
My entire life felt like an illusion as I had discovered new inner worlds on another consciousness plane, not produced by thought and conception, but as a literal direct experience.
While I learned certain things in the moment of those experiences, it has taken me years to process each one of them and really understand them more over time.
These experiences did not come from a firmly held belief in anything. They were simply something that happened as a result of listening to myself and following these “feelings” I was getting from my intuition.
I was always very eager to share them with people, but with these not being common or well-understood phenomena, I was usually met with responses like, “are you SURE you weren’t on any drugs?”. Thankfully, this did not make me question the validity of my experiences. They had shaken my world in a way that was unlike anything I could have imagined, and I felt like I needed to share what I saw with the entire world. I felt I had a very important message.
But, people learn things at their own rate and in their own due time. It was not my place to control that, as much as my ego desired people to understand. All I could do is tell my story and leave it at that.
After the first experience, I still did have many unanswered questions about life and existence (and still do). There are many things I simply can’t know yet and am not going to pretend to. Each subsequent experience would show me a little more context, but generally what they gave me was more insight into the nature of our true selves, or our essence.
They led me to understand that there is more to our selves than what we experience here on Earth.
Yet as significant as these experiences were, the insights gained from them felt very obvious and clear. This knowledge is something that is with us all the time! It is just blocked by so many elements of our humanly experience. All of it was completely familiar. It was just finding something so essential that I had just long forgotten.
The best way I can explain it is that it was literally like waking up from a dream (the dream in this case being your current understanding and experience of your entire existence) into a completely new “world” where you suddenly meet your “real” self and you directly experience that you had merely been playing this human role your entire life, thinking that the role itself was you.
What an illusion! And what incredibly immense JOY it was to encounter my “real” entire self again! To see that there really IS more than this human drama we are playing out; that all of our sorrows, our worries, our pain, would someday be put in perspective. It feels like such an insane relief.
I had never known joy like what I felt in that experience. I literally cried for days out of happiness in meeting this part of myself. There is no way I could respond except by just an endless release of emotion. In attempting to explain it to my mom, I’m sure she thought I was nuts. I had no words.
There is no comparison between way that I see and understand life after these experiences versus my perspective prior — i.e., the “me” at that time that thought, “I have no reason to believe there is any form of existence after death or let alone any higher power. Why would I?”
And honestly, at that time, I was right — I didn’t have a reason to believe it. I had no personal experiences or insight into any other mode of existence, and I was never the type to blindly believe things like this. I was never religious, never believed in God (especially not in the traditional sense), and I had been a self-professed atheist or agnostic. I was once actually almost prideful to proclaim that I thought we entirely cease to exist after death.
That being said, words never fully do an experience like this justice.Unless you’ve had a similar experience, it’s easy to underestimate how much this can shift your entire psychological landscape.
It’s not just, “oh I didn’t know this and now I do,” the way typical knowledge acquisition works. No. It felt like I got a whole new operating system — and it mentally opened up door after door to new realizations. My beliefs didn’t change; I was just simply awake.
Occasionally I would casually ponder as to why this knowledge regarding our selves is as uncommon as it is. Why is it for the majority of us that our consciousness levels are lowered to the point that we have no recollection of these things unless we have some sort of consciousness-expanding experience?
I have learned over time that there is a VERY good reason why we aren’t able to easily remember our existence outside the Earth realm. Continuing to play the “human role” after meeting the “essence” or “soul” of ourselves and seeing that it’s so much more massive than this and not confined to this body, can feel very odd at times to say the least. It can make it incredibly more difficult to focus on just having a normal human experience if we are not ready to properly integrate the knowledge with our existence here.
Regardless, I understood that we are here on Earth to have an experience, no matter what that experience entails. Within the experience will be many trials and lessons.
So, any pain and suffering we may go through — it may be seem needless or unjust, but it’s not us or even close to our entire story.
However, suffering WILL ALWAYS deepen our characters and give us perspectives we may not have been able to have had otherwise. It rounds out our character and strengthens our spirit.
Ram Dass speaks on this all the time. He is a former Harvard Psychology professor who turned Hindu spiritual teacher and later in his life suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body.
I’ll take this passage from one of his most recent articles:
“There is a line from a letter that I wrote to the parents of a young girl who was raped and murdered that I would like to share with you. It said, ‘Something in you dies when you bear the unbearable. In other words, you go beyond just the horror and pain of it because it takes you beyond it. You can’t bear it and it is only in the dark night of the soul that you’re prepared to see as God sees and to love as God loves.’
It’s the horrible beauty of the Universe and to realize that there is a wisdom inherent in it, and that wisdom includes suffering and that all suffering is not an error. Until you are resting in a place that understands that, it’s quite presumptuous to think you know best. I have watched in the work I do with people that are dying, where they suffer and suffer and suffer and if I could, as a human emotional heart, I would do everything I could to take away their suffering. It breaks my heart that they’re suffering and I watch as the suffering burns its way until they finally give up because the suffering is so great. I’ve watched as they give up, something emerges in their being that is so beautiful and so radiant and so spiritually innocent, that it’s like they meet a part of their being that has been hidden all their lives. It’s like an egg being cracked open.”
He also talks at length about what suffering through his stroke has given him, and that he wishes that all people could experience the grace that the suffering gave him, but without the unfortunate experience of the stroke itself.
It is from people like Ram Dass and my own consciousness-expanding experiences I was able to have that I feel compelled to share this message:
The experiences we have here on Earth are all for a purpose and there is hidden beauty in them that we will eventually be able to see. The greatest part is that it is not our entire story, so we must have hope that one day we will be able to see the greater context for why we are going through what we are going through.
My wish is that you may retain a glimmer of hope and that every minute, every second that you fight a battle you are strengthening your own spirit (even if it feels like the opposite) and the end result will be something beautiful.
If you’re currently suffering from anything at all, hang in there and know that you are not alone, and there is a bigger picture that you will see one day that will bring you a peace and understanding like you could never imagine.
”The wound is the place where the light enters you.” —Rumi
For as far back in my history as I can think of, living on Earth has always felt very surreal to me. As a child, I never thought much of it except that I didn’t feel like “a real girl” (my words back then exactly). As a teen, I still thought it was probably something temporary and that it would go away over time.
But as an adult, things have gotten even more surreal to me, to the point where I’m more aware that I’m not usually fully mentally involved in situations that are happening. There is a part of me that is living out my experiences, and another part of me deep within that is simply observing. I feel as though I have primarily come to identify with the part of me that is observing moreso than I identify with the part that is involved.
A large part of this stems from being persistently cognizant of the mystery of our selves; the fact that in any given moment, we are human beings playing a part in a world primarily created by us, with the rest being a mystery.
I am very much aware that the situations I find myself in — even the most subtle and normal of them — often exist as a result of some sort of expectation or following suit of the way things currently are. It is an order of operation of the status quo; a tiny combination of cause and effect in an infinite pool of possible circumstantial combinations.
I find myself then prodding into the unknown or the unborn of any given moment; first observing what currently is, then next dreaming up what could be or what should be.
So, what does this have to do with ego? Ego as I’m describing it here, is basically everything that we have come to define our own roles as in this play of our existence. Every action we take and every thought or perception we have is largely influenced by the entire framework of our experiences, of learning and conditioning, institutions we are a part of such as schools, our jobs, impressions of ourselves from others, how we are treated, patterns, addictions, wounds, or expectations of how we should be acting.
We become extraordinarily attached to who we think we are and often the situations we find ourselves in as a result — as the way we understand and interpret our existence is all we have ever known. Often we become controlled by or lost in these definitions and habits that come as a result of all of our experiences. We feel like we are more in control than we actually are, not realizing how much of our perspectives and actions are at times a product of expectation or conditioning, and aren’t necessarily coming from a deeper place.
All of this can lead into the life path we end up taking and what we achieve and why we achieve it, as well as who we end up associating with, and ultimately our sense of self-worth.
Our sense of self-worth is something that rather being subject to all the varying definitions of our existence, should ideally be uncovered only by our inner seeking and through the stripping of the layers of what we have built on top of our selves, to eventually the reach the core. The multitude of realizations we have of ourselves in this uncovering process is intriguing and will fill us with a new life energy we might not have had before.
In doing this, we begin to develop the satisfaction of understanding ourselves and our place in the world on a much deeper level that is unshaken by all of the varying and subjective perceptions and situations we find ourselves a part of.
We also slowly stop defining ourselves by what we have achieved or what group we’re a part of or anything else, but rather as simply defined by the universe. Our sense of self expands and we become capable of more love and personal power than ever before, which then allows us to live that much more wholeheartedly. This reveals a new kind of fulfillment.
The best way to start or enhance this discovery process is just simply spending more time being with ourselves. By deliberately listening to ourselves and shutting off all external noise and influences.
Meditation, or meditation-like exercises such as writing or yoga are fantastic for this, as they allow us to explore the inner recesses of our mind. With time, we then will begin to reach parts of ourselves we may have never otherwise touched.
“The ‘me’ — the Dan Millman who had lived long ago was gone forever, a flashing moment in time — but I remained unchanged through all ages. I was now Myself, the Consciousness which observed all, was all. All my separate parts would continue forever; forever changing, forever new.
I realized now that the Grim Reaper, the Death Dan Millman had so feared, had been his great illusion. His life, too, had been an illusion, a problem, nothing more than a humorous incident when Consciousness had forgotten itself.
I had lost all my roles, all my morals, all my fear back there on the mountain.
I could no longer be controlled. What punishment could possibly threaten me?
Yet, though I had no code of behavior, I felt what was balanced, what was
appropriate, and what was loving. I was capable of loving action, and nothing
else. He had said it; what could be a greater power?”
Admittedly, there are a lot of things I’ve experienced that I wish I could just show people. Not use words, but rather send them a download telepathically that they can play and absorb with their minds in order to understand it. For some of the most memorable experiences in life, words either fall short or do not suffice at all.
In this case, they may barely suffice, but I will try.
The Nature of My Own Spirituality
For most of my life, I thought of myself as something close to an atheist, though I was born with a strong spiritual sense. Spirituality, as I define it, is as simple and inherent as self-awareness. It does not constitute a belief system of any kind. It stems off of senses and experiences as one learns to explore and uncover their own selves.
Therefore, exploring spirituality was always a natural experience for me and did not have any external influence. It was and is a personal journey and also as natural of a part of me as my own leg or eyeballs.
I also have never been one to just believe things without personal experience or evidence backing it, no matter the social pressure or any other reason. And, to look or cling to anything external would be to entirely ignore the messages and discoveries that I was finding by looking within.
However it wasn’t until about a year ago, at age 31, that I came to some major realizations that my mind had previously somewhat sensed but not fully realized.
It came as a result of years and years of being introspective. Of exploring the nature of the identities we develop on Earth all the way down to extraordinarily subtle clues my intuition picked up on as I continued my exploration of the soul (I won’t and can’t get into debates of reason on what the soul is and why, for to do so would lose the message in details that won’t get us anywhere).
“I wish I were a real girl” – Me at Age 6
Part of it stemmed from the fact that I’ve always had a sense of not feeling like this body, or me as I was experiencing myself, was the full “me.” In my day-to-day experience of this life for as long as I can remember (even reaching far back to as young as 5), there has ALWAYS been an undertone of feeling like the part of myself I identified with the most was not the one interacting here on Earth on a daily basis, or doing anything that I do here – working, talking, writing, being a human, and so on.
All of these things felt (and still feel) secondary to me, but for most of my life I didn’t know why and I didn’t pay all that much attention to it. They just felt like things I had learned to do and that I was doing what I needed to do to live.
But overall, this life for me has always felt like a dream.
It has always had a sense of surrealism to it, for me. I’ve always had a sense that beyond just being involved with it, I was kind of just watching it and trying my best to fit in.
This persistent underlying feeling is what led me to delve even deeper then to ask the question, “where then, am I?” – or what part of my being or what circumstance do I need to experience myself in to feel like I am fully expressing or being “me?”
The answer came to me, but it took a long, long time.
I don’t think I will ever feel like fully “me,” until the death of this body. What I realized is that I am very in tune with my soul or “higher self”, and have been able to feel its presence strongly throughout my lifetime.
Exploring the Soul Deeply Requires a Specific Understanding of the Nature of Our Identities
What can seem mind-boggling through all of this is that to be able to explore the soul’s “identity” requires a very specific and important harmony of almost what I see as two separate identities (that are also essentially one) at once: our identities/personality as created by our Earthly lives as well as our soul identity.
I had made a mistake at age 21 when I still had much to learn and I was pursuing my soul (or higher states of consciousness) through consistent meditation with the aim of “getting somewhere.” I had already had a prior spiritual experience and thought I needed to bring another one on to “get farther” in my understanding of my existence.
My problem was that I was not yet ready for the lessons I was seeking, and I was bringing them on by force and by a very linear perspective of progression.
We bring on our own understanding by the willingness to have an open mind and also to seek, but the right perspective is also absolutely necessary.
We have to be truly ready. And reason for this is that the soul is massive.
Our souls extend far beyond what we understand ourselves as here on Earth, and being able to understand yourself as a soul means you are ready to not just understand, but EXPERIENCE your connection and your core to all of creation itself.
This often means letting go of what you think you are. Of what you have learned to define yourself by, which has influences from everything we can think of. From school and peers and how they define us, from how our parents might have defined us, what society has told us is important to measure ourselves by, to more subtle things like what our ideologies are and how they match with others’. The list goes on.
Most people may not have even thought of beginning the work of erasing these ideas (why would they if they don’t question it too much, or are too busy to question it?) and do not understand what it would require.
Many people take recreational drugs to experience a brief period of opening up to other experiences of themselves or of life. To learn new lessons and gain new spiritual insights. I totally understand the draw (meditation did the same for me – it was my drug); but here too, I feel as though more often than not they are not doing the legwork to be able to bring these experiences on through their own intellectual and spiritual development.
Therefore, the experiences of themselves in these new realms are fleeting. When your intellectual, conscious, spiritual development does not match that of the experience you are having, your understanding will ultimately be limited and you may not even get the results you desire.
The Soul Contains Knowledge and Memories Beyond Time and Space As We Know It
Receiving messages and discoveries from this part of me often felt like they came from a timeline that was not anything I would ever be able to put my finger on. I believe it’s because these realizations came from a part of me that this knowledge was already IN, and were not only relevant to this lifetime, but I was only now in my lifetime uncovering it.
However, it’s clear to me now that the knowledge was not just coming from a linear time frame such as “before” this life or what have you, but that my brain was interpreting it as such.
The nature of the knowledge was timeless, deeply buried, yet always available. It was only the contrast between this fact and the point in time of being able to be consciously aware of it that gave it a sense of being from a long, long time ago.
Every time I would uncover something it also felt the opposite of mystical. It felt natural, normal, and completely made sense. It would feel like I was simply remembering something I already knew, but not from any definable point in my current existence.
Some of What I’ve Learned – In a Nutshell
The soul has had a journey of its own, that is separate yet also one with the journey we have in our current lifetimes.
I still don’t personally know for sure if we live multiple incarnations. Previously, I was never one to believe in past lives (again, what reason would I have had to believe that? How would I be able to really know?), but it was by journeying within my soul over years of time that I saw, and experienced memories and knowledge that led me to understand myself in an infinitely more massive way. I do know that our essence, our energy does not die. We do not exist in the Earthly shell we have defined as ourselves forever. Our essence exists as a form of energy that is one with a palpitating whole, and it is beautiful, vibrant, and full of love.
The soul has its own store of knowledge and memories, that are also separate yet one with our current lives on Earth. It’s no wonder they are so difficult to remember; as this knowledge and memories are not recalled in the same way we would recall any other knowledge or memories from our lives on Earth. So for many of us, we wouldn’t know where or how to look for these soul memories.
We have to learn to listen to ourselves and realize how much external messages might be detracting us from what’s within. The more we get in touch with our own selves, the more we will realize our true nature and begin to remember things that are buried what seems to be infinitely deeply within our essences.It is by doing this that we will reach heightened levels of compassion for all of creation as we realize that although we have separate manifestations, at our core we truly are all one.
When I was younger and a good thing happened in my life, I was always full of wishes for it to last forever. I’d say to myself “please PLEASE let me have this person in my life forever!!!” or what have you — I’d plead and beg to myself that things wouldn’t change and that it was something I could keep, in its exact state, as it was in that moment. I’m sure most of those of you reading this can relate.
It’s like that first love you had that was unlike anything you had ever experienced and allowed you to experience a whole new range of emotions and maybe made you feel a little more grown up, like you could say you finally knew what this “love” thing was all about.
It might’ve helped you form your identity by having this new experience with another human being and made you feel more important, because you were getting extra validation of your actions and your existence with this close relationship, and through each other you begin to meet new people who see you not just as an individual but a unit.
But as I have gotten older, the passage of time has told me the necessity of change. However, it has also shown me how resistant some of us still are to it. Even as we age, most of us have a plethora of external circumstances that continue to validate our actions. We learn to look to external sources — be it people, structures and systems such as school, accomplishments, careers, and what have you — as tools to measure our existence by.
It’s hard to ignore, because it happens by habit and by growing up in a society with structured systems that each of us plays a part in. Everything becomes a matter of relativity to something else; we’re making less money than someone else, we’re a different color than someone else, we didn’t accomplish a certain number of degrees compared to someone else, and thus the list goes on forever…and in even more subtler ways we might not immediately recognize.
We might be in and out of relationships that put us in different life situations where we have varying social statuses or introduce us to situations that are new and we discover new dimensions to add to what we understand as our identity.
Sometimes we notice how other people (or groups of people) react to us as a person and use that to understand ourselves or our placement in this world. Our identity really ends up becoming the sum of comparisons against something else, or a sum of the reflection of others’ opinions. And sometimes, we forget to learn how to look beyond all of it to reveal the source.
It might sound in words more simple than it is, but it is really complex, because from the time we were born, we have been introduced to life on earth and society as it is in this current state. We learn to understand ourselves only in the context of the current state of our world. If we don’t naturally explore other ideas frequently in our minds, learning to uncover our core can be a major undertaking.
These days, I use meditation and frequent contemplation to discover what deeply rooted perceptions I might have that were built from the time I was a kid or during days where I didn’t know better. I try to observe my day-to-day emotions and actions and see where they might be stemming from, or what is provoking them.
In my opinion, there is nothing more valuable than the evolution of the self. Relationships of all kinds, achievements and the like are important, but if they are becoming a hindrance to your potential, this is likely an issue or will become one. Healthy relationships and circumstances should be helping you to propel you forward, or should at least be supportive as you reach new heights in your understanding of your self.
And without change, we would suffer. We’d never grow, be pushed out of our comfort zone, and come to understand the world in new ways. We’d never reach new heights of happiness or release the chains of our mind that might be holding us back.
If change comes knocking at your door, open it with welcome arms and remind yourself that it might be the opportunity of a lifetime, even if it’s disguised behind a veil.
“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a person’s life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience.” — Martin Buber