November 18

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Higher and Lower Self

What the Higher and Lower self are, how to get the best from your Lower Self, who you are and why you need your Lower Self to talk to your Higher Self

We all have split personalities, though many of us do not wish to admit that or have ever considered it as a possibility. We think and feel different things at different times. Our minds are nebulous and whimsical, and our personality is not fixed – we are the sum of many personalities that have developed to respond to different people, places and objects. Who we are can be influenced by external factors, and muddied by internal ones. For example, you can drug or surgically interfere with a brain in order to produce very strange beliefs and opinions.  We become can become clouded with emotion, and we can be influenced by others. So how do we know who we are?

What makes you who you are?

Who you are is a collective of experiences, biology, knowledge, spirit and consciousness. Each person is unique in this respect, and the identities of their Higher and Lower selves will be similarly bespoke. People will answer the question: “Who are you?” in different ways, but there are some commons responses.

The first most common response is that people will describe who they are by telling you what they do. They might tell you they’re an accountant who plays guitar, enjoys distilling their own spirits, reads science fiction novels, likes dirt biking and owns two dogs. This is an external and materially focussed system of valuation.

The second, less common response is that people will describe who they are by telling you what they value. They might tell you that they’re person who lives their life in a loving and compassionate way, seeks out activities that allow freedom, belonging and growth. They might be someone who practices temperance and courage, and who values honesty and justice in others. This an internal and immaterial, experience-focused system of valuation.

The Higher and Lower Self contain both of these ingredients. Few are purely materially motivated, nor are many of us able to operate purely motivated by good values – we’re human. And that means that there is much more to the story about our identity and who we are than this.

What is the Lower self?

The Lower Self is most often associated with more negative, base parts of who we are – though this is often an unfair association. Part of the reason it attracts some negative connotations is that the traits of the Lower Self are simply far easier to identify – they are often our faults, weaknesses, humiliations and failures. They can be the drivers of who we are, when we operate in a reactionary way, instead of a responsive way. The Lower Self is closely associated with ego and its functions. Often it is the Lower Self that makes instinctual, snap judgements or assumptions about things. It has developed to keep us alive as a biological animal, and so understandably has less civilised processes and desires than our Higher Self. The Lower Self acts and reacts, the Higher Self thinks and considers.

What is the Higher Self?

The Higher Self is associated with mindfulness, critical thinking, curiosity and observation. In emotionally healthy individuals, it displays unconditional acceptance and love of the Lower Self, because it recognises that the Lower Self is an important part of your overall identity – who you are is the sum of all parts, and the Lower Self has substantial input into this. The Higher Self is able to see who you are honestly, stripped of all vanity and obfuscations. Many people may never come to know their Higher Self – it can be a painful experience that requires a lot of courage to confront. To become aware of your Higher Self, is to recognise your Lower Self. This is a process that can generate fear, anxiety and uncertainty in people. Many of us don’t want to think about our negative traits too closely, it is often uncomfortable or distressing. However, we must come to terms with and accept our limitations in order to meet our Higher Self. When the Higher Self is discovered, it becomes the director of the input that the Lower Self sends it, and is able to observe and act based on considered thought, rather than knee-jerk decisions. It becomes our enlightened driver.

How to harness the Higher and Lower Self to be all of who you are

The Lower Self ought to be a tool of the Higher Self.  For this to occur we must apply introspection and meditation techniques to explore the terrain, learn to discriminate, learn to wrangle passions, and harness the tools at hand.

This is purification and the application of concentrated awareness, and the purification requires active conscious participation, at every possible moment. What begins being an unstable chore in the beginning becomes automatic, and we experience an inflow of ecstatic wisdom. Like learning anything new, we must practice changing our thinking and actions many times before it becomes instinctual. When the lower self becomes still and receptive, we can finally experience consciousness as undifferentiated, unrefracted light.

Asana (physical yoga) and pranayama (breath control) will drive the purification process, but it has to be hand in hand with yama and niyama (ethical and behavioural guidelines). We learn to direct our passion upwards instead of into the ditch, we channel our urge for expansion into fervent and persistent efforts. We expose our Lower Self to our Higher Self, we learn to love the discovery of blemishes in the personality that can be transformed.

Self-acceptance and self-love is rooted in the cooperation between the Higher and Lower Self

That’s what we need - to tune in to the subtle aspects of who we are. Become comfortable with humiliation, discomfort, grief, sadness, anger – difficult emotions. They are feelings and experiences, but not who we are. We needn’t be defined by momentary thoughts, feelings or actions. The personality will die in a few decades so we might as well disown it now, and live a more useful happy life without it getting in the way.

Remember that the Lower Self isn’t a bad thing, it’s just dilute, a filtered reflection of the divine imperative, pressing down upon us, urging us to grow and move forward.  So allow the urges within you to exist under observation. When they don’t make you act they become a source of energy – you are in control. You have to be able to feel it in you and do nothing with it. Don’t reject it and don’t act on it, just let it be in you.


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