Dr. Deepak Chopra is no stranger to the world of spirituality and healing. On his blog at Intentblog, he has written a two part series of articles on What is Self? both are excellent articles. Here is something from the second one where he gives – a recipe for reaching a higher self and getting away from the lower one!
First, you accept that you and the world you live in is continuous only at the level of the higher self, or consciousness if you prefer that term.
Second, you see that birth and death are discontinuities that interrupt this eternal continuity. Which means basically that all experience is also discontinuous. Your brain is a quantum machine for making the world seem to flow along–and you to flow along in it–using the raw material of electrical and chemical activity.
Third, because it is connected to the real continuity, your brain can be used to shift your perception from the unreal to the real. Perception has this amazing ability to look onto itself. Self-consciousness is a real phenomenon, and our greatest ally.
The illusion created by the brain is complex but being interrelated, you can get at it any way you want, and your efforts will affect the whole system. I think of the process in three steps:
1. Notice what’s real
2. Give it significance
3. Value it
By “real” I mean any quality that you are taking from the higher self, any way that you are participating in it.
QUALITIES OF THE HIGHER SELF: The things you can begin to participate in
Telling the truth
Feeling that you love and are loved
Beauty in all its forms
Appreciation of Nature
Instinct, intuition, inner knowing
Self-sufficiency, knowing that you are enough
Trusting your inner intelligence
Evolving, growing, progressing
Feeling that presence of Being
Eternity, infinity, a faint sense of being outside time
Connection to a tradition of wisdom
Acceptance, tolerance, appreciation of common humanity
Having a vision and following it
Patience and forgiveness with yourself and others
These are laudable qualities that almost nobody thinks they disagree with. But actions speak louder than beliefs. How many do you actually participate in? Until you give these things significance and value, the cords of connection to the higher self remain weak. It’s worth noting that society and our own egos have a huge stake in doing the opposite of everything on this list. Your present allegiance is to a discontinuous self–one separated from the higher self–with its long history of habits and biases.
QUALITIES OF THE LOWER SELF: The things you might be participating in
Avoiding the truth because it’s painful or unpopular
Feeling that you aren’t loved, doling out your own love meagerly
Ignoring beauty as a luxury or add-on to the more serious things in life
Forgetting or despoiling Nature
Ignoring instinct and intuition, judging them to be irrational or “a woman’s thing”
Feeling that you are lacking, dependent on someone else to be complete
Relying on the opinions and beliefs of others, second-hand thinking
Defending the status quo, ignoring self-growth
Feeling lonely, embattled, disconnected
Feeling the emptiness of life, fearing that you have a void inside
Being weighed down by aging and the burden of old experiences
Adhering to no tradition of wisdom, scoffing at wisdom
Sitting in judgment, seeing others as inferiors
Living for status, money, possessions instead of following a vision
Being a perfectionist who criticizes yourself and others constantly
The difference between these two lists couldn’t be more clear cut, and it’s understandable that like it or not, everyone has a lot invested in the second list, which keeps perpetuating the enormous suffering we see all around us. To break the habits of the lower self, given that they have been imprinted for a long, long time, is a big challenge. But isn’t it the only way to live? We must begin to see how chaotic and discontinuous we really are. At any given moment, our minds are caroming from one event to the next, and it is nearly impossible to focus on the self because it keeps slipping away to a new activity.
This brings up the principle of one-pointedness or mindfulness. Neither is mystical or difficult. When you are mindful, you remind yourself that you want to follow the qualities of the higher self rather than the lower. When you are one-pointed, you are focusing on your vision instead of the million and one distractions thrown up by the lower self. To use the beautiful Buddhist imagery, the self is like a full moon seen on a lake, where the waves chop the moon up into a thousand pieces.
You don’t have to practice Yoga ten hours a day to be self-conscious, one-pointed, or mindful. But some discipline is needed; otherwise, the machinery of the lower self keeps rolling along. Some seekers are comfortable with a strict regimen of spiritual practices. I find that this way makes me an most other people very uncomfortable, because kicking the habit of the lower self is a lot harder than kicking cigarettes or overeating.
Not to be too casual, I prefer the Chinese menu approach. I know that my ego-personality is hungry for experience, but I also know that it won’t be hungry for long, and it won’t stick with one food for long, however nutritious that food may be. So I give it a list of choices. Here’s what’s on the menu, and I find that at any given moment, my ego-personality finds at least one item attractive, which is all I ask:
A SPIRITUAL MENU
–Stop for a moment and say to yourself, “I am conscious.” Feel what that is like.
–Sit quietly and feel your body for a few moments
–Close your eyes and meditate
–Close your eyes and feel the gentle in and out of your breath
–Do something kind
–Give generously of time, money, or attention
–Regard someone in a better light than you usually do, suspend judgment
–Notice the voice of fear an ask it what it really wants you to know
–When you are able, ignore fear and look for a different viewpoint
–Stop and appreciate a flower, a sunset, the full moon
–Make a friendly comment to a stranger and pay attention to their response
–Befriend someone you regard as inferior, if only for five minutes
–Stop struggling if you can
–Release a bottled-up emotion in private
–When on the verge of issuing a critique, stop and use a positive reinforcement instead
–Check back with your highest vision of yourself and do something to further it
–Take one thing you know you’re doing wrong and correct it
–Say you’re sorry when it’s tough to do it
–When you most feel like arguing, back away for a day
–When you catch yourself harshly judging someone, ask if your blame is really a way to escape seeing the same bad quality in yourself
–Ask for viewpoints outside your own and take them seriously
–Ask someone else how they feel, be sincerely caring
–Direct love to someone who obviously needs it
–Pay attention to someone who is obviously asking for it
–Stop being suspicious, give the benefit of the doubt
–Give when you know it’s right
–Walk away form gossips and any kind of heated discussion of religion or politics
–Read something inspirational, keep in touch with the traditions of great sages and spiritual masters
If you can catch yourself in a habitual reaction, substitute one of these activities instead, and keep on doing that day after day, the influence of the higher self will become a factor in your life at the core rather than on the periphery. Whether you think of it as chipping away at your old conditioning, breaking bad habits, improving yourself, or reaching a higher state of evolution, this steady shift of allegiance to the higher self is what it takes to exchange illusion for reality.
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