I have this morning ritual that goes like this: press snooze 8 times, finally turn off the alarm, oversleep, get up, drink lemon water + celery juice, and then I’m supposed to meditate. What I really want to do is go directly to the coffee pot, drink the entire thing, and eat a bagel. When it is meditation time, even after years and years of doing it, I still resist the practice. My ego convinces me that I have better things to do than to sit on my arse and go within for 20 loooong minutes. My higher self, on the other hand, gently (yet firmly) reminds me that if I want a slice of peace, an understanding of my feelings (the good, bad, and ugly), and a connection to Loving Guidance, then I better sit my bum down and carve only 20 minutes out of my day to get that medicine.
The yogis have a Sanskrit term called atman which means the inner self/soul. The atman is inextricably linked to Brahman which is essentially the Divine. Brahman is all pervasive and transcends notions of masculine/feminine deities because Its’ true nature is infinite, eternal, bliss. In the Western world, Brahman is usually identified as “Universe” or “Divine” or “Love.” I assert that most of us need to dissect this huge concept of the Divine into deities/figures that are relatable and accessible which can range from Jesus to Kali to bodhisattvas. Depending on your spiritual/religious flavor, in meditation, you open the doorway into the Divine of your understanding. Your higher self (atman) takes the leads into the omniscient, ever-loving presence of Spirit (Brahman). Along the way, you encounter everything from your deepest fears to your deepest joys.
Here’s the deal: your ego (or at least mine) is not interested in such a journey because as we confront our fears, feelings, and desires, our higher self will ask us to discard beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve us (that we are extremely attached to); it will ask us to adopt particular habits (that seem super inconvenient); the higher self will urge you to let go of old resentments that have become toxic to your psyche (but you’re convinced that those thick layers of pain protect your heart). To top it off, the higher self reminds you that even if you follow inner guidance, there’s no guarantee of perfect results and everlasting happiness. But here’s the thing: the higher self knows that there is no such thing as perfect and a permanently happy state. It understands that human life is marked by fluctuations and impermanence. While the Buddhists articulated the reality of impermanence, the ancient cultures of the Divine Feminine (most of our ancestors) certainly understood this phenomenon given the prominence of spiral circles. These symbolize the temporary nature of Life and her conditions.
The higher self understands the cyclical nature of Life. Emotions and experiences ebb and flow; we have seasons of death and rebirth. We outgrow people, places, and things. We grow into new mentalities. Throughout our unraveling and awakening, we experience discomfort and ecstasy. We learn about inspired action and surrendering results. We understand the value of equanimity. We feel Spirit and know S/he guides us through the sorrows and joys. We understand our impermanency and touch our true nature: eternal Love (just like Brahman/Divine). We recognize we are It and It is us. There is no separation. We are always connected to Divine Love. Deep down, beyond the pain, beyond the beauty, we are Love.
The ego isn’t too keen on this whole impermanent/circle of Life journey because it believes it can control outcomes and longevity. It is not interested in changing if there are no guarantees. In the ego’s limited perspective (usually underpinned by fear), the ego sincerely thinks it can outsmart anything if you stay the course with those patterns that are usually unhelpful. The ego thinks that if it can dwell in them long enough, it will ultimately gain control of whatever the circumstance is.
For instance, if you want to feel better in your body, the ego may convince you that it is too hard to consistently incorporate healthy foods and exercise; it will be easier to binge and then restrict. If you can just restrict for long enough, then you’ll get to that “perfect” weight. Then you can eat all you want again. Then restrict. Then binge. And so on and so forth. Or, you may have a dream to be an artist, author, business owner, massage therapist, etc., but your ego says that it takes too much effort to accomplish the goal and its too scary to put yourself out there. People will criticize you and won’t appreciate your talents. In an effort to protect you, the ego will convince you that you aren’t prepared or qualified. You always have one more thing to do before you put your dreams into action. If you stay distracted and fearful long enough, then the dream will perish and you will “finally” feel free of the burden of following your calling. You’ll somehow feel “safer” if you give up.
These are some of the ways the ego tries to control outcomes. The ego is not doing that because it is an a-hole. The ego is not inherently bad. It is just limited in its perception. It only cares about your survival and keeping you safe and comfortable. Even if it comes at the cost of your growth. Even if it keeps you small and silent or arrogant and harsh.
Back to my morning routine. Most of the times, my higher self wins the “do I meditate” battle. I’ve never once regretted meditating and always feel better for it in my mind, body, and soul. Then there are days where I need a break from going within and processing and spiraling. I don’t shame myself for this. I do my best to not feel guilty. Instead, I go directly to the coffee, and if it is a Saturday, it may be a mimosa with breakfast potatoes. And my higher self applauds this. I deserve rest and play interspersed in my journey. We all do.
Vanessa Soriano is a 500-hour registered yoga teacher who completed her yogic training in India. She also has a PhD in Women’s Spirituality (an interdisciplinary, multicultural, female-centric approach to the study of spirituality and religion) from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Given her educational background, she has discovered helpful (healing) content that empowers the mind, body, and soul. As an empowerment educator, Vanessa guides you on how to integrate beliefs and practices that invigorate and support you.