“Suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten to remember myself!” Ouspensky
Many schools of psychology and beliefs refer the self as our conscious personality of who we are. Yoga philosophy talks of the lower self and the Higher Self. The lower self being our mind/body/ego self and the Higher Self being a Higher Being in us that is looking over the lower self (perhaps our Guardian Angel?).
Self Study or Svadyaya (a Sanskrit word and it is also one of the niyamas) is about getting to know our Self—not our little self. Self study does not mean to get into all the lower self issues!—that is the route many people misunderstand when they start a journey toward their self. Getting into all our issues only keeps us identified with them. Svadyaya is making the conscious decision to connect with our Higher Self and operate on that level—the soul to soul or heart to heart level that Ram Dass calls Soul Land.
So our challenge is to remember to connect and operate from our Higher Self, this is not hard to do, we just have to remember to do it.
Higher Self/lower self
Once you understand the difference between your Higher Self and lower self, the next realization is that we are not actually our lower self, we are our Higher Self. And to further realize that the Higher Self is the SAME in all of us, and the Higher Self can not be marred by the lower self. For example, the Higher Self is the same in Charles Manson as it is in Mother Theresa, as it is in you and me, in animals and our pets, and even in a tree or a rock! This is what religions and other various beliefs mean when the say we are all One.
This is also where the meaning of OM comes from, both yoga philosophy and science explain the world as starting from a single sound, science explains it as the “big bang theory” –an explosion that started the universe that was so great we can still hear it reverberating in the universe. The yogis say that big bang was the sound of OM that started creation, and when the mind is silent you can still hear the sound of OM reverberating through the universe.
And this is where peace begins when we operate from the belief that we all are One it is hard to make war against yourself, and once we realize the Earth is “us” it is hard to destroy and abuse ourself!
This is a method of developing connection with the Self, it is a useful practice on the path, although it must eventually be left behind with the other methods. It is an aspect of the ego used to extricate yourself from other aspects of the ego!
The witness is an observer of you, you step outside of yourself and “watch” yourself. The witness is not evaluative, it does not judge your actions—it merely notes them. Thus if you perform an act out of desire such as eating something that is not good for you, then you put yourself down for eating it . . . the witness—when it finally appears—would note (a) he/she is eating such-and-such, and (b) he/she is putting themselves down for eating such-and-such. The witness has thus noted a “you” of desires” and a super-ego you . . . two “you’s”. This is an important point to remember with using the witness tool; too often we think we are “good for doing this” or “bad for doing that”. You must make that evaluative role an object of contemplation as well. Remember the witness does not care whether you become enlightened or not! It merely notes how it all is.
So we develop the witness out of the need to separate our self from our Self. When you are working with the witness it will keep you present and prevent you from getting trapped in all the mind stuff. For example let’s say you are driving to work witnessing yourself driving to work . . . you are happy and relaxed just going with the flow of traffic—then someone pulls out in front of you, suddenly you lose the witness and become angry. Now you have become the “angry you” and only much later do you remember to get back to the witness. If you stay with the witness, and you witness yourself getting angry—it totally takes the steam out of it—you end up laughing at yourself! After a time (however long is necessary) you notice that although you still lose the witness (fall asleep, so to say) you catch yourself sooner—you catch yourself before you get angry—meaning you are getting to the point where the “falling asleep” is starting to “wake” you up! This is a big step forward.
Excerpts from Ram Dass “Paths to God Living the Bhagavad Gita” pps. 256-258
Another tool to connect to your Higher Self:
The Gayatri mantra is found in the Rig Veda (3.62.10). Gayatri means “she who protects the singer” (from gai –“to sing” and trai—“to protect”). Thus it refers to the Divine Mother, she who protects her children and leads them toward self-realization.
I play the Gayatri mantra frequently in classes and many of you have commented on how much you like this particular song!
The Gayatri Mantra in Sanskrit reads:
Om bhur, bhuvah, svah
Tat savitur verenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
The first line translates as OM, Earth, Sky, and Heaven
The next two lines connect us with our sun, the solar light within us, referring to our inner sun as our higher self
The final line makes a request, a petition for inner clarity and awareness—it simply states “guide us”.
The literal translation reads as follows:
OM, Earth, Sky, and Heaven (In each of the three planes of existence)
We recall within ourselves and meditate upon that wondrous Spirit of the Divine Solar Energy
May He/She Guide Us
This mantra is working to remind us of our Higher Self and to request guidance from this Self.
Learning this mantra and humming it to yourself throughout your day is a powerful reminder to stay connected and operate from our Higher Self.
The version I play in classes that everyone loves is by Deva Premal—it is from her album “The Essence”. You can purchase just that one song through iTunes for .99, just search Gayatri Mantra Deva Premal