Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Connecting With Our Higher Self

    Increasingly in my daily life,meditation and contemplative walks in nature I am trying to deepen my heart connection to my Higher Self. I no longer consider my higher Self as an abstraction. I now think of this aspect of my consciousness as an "old friend" that has been with me a long time - perhaps all my life - yet for most of my life I have not been consciously aware of his existence. Now as I deepen the sense of a personal ongoing connection I feel more his companionship - he's a source of inspiration, loving sustenance and inner peace.

   At least a dozen years ago in order to make our relationship more personal - less an abstract concept - I named this aspect of my consciousness. I called my Higher Self "Wiseheart." I think of Wiseheart as the source of my capacity for deep compassion and the carrier of my knowledge- conscious and unconscious, learned and unlearned - in the realm of the heart. I also think of him as the source of my Self-love. I imagine him as a bearded old man with a wizened face. In my office I have a wooden image of his face,carved from second growth redwood, that is tucked into a corner behind the chair my patients sit in.

   Five or ten minutes before I begin my morning/afternoon's work I look at this carved image of Wiseheart and say "Help me to be a source of compassion and heart wisdom for my patients today." Then I do some meditational breathing as a way of connecting more deeply to him and letting go of the thoughts and feelings of my ordinary ego consciousness. During sessions,whenever I sense that my small heart is constricting, because I'm feeling depleted or my patient is talking about some big pain or very complex situation, I again look at the carving of Wiseheart. At that moment I again try to connect to him, I breathe deeply and with my exhale breath let go of whatever may be causing me to distance myself. By doing this during every session - often several times - I am able to remain a compassionate presence for hours without becoming emotionally distant or tired.

   No one ever told me about the importance of connecting to my Higher Self. No one ever taught me any way of remaining a compassionate loving presence during sessions with my patients. At this time of my life, as an elder in the field of psychotherapy, I mentor my supervises and patients who are health professionals by talking with them about what I do and encouraging them to develop their own ways of personally connecting to their own Higher Self.

   I am acutely aware that within the broad spectrum of ways of being a psychotherapist or counselor there is also a wide range of perspectives about higher consciousness. When talking to my supervisees and patients I try to connect to each person's individual cosmology. For some I use the term Higher Self: for some,who have experience with the Recovery perspective, I use the phrase personal Higher Power; for others with a transpersonal perspective we find a term that fits for them; for those with a Christian perspective I use the term Christ Consciousness; for those with a Buddhist worldview i use the term Buddha Nature. From a pragmatic viewpoint - with an awareness that there are differences among these notions - I am trying to connect with whatever fits into the cosmology of that person.

   Richard calls his Higher Self "Father Dan." A former priest, who now has a private practice as a psychotherapist and pastoral counselor, Richard is tapping into his warm memories of his compassionate and insightful mentor whose real name was Father dan. At this time of his life Richard imagines Father Dan sitting in the living room of the cabin in the woods where he used to visit his mentor during retreats. At that time he was a priest in his late 20's and early 30's. Now Richard has internalized that memory of Father Dan as his image of his own Higher Self.

   Carl, a message therapist in his late thirties, has no visual image of his Higher Self. Instead he has developed this felt sense of a compassionate loving non-judgmental energetic presence. During our sessions Carl will periodically close his eyes and do some deep breathing when he wants to connect to his Higher Self. As he feels his breathing become less constricted, he also feels a releasing of muscular tension in his neck and shoulders. At these moments he can sense the presence of his Higher Self. During these times he feels more receptive to important insights and compassion towards himself and others. Carl also reports that he now does this kind of connecting to his Higher Self before and during his work with his clients.

   This topic is discussed in more depth in the Recharging and Small Heart, Big Heart chapters of Working From the Heart.