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How to Connect with the Self: Higher Self, or Core Self

A gravel road through a lush green forest in the spring. The road is bordered by green grasses, blackberry bushes, and tall trees.
Hoyles Mill Conservation Park, Boyds, Maryland. Photo from @raining.tulips on Instagram.

I shared a reel on my personal Instagram the other day documenting my first solo “hike” through a forest trail in Maryland. I went because I heard loud and clear in my mind to go – while some often hear their higher selves, deities, or energies and spirits they work with, I hear my parts; my teenage-self was practically demanding I go.

Nature, and the forest specifically, have always been a personal place of spiritual and emotional safety. It has been a place for deep healing, release, and connecting with myself. And while nature and forest bathing is a common source of this peacefulness among many in the spiritual community, I recognize it might not be for everyone – there’s something else I want to emphasize.

It wasn’t until I was back from my little walk and exploration, when I was reflecting while journaling, that I realized it may have been my teenage part that wanted me to go, it may have been the forest spirits that called me to explore, but the entire time, I was connecting to my core self.

I’ve already mentioned two things that might have sounded confusing: teenage “part,” and “core self.” Parts and the core self are both things that I’ve connected to in the past year of my practice, and have led me to some of the deepest healing and transformation I’ve ever experienced.

Essentially, these are terms from something called “internal family systems.” Resources can also be found on Google by searching “parts work.” In parts work, you can sort different expierences, emotions, and even more, into different parts in order to work through them, come to deeper self-understanding, and heal. If you’ve ever used vocabulary like “I dislike that part of me,” or “a part of me wants to, but another can’t,” you may have experienced parts work without even realizing it.

That’s a really base-line way of putting it – Cosmic Corner Savannah, nor I the writer, are professional or licensed therapists, and we highly encourage looking into one if Internal Family Systems sounds interesting to you.

In parts work, there are 13 traits of the core self. In my personal expierence, these 13 traits, feelings, and expierences bleed into the spiritual community as ways to get into “flow state,” or a state of mind where time, the self, and the world don’t really seem to exist.

On that hike, while exploring trampled veer offs and finding new plants and bugs I’d never seen before, and totally engaging with the scents and sounds of the forest, I was in that flow state. I was connecting with my true, core, higher-self – whatever you want to call it.

And I think it might be easier for us all to connect with than we really think. Here are 9 of the 13 core traits and how you might connect with them in any setting:

1. Compassion When we are compassionate with ourselves and others, we are experiencing something innate to all human beings, fostering understand with ourselves and others, and becoming more gentle with the world around us. Compassion can be anything from not forcing yourself to stretch to far in work or yoga, listening to a friend or family member’s troubles, or doing something good for the earth or world without expecting anything in return.

2. Curiosity If you’ve ever had a child in your life, you’ve witnesses pure curiosity and the magic it can hold. You can practice curiosity by trying new places, foods, things, making new friends, or by engaging with your interests and falling down the rabbit-hole of knowledge. A recent google of mine that resulted from my hike was “common dragonflies Maryland,” and took me down a wonderful black-hole of information that I allowed myself to find fascinating.

3. Courage It takes courage to face hard feelings, memories, challenges in work, sport, and life in general. Anytime you take a deep breath and have courage, you are figuring out what your boundaries and limits are, and proving that you can go beyond your comfort zone – expanding what you can do and be.

4. Clarity Anyone who has meditated, had a prayer answered, a burst of insight or inspiration, or an “a-ha” moment has experienced clarity – true knowledge of the self. It can be a little hard to conjure, but when you feel it, revel in it. Cherish it.

5. Creativity Whatever creativity means to you – set aside some time and fall deeply into it, no interruptions. You’ll be amazed at what you can discover and release.

6. Connected There are so many ways to feel connected – from spending quality time with friends and family, having deep conversations with strangers or loved ones, practicing your love language, sitting in nature, watching the city lights glimmer from a parking-garage roof, or driving with the music blasting and windows open.

7. Confidence Similar to courage, anytime you are mustering confidence, you are expanding your beliefs around who and what you can be, and becoming more accepting and understanding of yourself and the world around you.

8. Calm Many of my calmest moments have felt the most pure and down to earth. Napping with my cat curled up by my stomach, sitting on the edge of a cliff watching the lake water below, floating in a boat, watching the world float by from a plane…it’s a type of expierence you can conjure, and you can relish in when it happens randomly. I recommend writing in your phone’s note app a list of things that make you feel truly calm and at peace, and try and scatter them into your life when possible.

9. Playful Again, anyone who has been a child or has a child in their life will know the joy that engaging in play can be. Play is a combination of curiosity and creativity, as well as being extremely present in the moment. It can be extremely refreshing and calming. Engage in play by trying new things, roller skating or biking, painting, playing video games, or honestly, buying yourself a set of stacking cups or blocks (I have entertained myself for hours playing with my niece’s toodler toys – I can’t explain why)…anything that feels fun to you is engaging in play.

What I have noticed myself is that while you are experiencing these moments or feelings, you are not thinking of the self. You are totally in the moment, too present to even think of if you’re being present or being yourself.

You simply just are – and that’s what the self is. It just is.

These core traits and ideas can help us interact with and foster space for the self. I do so now by going on walks through the forest; nature and hiking may be a bit cliché in the spiritual community, but it works for me. There will be something that works for you.

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