Grasping the notion of a “higher self” can seem like a tricky exercise, a challenge better suited to meditators and spiritual gurus. But it’s not as esoteric and abstract as it seems—and the life-changing rewards in store for those who learn to access it are innumerable and invaluable.

“You will go through life in a much lighter, more joyful way,” says Scott L. Rogers, the director of the Mindfulness in Law Program at the University of Miami and author of The Elements of Mindfulness. “You’ll transform the things that are getting you stuck in life into avenues of freedom and liberation. You’ll be able to more fully connect with another human being and learn in the process. When you come to others with your higher self, their higher self will emerge. It allows you to look within yourself for answers and trust what emerges.”

But what exactly is a higher self, and how can we manifest it?

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In essence (literally), your higher self is the part of you that is unencumbered by ego and the divisions it can stoke between you and your fellow humans. It’s the non-material dimension of you (some call it a soul or spirit) that's part of the cosmic or celestial whole.

In religious traditions and ancient wisdoms—from Christianity to Hinduism to Sufism—Rogers points out, when you connect with the Divine, which we’re all a part of, you’re connecting to your higher self. A formulation in Hinduism posits that the barriers keeping us from the One dissolve when we connect with our atma (the Sanskirt word for “inner self” or “soul”) and recognize that “all is one,” as Rogers puts it. “The more we can free ourselves from the shackles of that disconnect, the more we can fully inhabit that oneness we all share.”

The first step to gaining access to your higher—and one might say, best—self to know that the answers to your questions are within you. If you don’t believe this fundamental truth, Roger says, it’s going to be difficult to tap into your transcendent self. A mantra or affirmation you might try, Roger says, is “The answers are within me. We are all a part of the whole. We all have access to wisdom and compassion.”

While cultivating this self-understanding, Roger says, we must hone our capacity for patience. “There’s a saying in Taoism, from the Tao Te Ching (an ancient Chinese text), which goes something like, ‘Do you have the patience to wait for the mud to settle, for the water to become clear and the answer to arise?” Actively (or inorganically) searching for the answer will make the waters more muddy and the answer more elusive. Use your breath, “the conduit to your higher self,” to harness the power of patience. “In Judaism, and the Bible, God breathes life into us, and that’s our soul,” he says, emphasizing the connection between our breath and higher self.

Finally, in order to honor and act on the answers that take shape, Roger says you must trust yourself, a muscle you will strengthen the more you abide in the inner truths that emerge.

Once you begin to steadily nurture these three qualities, you’ll be living your life with your higher self in the driver’s seat—and going to places you never imagined.

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