by Sue Kapatoes, MHA, CPC


What is the Higher Self?

Your higher self or your spirit, is the real You who communicates to you through gut feelings, insights, and intuitive hunches. Your higher self is anchored within your heart center and always connected to you. It is the overseer of your life. It can see the bigger picture when you cannot because our perspective is limited while residing in a physical body.

The higher self is wise because it figuratively and literally has a higher perspective. It is not impacted by the ups-and-downs of daily life which stimulate emotions. It lives as a pure being in a continuously expanded state. It observes the events of our lives without judgement and provides unconditional love for us whenever we need it.


Canoeing in a River

Picture yourself in a canoe rowing down a winding river. There are many twists and turns in this river, and you cannot see around the bends. As you approach each bend, you keep rowing; sometimes you are pleasantly surprised when you see calm waters in front of you; other times you are taken aback when you find yourself in the middle of a turbulent current that you did not anticipate. The person in the canoe is your physical self.

Now imagine you are flying in a helicopter looking down upon this scene. You can see yourself rowing in the canoe, but now you can see every twist and turn that is laid out before your journey. You see how far you have traveled, and how far you have to go before reaching your final destination. You are able to perceive the fullness of time: past, present, and future. The person in the helicopter is your higher self.

You may come upon a split in the river and have a choice to make. One choice will take you to the higher path of love, compassion, and joy – the other choice will lead you towards a lower path strewn with fear, judgement, and anger. This is where your higher self comes into play, for it will always try to guide you to the higher path.


The Higher Perspective

Higher Self – Expanding and extending throughout the Universe.
Gut Feelings – Bridge connecting higher self and physical self.
I – Your physical self with limited third dimensional perspective.

 

How Does the Higher Self Communicate?

Our spirit constantly speaks to us through dreams, hunches, intuitive insights, and most of all, feelings. It wants us to pay attention to its continual presence. The key is to listen to those inner cues because they are trying to guide us towards the path that will be the most beneficial for us at the time.

  • Gut Feelings: They are more like a knowing. To put it simply, if something doesn’t feel right then it isn’t. We know this on an intuitive level. This is illustrated by the phenomenon of situational awareness in which someone can enter a room of people and immediately sense their energy. There could be a distinct air of tension among the group or a flow of positive energy reflecting a comfortable ease with one another. We have this sensory capability because the energy field surrounding our body interprets the energy field of another person instantly, before our brain even has the chance to process the situation.
  • Flashes of Insight: Downloads of information that are helpful. When I was trying to sell my condominium, I was debating about what to charge and could not decide upon a final price. When my fiancé and I were having a discussion about this topic, the number 245 suddenly appeared in my mind’s eye. I immediately knew that I was to charge $245K which is the exact amount that I received from the sale of my condo in 2017.
  • Intuitive Hunches: Subtle nudges towards something. We all get those inner cues to go to a particular store, attend a certain event, or just stay home and enjoy the family. Listen to those nudges as your higher self is speaking to you and trying to get you to pay attention.


How to Connect to Your Higher Self

Your higher self is always with you, but if you would like a stronger connection to help you navigate the avenues of life with greater ease and enjoyment, then you may follow these steps as a way to improve your connection:

  • Set Your Intention – Create an intention to have a stronger connection to your higher self and state it as often as you wish. I recommend to say it out loud as your voice carries a frequency that will magnify the power of your intention.
  • Listen to the Guidance – Once you ask to receive guidance from your higher self, it is important to listen, accept, and allow the wisdom to saturate your consciousness. It is very easy to shrug off a nudge, impulse, or gut feeling.
  • Implement the Guidance – Take the appropriate action to implement the guidance as you receive it.

Note: You know you are being guided by your higher self by the way that you feel. If you are feeling positive emotion, i.e. inspired, uplifted, or motivated, then your guidance is moving you in the right direction. You don’t always know the final outcome of a situation, but if your choices feel right, then they are supporting your movement forward.


The Benefits

  • Opens Doorways – When you are in alignment with your higher self, this connection opens doorways for higher knowledge to enter your consciousness which might otherwise be blocked from your awareness.
  • Support from the Higher Realms – The more attention we give to our higher self and implement its guidance, the more we are supported in our endeavors from the higher realms which means that the communication signals become stronger and clearer.
  • Clearer Understanding – Change is the Law of Nature. Being in alignment with our higher self does not mean there won’t be difficulties or challenges in our lives. Our understanding will continue to grow and evolve, allowing us to see obstacles as opportunities for growth.


Trust & Courage    

When you receive guidance from your Higher Self, it will take trust and courage to follow its advice, especially if you are just starting to become aware of the signs and signals. It is helpful to think of your connection with your higher self as any other relationship that you want to nourish and become stronger.

For example, if you want to build a stable relationship with your significant other, then you would show him or her how you care by the way you treat them. Your words, your intentions, and most of all, your actions will support or hinder the strength of this important connection.

In an ideal relationship, the energy that you share with another person is the energy that will be reciprocated back to you. This dynamic interchange is how it works with your higher self. If you are listening, paying attention, and following the guidance, then your Higher Self will meet you more than half-way with its consistent support and encouragement.


Letting Go

Surrendering to your higher self means surrendering to your heart and releasing what no longer serves you, especially negative thought patterns of the past. Our heart center is where we anchor our spirit/soul/higher self into our physical being.

  • To release: Breathe deeply in and out through your heart center. Allow yourself to feel the energy of unconditional love. The more you stay in heart-centered truth, the more love can flow into your life. This love can dissolve behavior imprints from the past, including addictions.
  • You must practice this simple technique over and over again until it begins to feel natural. As you breathe into the center of your heart, you are surrendering to the ease, grace, love, and wisdom that is a natural part of your being.
  • When you let go, you learn not to react emotionally but to respond from the heart. Negative emotional reactions will cause your energy field to constrict while positive responses will cause your energy field to expand.

You know that your energy field is constricted or expanded by the way that you feel. If you are experiencing a contracted state such as fear, judgment, or anger – you will feel closed, shut down, and withdrawn. If you are experiencing an expanded state such as love, compassion, or joy – you will feel open, expressive, and connected to family and friends.


Closing Thoughts

As you enhance your relationship with your higher self, this connection will result in more synchronicity and harmony within your life. Your higher self will help you to release what no longer serves you, especially negative thought patterns of the past. When you let go and allow the feeling of unconditional love to enter your heart, your life will be guided by the grace of your inner wisdom.

Key Words:  Higher Self, Stability, Stillness, Wisdom, Pure Being

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the symbiotic relationship between nutrition and meditation and why it is important to get these two into proper alignment. The foods that you are eating on a daily basis will influence your ability to think clearly and meditate effectively, so you’ll want to be mindful of your diet as you begin to experience the benefits of meditation which include an increase in calmness, improved mental clarity, and the ability to soothe the stress and anxiety of everyday living.

Before we get into the dietary aspects, I would like to provide a bit of information about myself as I have always been interested in the world of nutrition starting from a very young age. When I was about 7 years old, I used to love to eat cold cereal. As I ate my bowl of Cheerios, I placed several other boxes of cereal in front of me so I could read their nutrition labels as I enjoyed my breakfast.

At this young age, I did not know the meaning of carbohydrates, protein, or fat but I was fascinated with the percentages and intently compared each box against the other. Thus began my interest in the wellness arena. Since those early days of reading cereal labels, I have since earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and continue to be mindful of the foods that I consume on a daily basis.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Eastern practices in India, China, and Japan. It has a long history of use for promoting physical relaxation, improving emotional composure, decreasing stress, and enhancing overall health and well-being.

There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: (1) a quiet location, (2) a comfortable posture, (3) a focus of attention, and (4) a mindful attitude of letting distractions come and go without judging them.

Your Dietary Habits Will Influence Your Mind 

As you begin to meditate, it will be important that you become aware of the foods that you are consuming on a daily basis because the quality of your dietary intake will have an influence upon your meditative experience. Feeding your body a nourishing diet is a key for success because this will give your system a steady stream of energy along with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to obtain optimal health.

If you consistently suffer from blood sugar highs and lows on a day to day basis, you will have greater difficulty getting into the meditative state and holding it there for an extended period of time. Ideally, you want to be able to ‘get into the zone’ as easily as possible and maintain that state of mind as you progress through your session.

If you experience a blood sugar crash mid-way through, your body will pull you away from that meditative state and take you out of the zone. With this being said, here are some health-giving tips that will help to keep your mind in that reflective focus. After reading this blog, you will have a better idea of how to eat right in order to experience the best meditation results.

The Importance of Carbohydrates

Eating the right type of carbohydrates can not only boost your health, they can help you to concentrate and meditate more efficiently. According to the American Diabetes Association, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. We also intake energy in the form of protein and fats. For this discussion, we will be spotlighting our attention on carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are important for many functions within our body, including brain performance and blood sugar optimization.

Through research that has been performed over the years, it has been discovered that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Choosing the right kind of carbs to consume in your diet will have a beneficial impact upon your meditative experience.

Carbohydrates:  The Good vs. Bad

In general, there are two types of carbohydrates that we consume in our diet: non-processed (good) and processed (bad). The processed or simple carbs are found in candy, soda and syrups. These foods are made with refined sugars and typically do not have vitamins, minerals or fiber. This is why they are frequently called “empty calories.”

The non-processed or complex carbs are often found in starchy foods such as beans, peas, potatoes, corn, and whole-grain breads and cereal. These carbs get absorbed more slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels, thereby providing a more sustained energy level.

Processed carbs, on the other hand, cause bursts of energy much more quickly than complex carbs because of the quicker rate at which they are digested and absorbed. The processed carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels causing “sugar highs” which in turn can also cause “sugar lows.”

Common Sources of  Non-Processed Carbs:

  • Whole Grains
  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Beans & Legumes
  • Meat, Poultry, Seafood

Common Sources of Processed Carbs:

  • White Bread & Pasta
  • Soda & Syrups
  • Donuts & Pastry
  • Candy & Sweets
  • White Rice

Maintaining Homeostasis

If you eat two donuts and drink a can of soda at the same time, you will experience a temporary boost of energy. This is due to the insulin rapidly taking the sugar from your bloodstream and bringing it into the cells so the sugar can be used as energy. But, as that sugar is removed from the bloodstream, you’ll then suffer from a significant blood glucose crash, which will probably leave you ravenous, irritable, and very unable to concentrate.

The above explanation is a simplified version of how refined sugar is assimilated in your physical body, but it gives you an idea of how simple carbohydrates, such as white sugar, can influence your mood due to the way they are metabolized in the body. This is why it is important that you are not over consuming refined or processed carbohydrates, especially right before you begin a meditation.

It is best to focus on getting primarily unprocessed carbs in your diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. These types of carbs will aid the body in maintaining an environment of homeostasis which is defined as the stable state of an organism. Natural, wholesome foods provide a healthy source of fuel for the body, and they also contain a bounty of essential nutrients.

Light Meals Beforehand

There is a reason why meditation teachers and seasoned practitioners recommend waiting 1 to 2 hours after eating a meal to begin a meditation. This general rule has to do with the digestive process. If you try to meditate immediately after eating, you might feel sluggish and struggle to stay awake because the body streams more blood to the digestive system, and the brain releases serotonin that causes drowsiness.

Eating a large, heavy meal before meditating might be the most significant blunder that you could make as you settle into a comfortable position to begin your meditation. You want to make sure that you are feeling content, but not over satiated as this could cause lethargy.  If you are going to eat within 60 minutes of doing your meditation, keep it to small portions that contain around 300 calories which is more like a snack. Fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, or drinking a nutritious smoothie are all healthy choices.

Closing Thoughts

Meditation is part of a collective health and wellness program which includes taking care of your physical body while nourishing a strong mind. By eating right, you can maintain better concentration throughout your meditations.

Consider meditation as exercise for the mind, the same way that a jog or a session of yoga can help to strengthen your body. If you think about what you eat before you meditate the same way that you think about what you eat before you do physical exercise, you will be in good shape.

For overall well-being, it is best to choose wholesome and healthy foods that comprise the majority of your diet. Incorporating meditation into your daily life, even if it is just for five minutes a day, will cultivate centeredness and mental equanimity. By aligning these two elements, proper nutrition, and meditation, you will experience a more consistent state of health and balance.

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA,CPC

A Balance Beam Act

When I saw my niece perform her balance beam act for her gymnastics meet, I was astounded at her ability to sustain her poise. Watching as a spectator, it is blatantly apparent that the beam is narrow. It is only four inches wide. For the gymnasts, it takes a great amount of concentration to stay aligned and upright throughout the entire act. As my niece was placing one foot in front of the other, I thought to myself, “Isn’t life like a balance beam act?”

When you are centered and in-sync with yourself, you have the capability to make decisions from a place of inner power and stability. Like a gymnast walking the balance beam, it takes a conscious effort to remain within this empowered state of mind. But the more you practice getting in touch with the core of your being, the easier it becomes to tap into this essence and realize the benefits with greater consistency.

The key to navigating your life with ease is to maintain your equilibrium within a world filled with dualities and endless activity abounding from every direction. In this blog, we will discuss the concept of duality along with a tool that you can use to develop your sense of equanimity, a state of mental calmness and stability, especially under stress, strain, or a difficult situation.

What is Duality?

Duality is an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something. As hinted by the word “dual” within the word itself, duality refers to having two parts, often with opposite meanings, like the duality of good and evil, peace and war, up and down.

Duality has technical meanings in mathematics and physics. In mathematics, the property of two theorems, expressions, etc., of being dual to each other. In physics, quantum mechanics has shown us that light can behave as both a particle and a wave. As Albert Einstein wrote: [1]

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

Similar to the concept of duality is the Chinese philosophy of the yin and yang aspects of our lives that appear to oppose another, but can actually complement each other to benefit the good of the whole. When discussing the concept of duality, it is impossible to talk about the yin or the yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole. For example, there cannot be the bottom of a mountain without the top.

There are tangible dualities that run throughout all elements of our lives. From emotional states (happy vs. sad) to personality traits (ambitious vs. ambivalent) to physical sensations (hot vs. cold). It is important to balance these quality types in order to nurture our optimal well-being. When we harmonize our inner self, we can function with more efficiency and clarity.

To demonstrate the importance of balancing our dualistic natures, I will be using the example of the Type A and Type B personality types, including the yin and yang qualities that make up their character traits.

Type A and Type B Personality Theory

The Type A and Type B personality theory describes two contrasting personality types. People who are intensely competitive, highly organized, ambitious, impatient, aware of time management and/or aggressive are labeled Type A, while more relaxed personalities are labeled Type B.

This theory was developed by two cardiologists in the 1950s and had a significant impact on the evolvement of the field of psychology.

The Type A Personality

Type A people are known to be high-achievers, multi-taskers, status-conscious, and proactive. People with Type A personalities are often “workaholics.” They push themselves with deadlines and hate both delays and ambivalence. They are always in a race to achieve lofty goals and cannot rest on their laurels. They have an innate need to compete. If there is no obvious competition, they will create one.

As with all emotional attributes, there are consequences if these behaviors are taken to the extreme. A person with excessive Type A behavior may develop or experience the following: (1) free-floating hostility, triggered by minor incidents; (2) irritation and exasperation; (3) high stress due to competitive drive, and (4) severe edginess due to a sense of urgency.

The Type B Personality

Type B people typically live at lower stress levels and have a greater tendency to disregard physical or mental stress when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they may focus less on winning/losing and more on enjoying the game. They are usually attracted to careers of creativity such as being a writer, counselor, therapist, actor or actress. However, computer and information technology managers, professors, and judges are more likely to be Type B individuals as well. They are free thinkers and enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts. They are often reflective and contemplate both the “outer and inner world.”

Taken to the extreme, the Type B personality may become too lackadaisical. They could lose the ambition to advance their careers or progress in their personal lives. They may become unconcerned with the details of their life because they often believe that ‘everything will work out.’ Due to this fatalistic attitude, they have a tendency to leave much of their lives to chance instead of taking the initiative to forge their own path.

The Importance of Balance

When viewing the differences between the Type A and Type B personality types, we see that there are positive qualities to both character traits when they are in a balanced state. When either type is taken to the extreme, this is when the irrational behaviors start to manifest.

The Type A goal-driven mentality can be balanced with relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. The type B personality can be balanced by finding suitable work or hobbies that ignite their passion for living, creating a spark of enthusiasm.

Before we discuss the benefits of meditation as a tool that all people can use to maintain their equanimity, I would like to share a hypothetical story of three hikers and a mountain in order to illustrate the value of balance.

Three Hikers and a Mountain

Three hikers were getting ready to hike a beautiful mountain in Washington State. The skies were clear and the temperature was perfect. One of the hikers, Type A, was determined to reach the top of the mountain as quickly as possible. Type A was goal focused and knew she would reach her destination in exactly two hours. Another hiker, Type B, was determined to take her time to reach the top and not worry how long it would take to complete the journey. Type B was going to enjoy herself, and this was the first priority.

Balance, the third hiker, had a plan. She would arrive at the peak in approximately three hours. This would give her time to appreciate the breathtaking environment, but she would keep going at a steady pace until she reached the target. It was 8 am. If she reached the top by 11 am, this would give her enough time to explore the peak and eat lunch without having to rush. She would start her descent at 1 pm, leaving ample time to reach the bottom before it started to get dark.

Type A succeeded in reaching her goal in a quick two hours. She briskly walked the path with her eyes glued towards the ground, intent on the placement of her feet. The wild roses that were blooming in full grandeur escaped her attention. Their sweet scent drifting through the air, unnoticed by her senses which were completely devoted to finishing the task at hand. A majestic bald eagle was perched in a nearby tree, observing Type A as she strode by with steadfast conviction and singular concentration on the mission.

Type B reached the top of the mountain in five hours, but there was not enough time to eat her lunch and explore the environment. There was also the risk of darkness descending upon her as she hiked the long return. Type B enjoyed the delicate flowers, the bald eagle, the soothing streams, and the sauntering deer along the way. But her lack of foresight in planning this adventure was placing her in a dangerous situation of not reaching the bottom before dusk encroached upon her.

I use this example as a way to show that there are benefits to being goal-focused because Type A people get the job done. They are efficient and hyper-concentrated on the final target. But they tend to miss the joys of a life fulfilled by the heart. They forgo the simple pleasures in order to satisfy their sense of duty to complete the end objective.

Type B was able to reach the destination, but her lack of planning produced a stress-filled venture down the mountain. She thoroughly enjoyed the journey towards the goal but did not prepare for the entire show. She also was hyper-concentrated, but it was on the peripheral attractions, and not enough on the task at hand.

Balance employed a combination of both the Type A and Type B skillsets. She enjoyed the journey to the top but was also aware of the bigger picture. She was cognizant of the fact that she had to leave herself ample enough time for the return hike as well. This idea of being mindful of the entire experience, and not just focused on one element of it, can also be applied to the way we live our lives.

In this modern world, there can be many obstacles along the path towards fulfilling your dreams. These challenges have the potential to block or delay the attainment of your aspirations. Each one of us has different values, but if you can enjoy your life experience while cultivating your ambitions, then you have the best of both worlds.

Luckily, there are tools that you can use to strengthen your inner balance so that you can maintain your centeredness and focus. For this blog, I will be highlighting the benefits of meditation, a universal technique that can be practiced by anyone, regardless of personality type.

The Benefits of Meditation

In 2013, a Harvard Medical School Study [2] sought to verify the acute benefits of meditation after just one Relaxation Response (RR) session. The researchers were interested in discovering the molecular mechanisms that were responsible for counteracting the adverse effects of stress disorders. They measured acute transcriptional changes in genetic activity after participants listened to one relaxation CD.

Overview of Harvard Study:

  • Sample Size: 52 subjects, both RR veterans and novices.
  • Method: Listened to one relaxation CD, twenty minutes in length.
  • Blood Samples Taken: Prior, immediately after, fifteen minutes after listening to CD.
  • Results: There was an increase in energy metabolism, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance. A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration and prevents it from fusing with neighboring chromosomes. There was a decrease in blood pressure, inflammatory response, and stress-related pathways.
  • Conclusion: Human genetics are rapidly affected by RR techniques, such as meditation. Enhanced genomic activity causes physiological changes within our body via biological pathways that are linked to select gene sets. This study used advanced genomic testing to analyze transcriptional changes that occurred during one RR session. In molecular biology and genetics, transcriptional regulation is the means by which a cell regulates the conversion of DNA to RNA (transcription) which orchestrates gene activity.

The regulation of transcription is a vital process in all living organisms. The findings in this study suggest that RR techniques such as meditation can help to counteract the detrimental effects of stress-related disorders such as hypertension, anxiety, diabetes, and arthritis. It can also improve energy resiliency and cellular stability.

It is interesting to note that this study verified the short-term benefits of meditation. In other words, you do not have to be a seasoned practitioner in order to experience the positive effects of meditation. By simply listening to one relaxation CD, you can feel calm, centered, and peaceful. To have these effects last for a longer period of time, it is recommended to implement a meditative practice on a consistent basis.

Closing Thoughts

We live in a world of duality which is filled with opposing characteristics that are seemingly contradictory to one another. Even though there are yin and yang qualities that differ from each other, they are intrinsically bound to one another as parts of a mutual whole. For example, there cannot be the bottom of a ladder without the top.

Just as Einstein observed that the true nature of light can only be understood by comprehending its ability to behave as both a particle and a wave, so it is with human nature.

To understand our complex behavior patterns, we need to realize that there are dualistic principles that are present throughout all aspects of our lives. In order to maintain a sense of equanimity while navigating the avenues of life, mindfulness and meditation are tools that can be used to develop and preserve our inner clarity.

Mindfulness, in this aspect, comes in the form of awareness. Being aware that we have a choice as to where we would like to live in our mindset. We can choose to operate on the periphery of extremes, or we can choose a more balanced approach and make decisions from the center of our being which is our place of empowerment.

As we saw in the hiking example, Balance chose to combine her goal-focused determination along with her sense of enjoyment to get the most out of her experience. She saw the bigger picture, and this expanded perspective helped her to select the best course of action.

During life’s most challenging and rewarding times, in the balance is where your power resides.

 


[1] Harrison, David (2002). “Complementarity and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”. UPSCALE. Dept. of Physics, U. of Toronto.

[2] Bhasin MK, Dusek JA, Chang B-H, Joseph MG, Denninger JW, Fricchione GL, et al. (2013) Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62817. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062817