I remember the first time I realized that voice in my head was not actually me. This statement may sound crazy to most people, but for anyone that’s on a spiritual path, I am sure you can relate to a similar A-HA moment. That realization that there was an observer of the incessant chatter in my mind was the most liberating and empowering discovery of my life.

That little voice (often called the ego) had controlled the show for as long as I could remember. All of its worries, judgements, impulses and rants I would follow without introspection. Becoming the conscious observer of this voice was a game changer, it was the moment I regained power over my unconscious behaviours and began the journey of getting to know ‘the quite observer’ which I now know to be my inner self, my soul or my essence.

Getting to know the ego

If you’ve been doing this work for awhile, you’re probably aware of the ego that runs a mile a minute in your mind if left to its own devices. Referred to as the ‘monkey mind’ in Buddhist scripture, this little voice likes to bounce around weighing in on absolutely everything forming judgements, opinions and beliefs that can be easily confused as truth. The ego began forming in infancy and is the basis of your self image and personality.

The ego is the voice of the subconscious mind and its primary job is to keep you safe. Though its motives are altruistic, its methods are obsolete in a world where no wild animals are about to eat you and finding food for dinner is the least of your concerns.

As evolved beings living in modern society, we no longer need to operate in this fight or flight state. Our ego isn’t aware of this though, so in any situation it’s always trying stay in the comfort zone to avoid any potential pitfalls that could occur as a result of a new experience.

Getting to know the inner self

The inner self is the quiet girl who sits calmly in the corner of the classroom. You wouldn’t even notice her amongst the chaos and disorder all around. She’s not fazed by the lack of attention though; she’s completely content taking it all in, enjoying one new experience after the next; being the quiet observer. When you do acknowledge her, you feel a shift within. She’s intriguing. Something just feels so right about her.

If you haven’t guessed yet I’m talking about your inner self. Higher self, inner being, presence, essence, soul, intuition; these are all other words to describe the same thing. Your inner self sits quietly in the background; it’s the observer of the thoughts and experiences around you, and it communicates more as a feeling than a voice.

Many spiritually aligned people believe the inner self and the soul to be inextricable. This is the enduring part of you that exists outside of the physical reality of this human experience. Your inner self is who you are deep down without labels, roles or identities. Often spoken about in energetic terms, this part of you is connected to the divine, Universe, Source, God (or whatever higher power or life force you choose to believe in).

Your inner self is rooted in love. Choices made from this place are always for your highest and best good, and for the best good of everyone around you.

How to tell if it’s the ego or the inner self

This is where a lot of people get hung up. They understand there are two internal influences, good cop bad cop if you will, but they have a tough time differentiating the two. Here are five ways I use to detect if that internal voice is coming from the ego or the inner self:

  • What is the nature?

The easiest way I can tell if the instruction I’m receiving is the ego or the inner self is the nature of the communication. If it’s a thought out of fear (or any derivative of fear like worry, guilt, shame etc.) I know it’s the ego not the inner self. Even in the shittiest of circumstances the inner self will still be shining love and positivity. Crashed the car? An opportunity to appreciate life. Failed a test? An opportunity to clearly define your path. Relationship ended? The doors have just opened for another. In all of these situations the ego would project fear, lack, judgement (and the like).

  • Where is it coming from?

Many people can tell if it’s the ego or the inner self by how it feels in their body. For me, the ego comes from my head, whereas the inner self is more of a body feeling (more of a knowing). The ego causes physical pressure in my head, it causes my face to tighten and my jaw to clench, while the inner self feels warm and relaxing.

  • How does it feel?

This is another easy distinction. If something makes you feel bad, it’s likely the voice of the ego. If it feels good, it’s the inner self. If you’re making an important decision ask yourself what the right option is, know the best decision by the way it makes you feel.

  • Sit in silence

Quieting the mind through meditation is an excellent way to tap into your inner self. It’s as simple as sitting or lying down and becoming aware of thought. Your inner self is the observer of the thought, not the thought itself. This distinction can be very powerful. After spending some time observing thought, it will naturally just subside. What you are left with is this glorious space of presence, this is your inner self shining in all of her glory. From this place of clarity go ahead and ask yourself anything, your inner self is ready with an answer.

  • Write it down

Many people find the written word as an excellent way to connect within. Grab a journal and let it all spill. Write down a question and before thought can interject, allow the pen to provide you an answer. This may take some practice but connecting with your inner self by journaling is a powerful way to access the dialogue of your inner voice.

No matter how long you’ve been practicing this stuff, challenges still arise and confusion between the ego and the inner self still comes up. The important thing is to practice noticing the difference between the inner being and the ego. Get in the habit of aligning with your inner self when making important decisions, instead of letting the noisy ego run the show. Know that the loving inner self is always there for you during tough times and even when the ego is shouting at the top of its lungs, shedding awareness on it is the quickest way to dissolve it into nothingness and reclaim your true, innate, joyous state.

Originally published at www.cloudsanddirt.co