Where is the Self?

Where is the Self?

On How Many Hearts?, a commenter asked why some teachers talk about the Self being in the center of the head and others in the heart. I thought the response was worth sharing. I’ve added more.

The Self or Atman aka self-interacting consciousness is universal and thus is located everywhere, infusing everything. It is the essential medium of all we experience, including what is experiencing, the process of experience and what we experience. Form, emotion, thought, or sensation and what is noticing these – it’s all consciousness. And yet, at its highest, we recognize that Atman is aware universally and at every point within itself. One of those points can be said to be what is experiencing here, in this body.

Thus, while universal it is simultaneously experiencing from a point here and there.

What are the mechanics of this in form? There is a thread that comes in the top of the head and feeds the chakras. The chakras are what channel life force into this form. Depending on our relationship with those centers, we may experience the Self most easily in one or another chakra.

The witness value, for example, is most easily noticed in or behind the head area or the 6th or third eye chakra. As this is also the center of subtle seeing, it may well be considered the “location” of the Self, where Self sees itself most obviously.

On the other hand, the heart chakra is where the jiva (soul or point value) resides during the life. The heart is a junction and fulcrum point that is key. We can most easily Feel the Self here.

Thus, if we’re a seer, we may lean to the first. If we’re more heart oriented, the second.

This also may relate to where someone is in the post-awakening descent process. With Self-Realization, the “head” is often more dominant. In God Consciousness, the heart is more dominant. Then in Unity, Self is recognized in the world so the localization is wherever the attention is. We “become” wherever the attention goes, recognizing ourselves as that by being it and experiencing from that point. This body is just the default observation point.

While Unity may have an associated gut release and Brahman a root grounding, they’re less oriented this way, so head and heart are the more prominent “locations” for the Self to be known.

This illustrates part of why teachers and traditions will describe the details differently. It depends on how it was experienced subjectively. Also, what stage they’re describing from. For example, in this article, I’m using a high Unity perspective as it’s the most inclusive of consciousness. That perspective then gets passed down as “truth” and the larger context slowly gets lost.

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  1. Jim

    Thank you David – a fantastic point for expression and discussion. I whole-heartedly concur with your assessment.

    Thanks for this accurate perspective on the sixth chakra in contrast to where Atman resides. An interesting thing is as the heart fully informs the sixth chakra, the 3rd eye experiences begin to take on an intimacy, even while witnessed, and consequently begin to be imbued with quite a lot of power. Even positively affecting the foundations of life itself. Can happen anywhere that the attention is naturally drawn, both locally and otherwise.

    So the witnessing function, which once was an experience of separation, now comes full circle and rejoins activity.

    The distinctiveness of the witness remains, yet it now finds itself fully integrated into the three worlds, and intimately connected – A stepping stone to the full expression of human life, and fulfillment of our partnership with the Divine.

    1. Hi Jim
      Thanks. And yes, I’d equate that with a Unity process. Where the attention goes we recognize we are. But then knowing that reveals its mechanics and unlocks its potential.

      Or we could say, awakens it’s laws of nature. When we experience from source, we flow source wherever the attention goes, awakening it too. Hence the potency of darshan with the very awake.

  2. This article has a pre and post-awakening approach. Someone prior to this may best notice Self or presence a number of different ways. For example, a more somatic person may notice peace and presence bodily. Or they may feel presence in some part of the body that is most familiar or amenable.

    Or it may be a more general “within.” Or it may be during intense physical activity or during a performance. Or it may be in the “field.”

    As we become more clear and more conscious, there will be a tendency to get more specific or more universal.

  3. N

    Hi David,

    Thanks. When I think of the physiology it would make sense, that there is a centralisation in the head, because the brain governs so much if not everything in our body. Many organs can be replaced except the brain. What do you think of that?

    1. Hi N
      Many of us have a strong head orientation due to it being a mind interface and the senses concentrating there.

      But science has recently discovered the gut has more neurons than the brain (hence “gut brain”) and the heart can also be more prominent.

      This is more related to our orientation than actuality.

      I tend to see the brain more as an interface and processor. It’s a remarkable organ but not the governor we make it. Thats more subtle.

      1. N

        OK, thanks. But I was wondering – don’t you think that Ramana Maharshi or Bhagavan Nityananda would have known that they experienced the Self more dominantly in one place because of their own uniqueness and not because it was universally true?

        1. Hi N
          I don’t know. It depends on how much they think their experience is The reality and how much they’ve been exposed to others awake.

          I’ve been lucky enough to have been exposed to a huge variety of variations. That is a very recent development as so many more have shifted.

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