Awakening to your essential self is an idea that has been around since human history began. It can be found in most or all religious and spiritual traditions, as well as modern New Age thinking. Simply put it’s the idea that human birth is a paradoxical experience. On the one hand we grow, mature, and adapt to become part of the human world; on the other, through the indoctrination of conditioning, we forget where we have come from and who or what we really are. So being born is waking into this world, but falling asleep to a deeper reality.
This book is about how we can awaken to our essential self in this lifetime and live to our full capacity and potential as a human being. Human beings are animalistic, compassionate, and divine—infinitely more splendid, amazing, and diverse than we can imagine. Most of us spend our lives in the first band—the animalistic level. Sometimes we rise to the second level and truly love, and feel compassionate. Fewer still make the heart the abiding center of their lives and even rarer is the human being who longs for the truth, for the eternal, and for the divine, and sees human life as a unique and precious opportunity for discovering the divine being that inheres within the psychic body-form.
Human beings mostly live at a fraction of their full potential. Try as we might, money, relationships, possessions, and prestige cannot fill the inner void. Potential and fulfillment, like satisfaction and joy, must be authentic and real. In fact they must be inner. We have a deep integrity about life and a great curiosity. Human beings have been questioning and questing for thousands of years. At the forefront of their field of interest is the search for their true nature, for something that is deathless. Some call it God, or Brahman, Allah, YHWH, or Great Spirit; it is changeless, omnipotent, omniscient, and immanent—more here than we are—and it is our human destiny to awaken to it.
This book charts the course of awakening to your essential self in three stages. The fulfillment of these three stages of human development is our innate capacity, and it is attained through a single, connected process of awakening.
The first stage, The Process of Self-Discovery, describes how we explore, understand, and finally transcend our small sense of self through identifying and shedding restrictive life conditioning, emotional and behavioral patterns, becoming whole, and fulfilling our personal potential.
The second stage, The Transformation into Authenticity, describes how we can reach the state of permanent change and personal authenticity by stabilizing in the personal changes we made in the first stage and empowering ourselves to relate authentically and compassionately to other people and the outer world. This stage is the flowering of personal inner work.
The third stage, The Source of Consciousness, describes the experience of living in the world when we have touched transcendent reality and understand who we really are. Through shedding illusion, living in the present, and re-centering in the True Self we at last live our divine nature.
Each stage includes abundant exercises and practices for your ongoing growth and development. You may simply wish to read Your Essential Self, but you will get far more out of it if you engage with the book as an interactive experience, because above all awakening is an experiential event. In short, you must practice. You cannot think your way to your essence.
Starting at the beginning is advisable, but if you scan the sections of this book and feel a strong impulse to go straight to a certain topic, please do so. I have found as I grow older that when I read books in a chaotic order sometimes they yield a greater wisdom. Having said that, I have arranged the book in sequential order and I have yet to meet anyone who genuinely reaches any one of the three stages before the previous ones.
The introduction is about how we come to inner work and it is important because how you start out is intimately related to the outcome of your inner search. In Chapter 1, I give you the basis for an inner work practice, via a clear model of how to approach inner work for maximum effectiveness and success.
The purpose of this book is to introduce you to an integrated, innovative, practical, and real model of the inner spiritual journey for self-understanding, growth, and healing. Your Essential Self helps you see where you’re at in your personal journey, where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, and where you’re headed, and to prepare you, in some cases, for what lies ahead. It also helps you to recognize what stages you may have skipped over and how you might remedy that, often through the exercises found at the end of each chapter.
Spiritual inner work is now a crucial activity for the modern world. Your Essential Self clearly connects personality and ego to true nature and enlightenment. It acts as a map for the inner journey and guides you through the stages of the process for inner work, discovering authenticity, and Self-realization.
In addition to teaching stories, ancient and modern, I have used case histories to amplify and illustrate. Because these accounts are real they do not always have “fairy-tale endings” (although sometimes they do). Names, gender, and specific details have been changed or adapted and the stories are sometimes a composite of different experiences in order to make individuals and events completely unrecognizable and preserve privacy and confidentiality.
What is Your Essential Self? 5
Who is This Book For? 8
How to Use This Book 11
Introduction to Your Essential Self 15
How We Come to Self-Exploration and Inner Work 15
A Crack in the Fabric 17
A Life-Changing Moment 27
Stage 1: The Process of Self-Discovery 34
1 The Basis for an Inner Practice 34
A Response to a Deep Longing 34
Inner Work Practice 35
The Essential Practice of Awareness 39
The Art of Listening 46
2 Identity, Separation, and Division 53
Going Back to Childhood: Deepening in the Present 53
Attachment to Personality and Character 59
Personal Stories 66 Giving to Ourselves: Working with Ego 72
3 The Dynamics of the Inner World 79
The Lessons of the Father and the Mother 79
The Baggage of Inner Characters 89
Boundaries Enable Relationship 93
Personal Empowerment 98
4 Relationships 105
Relationships and Projection 105
Ritualizing the End of a Relationship 109
The Path of Love 114
Acknowledgement and Support 119
5 Stages of Transition 127
Thresholds of Maturity 127
Learning from Everything 144
The Seven Stages of Forgiveness 148
6 A New Revolution in Awareness 158
The Thinning of the Veils 158
The Last Grains of Attachment 161
Healing the Original Wound 163
A Gate into New Consciousness 167
Remembering and Wholeness 171
Stage 2: The Transformation into Authenticity 176
7 Becoming Who You Are 176
The Bridge of Authenticity 177
Alone on the Threshold 178
Doing and Being 183
Clearing Up Loose Ends 187
Life Transforms 190
8 Responding from The Heart 195
Destiny and Purpose 195
Inhabiting the Heart: Practicing Compassion 199
Can We Love Enough? 202
9 Stabilising in Transformation 206
The Four Stages of Ego 206
10 Ways to Realization 224
Group Practice, Commitment, and Letting Go 224
Spiritual Questions and Divine Lessons 229
Beyond Contradiction and Paradox 233 Does Inner Work End? 238
Stage 3: The Source of Consciousness 247
11 Realizing Our True Nature 247
Beyond the Shadows of the Divine 247
Experiences of Transcendence 251
De-Spelling Illusion 255
The Divine Nature of Personality 259
The Unattainable Goal 260
Now: Freedom and Fear 264
12 Perpetual Illumination 271
No Teacher, No System 271
Who “I” Really Am 274
Spontaneity and Surrender 280
Richard Harvey (Granada, Spain) is a psychotherapist, author, and spiritual teacher with thirty-five years of experience. He is the founder-director of Therapy and Spirituality, a personal and spiritual growth center in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain. He has helped thousands of people find greater peace and fulfillment in their lives through workshops, courses, training, and private therapy practice.