Unit XI.  Personal Essence, Beingness

Materials needed: Large paper and felt pens.

Practices and Exercises:

Personal essence
Summary paper

"Who am I?" is the perennial unanswered question we all ask ourselves at one time or another, sometimes continuously. What am I doing here? Am I doing it right? Is this bodymind called, (your name), all there is; or is there another dimension of reality in which I have a being? If so, what is that and how do I access it? Do I want to? I think, on some level, we all know there is more than we have immediate perceptions of. There is a sense of Presence, from time to time, however nebulous it seems. And, once we admit that, the question arises about what relationship I would have or could create with this Being. A. H. Almaas (1990) has found some answers.Neither psychology nor traditional spiritual traditions describe adequately that part of us that is the real "I," the part of us that seeks to return to Spirit. This is not ego because ego is too limited and it is obviously mortal and vulnerable since it was learned in this lifetime. Nor is it the Divine One whom we credit with creation of the universe because that Being is much, much more powerful than we perceive ourselves to be. It could be the soul or the Higher Self or the Jivatman, but there is no consensus on what those terms mean. Almaas has addressed this problem directly and made a space for that inner sense of intermediate, executive Self. He calls it Personal Essence, and we find that it also grows and develops but on a much grander scale than ego or personality. Furthermore, Almaas ties it in with our daily life experience and shows how it is related to the early life social conditioning to which we are all subjected.

According to him, Personal Essence is

..the embodiment of Being... the true human being (p.17) It is the reality of which ego is only a reflection... the truly integrated and developed human being... 'the pearl beyond price.' (p. 32)... [It is] an ongoing sense of Beingness, completely independent of mind and memory, and hence completely free... the true autonomous individuation (p. 59)...made out of alive consciousness that is a palpable presence and not merely the capacity to be conscious (p. 92)... [It is] spirit in the world, living the personal life of a human being (p. 113)... Personal Essence is the experience of personal presence, the sense of being a person which does not have, and does not depend on, a sense of separateness (p. 409)... Personal Essence enables Being to function in the world (p. 460)... [and is] in actuality a cell in the oneness of Being. (P. 459)" (Almaas, 1990)*
This is the inner sense of 'I' that is independent of ego and that is capable of observing and thinking about ego, the authentic Self, that part of you that is traveling the path. Nowhere in psychology, until Almaas' work, has this aspect of Self been dealt with. Almaas has identified it as the embodiment of Being, how the Divine One is manifesting through each individual life. It is separate and distinct from ego which is learned. Personal Essence is eternal and is our own unique aspect of the Divine Being. It is related to, but not identical with, soul. Soul is the
..individual consciousness that had been structured as the ego individuality and is now experiencing its nature as Essence (p. 480)... [Soul] is implied when we refer to the human being as consciousness... Essence is seen as the essence of the soul, its deeper nature, and ego as its external manifestation. Being is then the experiential nature of Essence... ontological presence; it does not refer to a philosophical concept or to the everyday concept of existing (p. 485).*
This is that part of us which knows we are real. It transcends daily life but contemplates it. It may be somewhat analogous to the concepts of Buddhi or Atman in Yoga.

The concept of Personal Essence is being introduced here because it is related intimately with the self-investigation you will be undertaking in these modules. If we are to make the leap from ego to identification with Being, we must become closely acquainted with this aspect of ourselves. Almaas has created an entire system of clarification, purification or therapy based on these ideas. What he does is to enable people to experience their childhood conditioning and thus unravel all of the intricate connections that keep us bound to ego. We will follow him, in part, and make use of whatever bits of wisdom we can glean from him in the context of Kundalini Yoga, Buddhism and transpersonal psychology that we are using.

Exercise: Personal Essence

Get a comfortable sized sheet of drawing paper or newsprint and some felt pens, watercolors or poster paint. You are preparing to create a personal symbol or shield. When you are ready to draw, lie down on the floor, covered if it is cold, and close your eyes.

Directions: [You may want to tape these instructions to guide you through the exercise. If you do, allow sufficient time after each different direction (where "..." occurs in the text) to allow time for the experience to occur. Err on the side of too much rather than too little time.]

Take a mental walk through your body and notice any points of holding or pain... Breathe into each of these and release on the outbreath... Then progressively relax every part of your body beginning with the feet and continuing to the top of the head and each section of the face... When you are completely relaxed (and don't go to sleep), take several deep breaths. With each breath, allow yourself to go deeper into relaxation...

Now imagine that you are walking along a country road on a beautiful, sunny, comfortable day, perhaps in spring. Notice all the life that surrounds you and the presence of a small brook. Are there birds? other small animals? clouds in the sky? Take a few minutes and enjoy the day... Then, you notice a small, blue door in the side of a low hill to your left. Going to explore it, you find it has a sturdy and beautiful latch and hinges made of fine bronze. Testing the door, you find it is open, so you step inside and find yourself in a long hallway with soft, red carpeting that is lit by a series of wall sconces with golden candles in them...

Feeling comfortable and protected, you begin to walk slowly down the hall... and soon you discover some wide, elaborate stairs going down. The balustrades are carved walnut polished and warm to the touch and the same red carpet protects the stairs... You descend them and arrive at another door at the bottom... This one is heavier, but you are able to push it open... Behind it is a wealth of golden light and, as you step through it, you find yourself in a beautiful garden filled with all kinds of gorgeous flowers, butterflies and birds. There are trees around the edges that protect and guard the sanctuary... Walk slowly through this garden and observe carefully, so you can remember all that is here...

When you are ready, sit down on a bench that you see under a tree and rest... As you are sitting there, you hear footsteps and, looking to your left, you see a bright figure full of light approaching you. This is your Personal Essence, and it feels familiar, comforting and protective... Look into It's face and make a connection with It... Invite It to sit down and join you... You may ask It any questions you may have about who you are and what your mission on earth is. [Leave space on the tape for this interaction - about five minutes]

When it is time to end the meeting, your Personal Essence will give you a symbol of yourself... Express your gratitude and say goodbye, knowing that you can always return to this special garden... [Pause for several minutes to allow closure.]

Begin to return to your normal reality. Feel your fingers and toes... Sense the air on your face... Hear any sounds that may be going on around you... Stretch your arms and legs... Roll over on your side and allow yourself to make the transition back to normal consciousness at leisure... Support yourself with your arms as you sit up.

Immediately, without talking to anyone, write down all you can remember about your experience. Then draw and color the symbol that was given you. If, for any reason, you did not receive a symbol, you may create one that represents the flavor of the encounter.


* Almaas, A. H. The pearl beyond price: Integration of personality into Being: An object relations approach. Berkeley, CA: Diamond Books, 1990. Permission to quote granted by the publisher.

Dass, Baba Hari. Ashtanga Yoga primer. Santa Cruz, CA: Hanuman Fellowship, 1977.

The complete set of General References may also be downloaded.


The first chakra deals with basic neutral energy and how it is initially structured in life. Its element is earth which symbolizes creation, growth and development, security, attachment to others and bonding, and awakening to the spiritual journey. The elephant represents mind, its tendencies to take over the power, as well as its paradoxical resistance to domestication coupled with its ability to do work when it is tamed. Representation and symbolism are peculiar properties of the mind that enable us to develop an ego and a personality as the result of learning. The predominant sense in the first chakra is smell whose basic function is detection. That reminds us of our unique gifts of consciousness and awareness which make it possible to advance our growth and direct our evolution. Death is the other side of life, a testimony to continuity, change and rebirth. It may be thought of as a gate to other worlds and other experience... transitions. The circle symbolizes wholeness, healing and the continuation of cycles. We return. We always return to ourSelves and to the Source.


If you are in the vicinity of a spiritual center, try to attend a satsang or a puja which is a fire ceremony used for purification and to return thanks to Divine energies for our many gifts. If you are near House of Spirit, a puja can be arranged when enough students are ready for it. If none of these suggestions are possible, you may create your own. There are suggestions for how to do this in the back of the Ashtanga Yoga Primer (Dass, 1977).

Exercise: Summary Paper

Please write a final paper that summarizes what you have learned from this workbook and share it with some friends.

Congratulations on taking the first important step in your journey to completion! You may now order the second workbook: Book II: Emptiness to Form, Soul Loss which deals with such topics as: personality aspects, soul loss and the false self, the authentic Self, the self-conscious mind, self-valuation, feminine sexuality, passion, social roles, sex roles, desires and wants, breath, speech, healing and wholeness, dreams, the astral realm, basic goodness and imagination, the great formmaker.

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