What would it be like to free yourself from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to discover inner peace and serenity? The Untethered Soul offers simple yet profound answers to these questions.
Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. You’ll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.
Copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.
I don’t really read self-help books…and I’ve said that to the point where that’s simply not true anymore. I’ve read several self-help books in the past year or so, some of them insightful and some of them rubbish. So, I guess I have to just admit it, I’m a sucker for this shit!
I generally go for the more psychological ones, however, this one was a spiritual one, so definitely outside my scope of typical reading material. I’m not above it though. I’ve been curious to learn about mindfulness, and this book seemed to be highly praised. It did get a little religious near the end, but I guess that’s to be expected from a book like this.
The first part opens with some philosophy on consciousness, which was nice. Making us aware of that inner voice that’s constantly trying to make sense of the world, this voice we assume is our “self”. We re-create the world within our minds because we can control our minds, whereas we cannot control the world. We re-create the outside world inside ourselves, and then we live in our minds. This dialogue is, more often than not, negative in nature and afflicts all of us.
I’ve been made aware of this inner voice via neuroplasticity and reshaping how we think. Not unlike a road map made up of small trails and roads, our thoughts take the path of least resistance, and those thoughts most often experienced are forged into highways and thus used more often. If we constantly repeat negative and dark thoughts about what we’re experiencing, those thoughts become second nature. Our thoughts color our worlds, or desaturate it, in some cases. The roommate inside my head has most definitely wrecked havoc in my world and has been home to a disturbing darkness.
“Who am I?”
This is a question we try to tackle all of our lives. It’s easier to know what we aren’t than who we are. Making sense of this philosophy reminds me a lot of the stuff I’ve read on solipsism. We have a subject-object relationship with our thoughts. We are the subject, and thoughts are just another object we can be aware of. We are not our thoughts. We exist regardless of them. There is a certain quality to experience; awareness, consciousness, an intuitive sense of existence. Without these, there is no sense of “me”. This is the Self.
The focus of awareness is what differentiates a person who is and isn’t conscious. Someone who isn’t conscious is focused on objects but someone who is conscious is aware of their consciousness. Instead of being aware of our thoughts, we become aware that we are aware of our thoughts and we turn consciousness back onto itself. This is essential to meditation.
The second part of the book goes into chakras, opening and closing energy, and Samskara (unfinished energy patterns). This got a bit too new age-y for me, I felt a large part of my pragmatic brain explaining scientific parallels. Michael Singer has a poetic way of putting these things though and much of it hits home. It’s almost soothing reading it in and of itself.
External changes are not going to solve your problem because they don’t address the root of your problem. The root problem is that you don’t feel whole and complete within yourself. If you don’t identify the root properly, you will seek someone or something to cover it up. You will hide behind finances, people, fame, and adoration. If you try to find the perfect person to love and adore you, and you manage to succeed, then you have actually failed. You did not solve your problem. All you did was involve that person in your problem. That is why people have so much trouble with relationships. You begin with a problem inside yourself, and you tried to solve it by getting involved with somebody else. The relationship will have problems because your problems are what caused the relationship. It is all so easy to see once you step back and dare to look at it honestly.
Part three explains letting go of experiences that poison us with fear and insecurity. The analogy of a thorn in the arm is used to explain how, instead of taking it out, we build barriers around the thorn to avoid pain and make life safer. Instead of fixing the problem, we create ways to avoid it. Singer uses the example of loneliness to explain how we build safe barriers around relationships to avoid feeling this. It’s very deep and the remedy seems easier said than done. His solution? Notice who it is that feels the loneliness and allow the energy to pass through you. In other words, detach.
If we can find our center, our seat of consciousness, the things we feel and experience are not us, we are the indwelling being that is aware of all of this. When we are no longer absorbed in our own melodrama but are inside the seat of awareness, we are released from it. Sounds like an eloquent way of putting dissociation disorder into a pretty package to me.
Singer explains that in order to be liberated we need to find peace with our pain. Our entire personalities are built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid pain. Every time we do something in the name of avoiding pain, that something becomes a link that holds the potential for the pain we’re avoiding. Makes sense, but again, psychologically speaking, trauma leaves a footprint on the psyche that one does not just “let go of”. Sometimes these painful experiences are the only reality that one knows but I guess this is where we exercise awareness and detachment.
Naturally, once you take a deeper seat within yourself, all becomes quiet. There is an analogy that we’ve built walls around ourselves and live in darkness so long that this has become safe to us, when something disturbs us or cracks our walls, we patch them with denial; by realizing there is more beyond the walls and moving outside of our comfort zone is enlightenment. Our views, our opinions, our preferences, our concepts, our goals, and our beliefs are all ways of bringing the infinite universe down to the finite where we can feel a sense of control. Since the analytical mind cannot handle the infinite, we’ve created an alternate reality of finite thoughts that can remain fixed within our minds.
We build models of ourselves and what is expected of us and the people around us, when this fails we’re either devastated or we mold ourselves to fit a different model. We have a façade for every situation. This is what Buddhists call “clinging”. By being aware that we are aware, we become witness. Letting go of both our light and dark psyches we let go of clinging and become aware of a universe behind our consciousness.
So, apparently the key to happiness is to just stop feeling. Period. No joy, no pain, just be a witness to your existence and let none of it effect you, since we’re all here to die anyway, why fight it? Become an amoeba, float around for awhile, see some shit, view it all neutrally and somehow you will know eternal happiness. Yeah, I’m not buying it either. I think this is unhealthy advice, psychologically detach, become numb, push away the pain. Or maybe self medicate yourself into oblivion. It’s just not possible to stop feeling without physical or psychological repercussions.
The triune brain evolved into this emotional, thinking, feeling mess that is more tangible than this transcendental hocus pocus. As peaceful as it sounds to just not give a fuck, the human brain is simply not built this way. Life is suffering, we come into this world crying. Emotional pain seriously sucks, but it’s absolutely unavoidable. We don’t grow without adversity. Life is meant to be experienced and felt; good does not come without the bad. Pain is a lesson to the mistakes we make, and if we’re humble enough we learn from them.
I feel like this book described exactly the person I am but shouldn’t be. I think sometimes I feel defined by my darkness, that I would lose a part of my identity without it. That maybe I find a sadistic comfort in the melodramatic voice that tortures me inside, and I enjoy flirting with death. These are my walls. Maybe change is good, but maybe acceptance is, too. I’ve got an overly analytical mind. (Clearly, from the rambling I’ve done about this book alone!) If I stop thinking, I start thinking about thinking; my problems are a direct result of the shit bouncing around inside. I think I would actually go mad without it! I am aware of my pain, I am aware that I am aware of it but Singer would surely say that I’ve failed at untethering my soul.