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This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
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In the first act of “Hamlet,” Polonius gives his son Laertes a piece of powerful advice: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” In more ways than one, Michael Alan Singer’s 2007 New York Times bestseller “The Untethered Soul” is a book-length rumination upon these few age-honored words by William Shakespeare: a journey of exploration of the “self,” it not only tries to dissect the self and investigate its different aspects, but it is also a resounding call to action, a well-written invite to a much-necessary and ongoing journey of self-realization.
So, get ready to discover why you are more than your thoughts, emotions, and your experiences and prepare to develop “a tremendous sense of respect for who you really are.”
You’ve probably already noticed, but in case you haven’t, it’s time we burst your bubble – you are not alone with yourself even when you think you are. And the reason for this is that there is a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. Yup, we’re talking about your inner roommate, that unremitting and tireless voice that tells you what you should and what you should not do, how you should act in different situations, and even what’s the name of the colleague you met yesterday or if you should get married tomorrow! If you’re thinking, at this point, something like “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have any voice inside my head!”– well, that’s the voice we’re talking about!
But why is it there? Why is it talking to us? How much of what it says is true, and how much of it is not even important? And when the voice argues with itself, who is it actually arguing with? Aren’t you simultaneously the one who’s talking and the one who’s listening? If that is the case, then what’s the point of this mental dialogue? Obviously, you should know what your inner voice is going to say beforehand! It’s pretty confusing!
Allow us to make that confusion go away by picturing yourself in the following situation: it is December, you’re walking in the snow toward your house, and you suddenly start shivering. And then, out of nowhere, there’s that voice in your head, saying: “It’s cold.” Now, how did that help you? Your body already knew it was cold: you just experienced this through your skin and your other senses.
Why is your voice narrating your life when you’re the one living it? Singer believes he knows the answer: “You recreate the world within your mind,” he writes, “because you can control your mind whereas you can’t control the world. That is why you mentally talk about it. If you can’t get the world the way you like it, you internally verbalize it, judge it, complain about it, and then decide what to do about it. This makes you feel more empowered.”
So, in essence, you recreate the outside world inside yourself, and then you live in your mind. This is far more comfortable than just being in the world: just like backseat driving, it makes you feel as if you are slightly more in control. You also feel as if you have some relationship with the world around you: the world is not just something that happens, but something that happens to you. You might not be the one that’s driving the car, but that doesn’t stop you from believing that your comments and suggestions may somehow affect its movement. If shivering because it is cold, you can’t change the weather, but you can say to yourself – “I’m almost home, just a few more minutes” – and feel better. “In the thought world there’s always something you can do to control the experience,” concludes Singer.
On the face of it, this would make your inner voice one of your greatest and most faithful allies: it is your last line of defense, your extremely reliable protection mechanism. Reality is sometimes just too real, so it’s great if you have an inner roommate capable of tampering with it a bit.
However, if you’ve ever had the unpleasant experience of driving with a backseat driver, you might have already guessed that your inner voice may be your main source of anxiety as well. But why should it be? After all, you’re the driver! Why should your inner voice be allowed to tell you things you don’t like to hear – sometimes even of that sort that makes driving unenjoyable? How would you feel if someone outside yourself really started talking to you the way your inner voice does? You would have probably told them to leave and never come back, right? And yet, you never say such things to your inner voice. And even when you do, they seem to have the opposite result.
“The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter,” writes Singer, “is to step back and view it objectively. Just view the voice as a vocalizing mechanism that is capable of making it appear like someone is in there talking to you. Don’t think about it; just notice it… That is the way out. The one inside who is aware that you are always talking to yourself about yourself is always silent. It is a doorway to the depths of your being. To be aware that you are watching the voice talk is to stand on the threshold of a fantastic inner journey. If used properly, the same mental voice that has been a source of worry, distraction, and general neurosis can become the launching ground for true spiritual awakening. Come to know the one who watches the voice, and you will come to know one of the great mysteries of creation.”
In other words: you are not your inner voice, but the one creating it. Your thoughts and feelings don’t define you: they are just a projection of your inner fears and the product of a powerful protection mechanism that is turned on at all times. To live a more fulfilled life, you need to find the off switch. Stepping back and starting to pay attention is the first and possibly most important step of your journey toward enlightenment.
Your inner voice appears when there’s a buildup of energy inside you that needs to be released. Just think about the last time you were angry with someone. You probably felt like telling them off. How many times did your inner voice do just that before you even got the chance to talk to them in person? Hundreds, right? Well, that’s because when energy builds up inside, you want to do something about it. When you’re not okay inside, your voice talks because it wants to make you release some energy.
There is “a phenomenal amount of energy inside of you,” one that is always available to you and from whose wellspring you can draw upon at any instant of your life. The Chinese call these wellspring Chi; in yoga, it is called Shakti; in the Western literary tradition, it is usually referred to as the Spirit. Whatever its name, it is a real phenomenon, and you’ve already experienced it. It is the overflow of this spiritual energy that you feel when you’re enthused by something or when love rushes to your heart. It feels as if you can take on the world, doesn’t it? Or, better yet, it feels as if something is flowing and coursing inside you in waves, strongly and spontaneously.
The only reason why you sometimes don’t feel this energy is because you consciously block it. The energy is still there inside you, but can’t get in because you’ve closed your mind and your heart and have pulled yourself into a restrictive space inside. This is what it means to be “blocked”: when you close the centers that channel your energy flow – the so-called chakras – there is no energy to “restore, replenish, and recharge you.” And when that is the case, there is only darkness and depression.
To understand this better, think about the last time you fell in love. You knew this happened because the walls hindering the energy flow inside you came crashing down, and you suddenly felt more open and alive. However, after some time, you noticed your loved one doing something you didn’t like, and, suddenly, you stopped feeling so high. Instead, you felt a strange tightness in your chest. That’s because your heart chakra closed, not letting energy flow in anymore. Depending on how shut it was, you either felt “tremendous disturbance or overwhelming lethargy.” And it seemed like the world was ending. Then, the next day, your loved one was overcome by remorse, apologizing to you – lo and behold, your heart opened again, and you were yesterday’s you, in love and dizzyingly lightheaded.
It’s easy to open your chakras and allow the energy to flow when good things are happening. Bad things, however, usually involuntarily shut them down because of your body’s default response to protect itself from harm and danger. There was nothing wrong with this strategy in the past: we wouldn’t have survived in the prehistoric world if we hadn’t focused much more on the negative things than on the positive ones. However, things have changed, and there are no mammoths and saber-toothed tigers around anymore. So, you need to learn to let your negative feelings flow through you. Unreleased energy is what causes anxiety and fear, inner voices and darkness; released energy is the secret toward living a happier, more peaceful life.
“There is nothing wrong with feeling the energies of fear, jealousy, or attraction,” writes Singer. “It’s not your fault that such energies exist. All the attractions, repulsions, thoughts, and feelings don’t make any difference. They don’t make you pure or impure. They are not you. You are the one who’s watching, and that one is pure consciousness. Don’t think you’d be free if you just didn’t have these kinds of feelings. It’s not true. If you can be free even though you’re having these kinds of feelings, then you’re really free – because there will always be something.”
Even though scattered throughout the lessons of the book, the following 12-step road to self-realization was distilled by Singer a few years after the publication of “The Untethered Soul” in an attempt to make the journey to self-discovery easier for his readers. We want to do the same for you, so here it is – the universal road map to self-realization:
A simple book with an even simpler message, Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul” bridges the Eastern and Western spiritual traditions elegantly and compellingly.
Endorsed by people of all creeds and religions, this book can help the open-minded attain something that to all the others might seem oxymoronic: practical spirituality.
A must-read for anyone in search of some higher truths.
Think of your thoughts and your emotions as a movie that you’re constantly playing to yourself to understand the world better. And don’t ever forget that you are not them: they are, instead, merely a projection of who you really are. And you are something phenomenal: the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of everything happening inside and outside you.
Michael Singer (born 1947) was originally a software programmer who turned to write books after the advice of his mentor. Aside from his career in the medical software industry, he became known for his... (Read more)
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