The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourselfby Michael A. Singer
The Untethered Soul presents a radically different way of living, where permanent freedom from your distressing thoughts and emotions becomes a possible reality. Here, the inner workings of your mind and heart will be revealed in a more understandable and relatable way. You will also see how you have been operating from a flawed system based on your ego and how you can experience unimaginable peace, ecstasy, and unconditional love by simply letting go.
Who Are You?
“Eventually, you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.”
Have you ever noticed that your mind never shuts up? Your mind is constantly thinking, thinking, and thinking. Some of these thoughts are pleasant, some create unpleasant feelings, and others just seem to be there to fill the space. Some modes of thinking act as a release of built-up energy, like nervousness, fear, or desire. Other modes of thinking help us understand our experiences by placing them within our mental constructs.
Functioning in this way helps us feel like we have some control. At the same time, however, it seems to always create problems. Think about it: When was the last time you were free from any problems? When one problem is solved, another inevitably seems to arise. Is this the nature of life? Or could it be that there’s just a part of ourselves that is always finding something to have a problem with?
In the midst of all this mental commotion, we lose connection with who we really are. Because we are so immersed in them, we tend to identify ourselves with all the thoughts and emotions we experience. It is especially easy to get sucked into fear-based emotions and get so immersed in them that we think it’s who we are. We allow it to define our lives.
If you were to pay attention, however, you would see that you are just a watcher of these thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences. It is you—the true you—that stands behind the constant flow of thoughts and emotions and is simply aware of them as objects in your world of experience. Spirituality is the path of taking this seat of consciousness—the true seat of the self—and living life from a place of awareness and acceptance. This is the path of freedom.
Actions to take
The Flow of Energy
“The most important thing in life is your inner energy.”
Remember an experience when you received the best news of your life? Do you remember the flood of energy that rushed through you? That energy is always there. We just don’t experience that free flow of wonderful energy because we block it. Every time we close our hearts or minds seeking to protect ourselves, we create a blockage. These blockages get stored in our hearts, and the flow of beautiful energy gets depressed.
Your heart is an energy center. When you close it, energy is blocked. When you open it, energy rushes in. Falling in love is an experience of profound openness of heart. It is a beautiful state.
Fortunately, you can train yourself to stop closing your heart and practice openness. This will radically change your sense of well-being and physical health.
First, you need to recognize when you are closing your heart. You will notice a shift in energy attempting to reject something happening in the external or internal world. Something will trigger this shift in energy, such as a person you don’t like, a circumstance that reminds you of past trauma, or your “what if” thoughts. You will likely feel an unsettling feeling in your chest.
The trigger will be accompanied by thought patterns and emotions, causing us to block our hearts from accepting things as they are. We seek to protect our hearts with thoughts and emotions that reject the experience. These thoughts and emotions are based on anger, greed, jealousy, fear, worry, and the like. The more attention we give these impressions, the more they can control our lives.
The heart can also close from attempting to cling to positive experiences. Trying to hold on to pleasant experiences will prevent us from simply enjoying life as it is through all its ups and downs. An open heart has moved beyond the cycle of both rejecting and clinging.
Opening the heart means simply accepting things the way they are. It allows all life experiences to flow through without clinging to or rejecting them. When an impression upon your heart causes an energy shift, and you feel your heart beginning to close, always choose to open it—relax, take a breath and let go of the negative energy. Cultivate a feeling of forgiveness toward another, laugh at how you’re taking yourself too seriously, and just unleash that beautiful energy within you. This simple practice will set you free.
Actions to take
“The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay.”
Fear is a thing. It’s just another phenomenon in our experiential world that we can recognize and release. Unfortunately, most people hang on to fear by trying to hide from it. We seek to protect ourselves from fear by trying to control our external world. However, staying in this state of self-protection will just keep us in a state of fear. This is because we are constantly at the mercy of external circumstances and the behaviors and opinions of others. Consequently, life becomes a threat.
Instead of fighting with life as if it’s under our control, it’s best just to accept it. You can let go of control and free yourself from fear’s hold on your heart by seeking to let go every time a disturbed energy arises. If you indulge in it, your consciousness will move into it, and you will identify with this disturbed energy. It will control you. Even worse, if you externalize this disturbed energy into action, you involve other people and their egos in it, and the disturbed energy multiplies and comes back to you. To prevent this, commit to pursuing the path of freedom by continually practicing letting go.
Trying to protect yourself from inner disturbances is like living with a thorn in your arm instead of pulling it out. Living with this thorn, you do everything you can to avoid the pain of bumping it: you’ll change the way you sleep, avoid getting close to others so they won’t bump into it, and avoid crowded or cramped spaces. This thorn takes over your life.
When we try to avoid inner disturbances like loneliness or being judged by others, we do everything we can to avoid situations that activate these feelings. The problem is that they’re always there in our hearts, just waiting to be activated. We’ve given our minds the impossible task of making sure everyone likes us, everything we say and do is perceived in a good light, and that only good things are happening to us. No wonder our minds are running non-stop!
Taking out the thorn is choosing not to let it govern your life. The seat of consciousness is that place in your awareness where you view these disturbances as simply objects in the field of your experience. They are not you; you are just the one who notices. The more we connect with that seat of awareness, the less these “thorns” control our lives. We open up to a free flow of energy instead of hanging out with our disturbances day in and day out.
When you begin taking the seat of consciousness, you start transforming your entire experience of pain. You’re no longer prolonging the state of your suffering. You also begin observing inner disturbances with detached awareness.
From that seat, you can view these sensations simply as energy—just another phenomenon in your experiential world. Then, you can let go and watch the energy pass. Spiritual work is developing the habit of recognizing these shifts in energy when you are disturbed, then letting go. Over time, you will learn to let go of the first impulse of pain before it enters the world of your thoughts. At this point, you are well on your way toward liberation.
Actions to take
Going Beyond Your Mental Fortress
“If you want permanent peace, permanent joy, and permanent happiness, you have to get through to the other side of the mental turmoil.”
Clinging is the root cause of our suffering and inner turmoil. We cling to thought patterns, emotions, feelings, and experiences. Even deeper than this, we cling to a mental construction that is the foundation of our ego, psyche, or personality. Through this mental construction, we seek to maintain some sense of control over the external world and our internal state.
The mental construction of the psyche is built out of thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. We define ourselves by our gender, our relationships, our jobs, our political and religious beliefs, our hobbies, and other similar things. These help us understand our place within the world and our own sense of personal value. They come together in a complex relationship to form the total package of your psyche.
Surprisingly, many of the building blocks that make up our mental construction were not chosen by us but by society. Society rewards certain behavior patterns and punishes or shames others. All these ideas build the psyche, which is the mental home we live within.
This mental home gives us a feeling of safety until something comes along to challenge it. When it gets challenged, we experience panic as we feel as though we are losing control, and the facade we have created begins to crumble. We are constantly striving to maintain the solidity of our mental structure. So anytime something challenges our sense of self, our minds go to work anxiously seeking to patch up this structure of thoughts using more thoughts.
When things happen that cause an inner disturbance within us, it is because it has hit against our mental model. But if our model was truly aligned with reality, experiential reality would not be causing us these disturbances.
True freedom lies beyond these mental walls you have built that make up your psyche. It’s as if you are living in a house with no windows, only artificial lights inside, while outside the walls is a vast field filled with the radiant light of the sun. You simply need to let down the walls to allow this light in.
This happens as you see more and more that you are not your thoughts, neither the things that have happened to you nor your mental model of reality. You are the one who notices. You are the awareness behind all of these thoughts and mental structures constantly competing for your attention. When you break free from the hold of the psyche, an entire universe of consciousness opens up within you, and you will be filled with light and perfect peace.
Actions to take
“When you are done playing with the temporal and finite, you will open to the eternal and infinite.”
There is a singular question that can powerfully reorient your life: Do you want to be happy? This may seem like a silly question because, well, we obviously all want to be happy. However, many of us are just choosing happiness only if certain conditions are met. One example is someone saying, “I want to be happy, but I lost my job.”
If you’re like this, who is setting conditions for your own happiness, chances are, you’ll never experience lasting happiness. The good news is that there is an alternative way to this—that is, to simply say, “Yes, I want to be happy,” with absolutely no qualifications. When you make the vow to yourself to be happy, don’t let anything come in to close your heart.
Instead, live a life of nonresistance. We are often unhappy because we resist the ebb and flow of life, causing us to experience stress, anxiety, and low-level emotions. When we resist the things that happened in the past, or the thoughts about the future, we waste so much energy. What’s more, trying to resist these inner disturbances will just create more disturbance, much like trying to stop the ripples coming out from a leaf dropped in a lake.
If you really want to be happy and attain permanent freedom, you must learn to relax, release, and let go. Look at your daily life as an opportunity to notice inner disturbances as they arise within you and practice letting them go.
Remember that life is too precious to go on without savoring every moment. And death can be your greatest teacher of this—you don’t even have to wait until death to learn it. Just ask yourself: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you live today? Surely, you would start appreciating everyone and everything more profoundly. By clinging to life's special experiences, we miss the wonder that is all around us every day.
To make the most out of your life, you must have a perfect balance and harmony between the extremes of clinging and rejecting. Finding this middle path is what it means to live in the Tao, or "The Way." We need to be aware of when we are riding the pendulum from one extreme to the other.
For example, on one extreme, you may be splurging on some new electronics; on the other, you may be stressed trying to pay off the credit card bill. Riding this pendulum will just waste massive amounts of your energy. When you are in the way of the Tao, you ride the waves of the present moment with perfect balance and effortless action.
As you continue to practice letting go, your spirit begins to drift upward into deeper vibrations. You drift upward into spirit and experience a universal sense of oneness. When you reach this state, you will experience the unconditional love of simply existing.
Your entire being will begin to change, and instead of always trying to protect yourself, you will be filled with love and share in this ecstasy. This is not a concept; it’s a direct experience to which you are invited.