I hesitate to use the words “spiritual awakening” to describe The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, because that might deter soulful skeptics. Those indifferent to the concepts of meditation or enlightenment. But that’s exactly what this #1 New York Times bestseller is, a spiritual awakening of the conscious mind with a single question: do you want to want to be happy?
Singer invites readers to free oneself from the incessant internal monologue that results in a continuous state of “mental melodrama.” A voice he lightheartedly, but ever so relatably, describes as our ‘pain in the butt roommate that just won’t shut up’. He says, to begin the path towards true self awareness and free ourselves from this chatty internal roommate, we must quiet our psyche by continuously being present— in what’s referred to as continuous consciousness. Page by page, Singer’s methods are straightforward and uncomplicated. He pinpoints that each of us are the center of our world, rightfully so given our first-person perspective. But within that world comes a skewed view of events. It turns out, we have the power to change how we experience those events! Who knew? And apparently we can alter how we experience the all too familiar stressors that result from them. To do so, we must let each experience pass through us with acceptance and an open heart.
What makes The Untethered Soul such a profound read is how Singer uses every day concepts— cars, fences, walls— to describe the universal depth of our existence. Further, he applies scientific reasoning— atoms and energy, space and expansion— to explain energy and the soul. In his final paragraphs, Singer explains the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao (the yin and yang) as being the way to live a peaceful life. In this, life is not about a push or pull of energy but rather finding balance in the middle.
In order to benefit from all The Untethered Soul has to offer it deserves, in some ways even demands, undivided attention. Through use of applicable reasoning and internal questioning, readers are invited to focus and reflect.
With so much to discuss of the book itself, it’s difficult not to gush without giving it all away. So, here are my six key takeaways from The Untethered Soul.
1. It’s a build up of energy
Singer makes an excellent point that our survival instincts have adapted away from physiological defenses and morphed into psychological ones, a need to defend our self-concept rather than our bodies. When when bothersome thoughts linger it becomes trapped energy out of a need to emotionally survive. Our psyche’s rational is that this fear, this emotion, will work to our benefit some day. But, like physical energy, until we are prepared to let the conscious energy go, the things we cannot control build up and create negative thought patterns. Until the energy is released it cycles, feeds off itself, and remains trapped.
2. Decide to be happy
The disturbed mind is not a negative experience. The psyche takes in both inner and outer stimuli, translates it, processes it, and then creates a response to it. It’s that simple. Singer suggests that we need to separate our psyche’s responses from the response of our true self, the one actually in the experience. That can be accomplished through centered consciousness. If we decide to be happy and let negativity pass, in every situation, then we can rewire our response to stimuli.
3. Break down the walls
Our mind is a house, a fortress, made up of memories, emotions, feelings, and experiences. The Untethered Soul aims to live outside of the constructs we build and seek greater awareness beyond what we tell ourselves. The way a scientist deconstructs human DNA to find the basis of what we are, and what we may become, so must an individual deconstruct the mind to find the basis of the self. That is spirituality, “an infinite journey based upon going beyond yourself….for the rest of your life.” We must look for awareness beyond our walls rather than try to create recycled awareness based on what we think we know.
4. Accept that change is constant
Life is a constant state of flux, with or without our protective walls. We must let go of the false solidify that everything can be controlled. Singer expresses that those unwilling to experience change are trapped in a cage. It’s safe, but it’s not freedom. However, individuals who seek true enlightenment are limited only by an invisible, electric fence. We must push through the invisible boundary and face a momentary shock of discomfort. That discomfort is our unwillingness to accept change, but on the other side of it is true freedom, a willingness to truly live.
5. Live in the present
Every day events don’t cause problems. What causes problems is our resistance to these events. In order to live more fully we must, as many meditators will recapitulate, let go and live in the present moment. The Untethered Soul reminds readers how much of ones focus lies in worrying about what happened or what might happen. What’s the point? We cannot change the past any more than we can predict the future. So, we must change our mindset about the now and act in the moment.
6. Death is the ultimate teacher
In his final lesson, Singer reminds us that death is only feared by those who have not lived a full life. Perhaps in a morbid moment of acute awareness, we are reminded that life is not ours to control. We must simply live the best that we can knowing death is always one more breath away. It’s inevitable, and that is why death is the ultimate teacher. When death comes The Untethered Soul will not ask for more time, it will not wish for another chance, because it will have lived a full life. If you died tomorrow would you beg for more time? Or would you be satisfied with how you used up your time?
Have you read The Untethered Soul? If so, leave a comment on your key takeaways.