Staff Review: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

All really important spiritual books agree on one thing: that we don’t experience reality but the interpretation of reality in our own mind. In Love Without Conditions, Paul Ferrini writes: “You think you understand the meaning of events that occur in your life. Nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t understand the meaning of anything that happens, because you impose your own meaning on it. If you want to understand the meaning of what happens in your life, stop giving it your own meaning. Let the situation be. Feel it fully.” Later on in the chapter he writes: “When you give the situation your own meaning, you will always view it as a punishment of you or someone else.” Up to a point it sounds like it is valid information; we do give everything meaning, good or bad, but can we use this information practically in our lives?

The workbook of A Course in Miracles has 365 lessons that do nothing but teach us to unlearn the meaning of everything we see and experience around us. We attach meaning and emotions to everything. The Course helps us to unlearn all these attachments so we can slowly see the world and ourselves more clearly the way it really is without the filters of our mind.

Byron Katie, who has been to our store a couple of times, says it in one small sentence: “No two people have ever met.” Meaning “I see you through my filter, you see me through your filter, I meet my image of you, you meet your image of me, and reality be damned.”

Eckhart Tolle formulates it this way in Practising the Power of Now: “Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgements, and definitions that block all true relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature, between you and God. The mind is a superb instrument, if used rightly. It is not so much that you use your mind wrongly – you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe you are your mind. The instrument has taken you over.”

All these wise words make sense to me. I can see that we are constantly thinking that ‘the instrument has taken us over’, but from the perspective of the one that has been taken over, what should we do about this situation? It is a question I have pondered for quite some time. I started meditating, trying to pay more attention to my mind, see how I sometimes create a big, emotional storm in my life, only to discover some time later that it was a storm in a teacup. Still something about all of this wasn’t really gelling. I missed some insight to transform these words that resonated in my heart into actual experience. I guess I was ready for some new information, and as the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. It came in the form of a Super Soul Sunday episode which you can see on Oprah Winfrey’s website OWN, where she interviews Michael Singer about his book The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself. What a great interview and what an amazing book! Here is a small part of one of the first chapters where he explains all of what I talked about above in his own words:

“In case you haven’t noticed, you have mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. And if right now you are hearing, “I don’t know what you are talking about!” – that is the voice we are talking about! You have to step way back and watch it converse. While you are driving you hear internal conversations like: “Wasn’t I supposed to call Fred? I should have. Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot! He is going to be so mad. He may never talk to me again. Maybe I should stop and call him right now. No, I don’t want to stop the car right now…”

“Notice that the voice takes both sides of the conversation. It doesn’t care which side it takes, just as long as it gets to keep on talking. If you spend some time observing this mental voice, the first thing you will notice is that it never shuts up. When left to its own, it just keeps on talking.”

How totally true and recognizable. Later in the chapter he asks you to externalize this voice and make it into your roommate, one you have to spend a whole day with. A roommate that never shuts up and always has a thing to say about everything and everybody. Within hours he would drive you totally crazy and you would do probably anything to get rid of him. Image now you have to live with him 24/7, year in, year out… like you do with your mind? Ouch! Welcome to your experience of reality.

Coming back to the fact that we view reality through a filter, the above example makes this point pretty clear, a non-stop babbling filter that colours everything you hear, see and experience, and totally makes you believe whatever it says.

In his book Singer goes on to explain that if you want to get your distance from this voice you have to stop differentiating what it is saying. Stop feeling that one thing it says is you and the other thing it says is not you. If you’re hearing it talk, it’s obviously not you! You are the one who hears the voice, noticing that it’s talking. You are the one in the background observing all of this. Yes, but you want to think of yourself as the part that says all these nice things, that is good to other people… But that is still the voice talking. You may like what it says, but it’s not you. The real you is observing all of this. “Yeah,” your mind says, “but that is kind of scary. I know I am a good person who cares about others, I don’t want to let that part go, it’s the best of me.” This is not you! This is the voice in your head, your ego, trying to cling on to the concept of mind. ‘I am a good person’ doesn’t define who you are, it’s just a thought. A thought doesn’t define you. The real you is the one hearing the thought.

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice in your mind – you are the one who hears it!”

A lot of the things I have read in other books all of a sudden seemed to click. I ‘got it’ in an experiential way. There are two parts of me. The me that is aware of everything and has nothing to do with my mind, and the incessant talking mind that creates so much havoc whenever I go with its stream of thoughts. By being the awareness part of me, my mind will still go on talking, but, like Singer explains, you now have the choice to lean back into the awareness part of yourself and let the babbling mind and the disturbance it creates pass you right on by. You don’t have to get involved in its drama, you don’t have to think anything about it, you just have to let it pass you by.

I realized this was where I was kind of stuck with all these wise words about reality. Here I was, trying to decide which thoughts were me and which weren’t me, so I could construct some kind of personality that I could call me. Along comes Singer and explains that if you want to meet the real you, you have to let go of all this thinking, the good and the bad.

“Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It is the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.”

This is just one chapter of this amazing book that is destined to become a classic. If you are on the spiritual path, I highly recommend you give The Untethered Soul a try. It could be a chance to help you create more clarity in this amazing experience called life.

Reviewed by Jilles.