You are a great being who has been given a tremendous opportunity to explore beyond yourself. The whole process is very exciting, and you will have good times and bad times. All sorts of things will happen. That’s the fun of the journey. – Michael Singer
By the sound of its title, you’d probably have an impression that this is some serious, deep stuff, a far too complex discussion on spirituality using esoteric jargon. I mean, who uses the word “untethered”?! If not for playing DOTA (yup, that was me), I wouldn’t have come across that language and understood what it means.
But this book is as simple as it gets, you’d even say common sense, much to my delight and the liking of anyone who forays into the spiritual path.
Take the principle of vulnerability for example. To the question ‘how do you stay open’, Michael answers “by never closing.” Hah! Pretty straightforward it is.
And therein lies an implicit lesson: life is really simple. It’s our thinking that makes it complicated. This is what Michael hopes to guide us – freeing ourselves from bondage to the mind, thus untethering our soul, and living the life we were meant to live.
Let’s set our spirits free!
True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection. This is done by constantly remembering that you are the one inside that notices the voice talking. 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.
The first thing that Michael does is accompany you in entering your mind and make you aware of the voice that keeps on talking to you.
You’re probably thinking, “What voice are they talking about? I’m not hearing anything.” That’s the voice we’re talking about.
If you’re not hearing it yet, it’s because you’ve identified yourself with the voice. Nothing wrong with that. It just means there’s little awareness, not much gap between the voice and the one (the real you) who hears it.
There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.
Michael says that this voice is our mind’s narrator of what’s happening. Like a computer that translates incoming data into bits of information used for processing, our mind translates what we experience into thoughts and give them a voice inside our heads. It’s our mind’s personal interpreter. Cool! (That’s my voice, by the way)
This voice provides us a sense of control of what’s happening. But Michael says that we don’t really need that voice. Through our body’s physical senses, we will still experience the coldness without the need for a voice that tells us, “It’s cold.”
What happens through this voice is life becomes filtered. We no longer experience life fully as it is. We only experience what the voice tells us. It recreates an inner world and confines us there. Our soul becomes tethered to the realm of thoughts, not reality. We end up living inside our heads.
Your Inner Roommate
If you want to free yourself, you must first become conscious enough to understand your predicament. Then you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom. You do this as though your life depended on it, because it does. As it is right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner roommate, the psyche. You have to take it back. Stand firm in the seat of the witness and release the hold that the habitual mind has on you. This is your life—reclaim it.
When we live inside our heads, we won’t be living there alone. There resides what Michael calls our “Inner Roommate,” where the voice is coming from.
It has something to say about everything. It likes this and dislikes that. It tells you what is good and bad for you. And if you aren’t aware, it has the final say. In other words, your inner roommate is in control of your life until you become conscious; until you become aware of the predicament you’re in and decide to do something about it to free yourself.
Decide you must or the life with your inner roommate will be full of problems. The word “okay” is the last thing you’ll hear from it because it has a problem with everything. To it, life will never be okay. But here’s the thing: it just won’t ever leave. It’s a permanent resident in your head.
The good news is you’re not! You can evict yourself. You can get out of your head and into your heart. That’s where you belong. Your heart is your home.
How you learn to stay open is up to you. The ultimate trick is to not close. If you don’t close, you will have learned to stay open. Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. Just relax and open, and tremendous energy will rush up inside of you. You are only limited by your ability to stay open.
Now, you can’t get into a home that’s closed, can you? So, you have to open it. Michael says it’s that simple. He’s not saying it’s easy. But it’s simple: you either open or close.
Not to mistake for naivety, Michael is well-versed in spiritual concepts. He refers to them occasionally throughout the book but prefers using ordinary language to illustrate the point.
Here’s one point: There’s a constant flow of energy (a.k.a. Spirit, Chi, Shakti) available within you. When you’re closed, you’re blocking the energy. Depression, for example, is blocked energy. Somebody who’s depressed doesn’t feel anything at all because there’s no energy flow.
On the other hand, when you’re open, you’re allowing the energy. And as Michael says, you stay open by never closing. You can tell by how you feel if you’re in a close or open state. Do you feel any tension or contraction? Or do you feel relaxed?
Allowing what is will move us through The Emotional Scale (see Ask and It is Given). Opening up ourselves to all forms of energy, including the “negative” ones, without judging them is how we get to experience joy.
Staying open no matter what – that’s what unconditional love is.
A Samskara is a cycle of stored past energy patterns in a state of relative equilibrium. It is your resistance to experiencing these patterns that causes the energy to keep cycling around itself. There is no other place for it to go. You won’t let it. This is how most people process their issues. This packet of cycling energy is literally stored in your energetic heart center. All the Samskaras you have collected over your life are stored there.
Remember Heart Wall from The Emotion Code? That’s what Samskara is. It’s an unfinished energy pattern that didn’t make it through you, which happens when you’re close. In yogic teachings, the energy pattern becomes an “impression” (translation for its Sanskrit word) that then largely influences your life.
Why? Because every experience passes through the Samskara before it gets to your consciousness. If an event doesn’t trigger the Samskara, say a tree or a bird, they just pass through freely. But if it does, if a current event stimulates impressions from the past, the Samskara is relived. You then don’t experience the present moment as it is, but as it was.
All those impressions from the beginning of your life up to this point get stored up in your heart. It remembers everything! Because you want to “protect” your heart from getting hurt again, you close it.
If we are to untether the soul, we must learn to open our hearts again. The soul wants to be free, so it will present endless opportunities (similar to past experiences) until we can let go of all the Samskaras.
Yes, it’s going to be painful, says Michael. It was stored with pain, it will be released with pain. But if you let it hurt once and for all, it will be over. You no longer have to live with all the pain you’ve carried inside your heart. And it frees up space where you can feel love again.
The Seat of Consciousness
There’s a place deep inside of you where the consciousness touches the energy, and the energy touches the consciousness. That’s where your work is. From that place, you let go. Once you’ve let go, every minute of every day, year after year, then that’s where you’ll live. Nothing will be able to take your seat of consciousness from you. You’ll learn to stay there. After you’ve put years and years into this process, and learned to let go no matter how deep the pain, you will achieve a great state. You will break the ultimate habit: the constant draw of the lower self. You will then be free to explore the nature and source of your true being—Pure Consciousness.
From a spiritual perspective, Michael reasserts Dr. Bruce Lipton’s scientific findings about the two fundamental cell mechanisms (see The Biology of Belief): growth or protection.
You will get to a point in your growth where you understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free.
Ultimately, if you protect yourself perfectly, you will never grow.
If we examine closely, it’s not the heart that we’re trying to protect, but a part of our psyche – the ego: our self-identity, self-concept, self-image. We are closing off to protect a false self in exchange for the growth and freedom of our soul, the true self.
So Michael urges us to open, to let go. We begin by noticing our tendency to protect and defend ourselves. Then, by recognizing the part of us that feels threatened and tries to protect itself. That’s the part we need to let go.
By letting go, Michael means that you don’t allow yourself to be dragged into the pull of the ego. Remember, thoughts and emotions have an electromagnetic pull. The ego has a strong grip but it has no power over your will. Once you notice they’re pulling you and your attention is latching onto them, let go.
Refocusing on your breathing will do the trick. But it will take consistent practice, tons of breathwork and other mindfulness exercises in the background. The real work happens when you’re out there living your everyday life.
And then eventually, the realization of who you really are will dawn on you. That you are not who you thought you were because you are neither your thoughts nor your emotions. You are the one watching them all this time.
So take your seat, sit back, watch, and let go.
The Inner Thorn
Ultimately, if there is something disturbing inside of you, you have to make a choice. You can compensate for the disturbance by going outside in an attempt to avoid feeling it, or you can simply remove the thorn and not focus your life around it.
Do not doubt your ability to remove the root cause of the disturbance inside of you. It really can go away. You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life. You want to be free of this.
I loved this analogy! Michael likens our inner disturbances to a thorn. Those disturbances can be anything – anger, sadness, jealousy, anxiety, worry, or any other that is rooted in fear. So let’s just say fear is the thorn.
Michael says we are left with only two choices. The first choice is we make sure that nothing ever touches the thorn so we won’t be disturbed. The second choice is we remove the thorn so nothing can disturb us anymore. One offers us protection, the other freedom. And Michael emphasizes that what we choose determines the course of our lives.
Don’t worry, we all took the first choice at one point. But is that truly feasible? To live in protection knowing that sooner or later, no matter how much we try to prevent from getting hurt, having contact with the thorn is inevitable. Not only that, keeping the thorn will not heal the wound and can get infected keeping us sick.
Here, to help us select a better choice just for the sake of being “safe,” which one provides us safety: living with the thorn or without the thorn?
Life then presents us endless opportunities to pick a choice. People and situations will hit the thorn. They will trigger the fear and pain inside us. It’s being stimulated so it can move out. Do we allow it or push it back?
Imagine living without that thorn. You get to be touched by life, make love to it, without any disturbance.
The good news is you can!
Stop Look Listen
You just stop telling your mind that its job is to fix your personal problems. This job has broken the mind and disturbed the entire psyche. It has created fear, anxiety, and neurosis. Your mind has very little control over this world. It is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. It cannot control the weather and other natural forces. Nor can it control all people, places, and things around you.
You have given your mind an impossible task by asking it to manipulate the world in order to fix your personal inner problems. If you want to achieve a healthy state of being, stop asking your mind to do this. Just relieve your mind of the job of making sure that everyone and everything will be the way you need them to be so that you can feel better inside. Your mind is not qualified for that job.
Michael suggests that we develop a healthy relationship with our minds. That means not forcing it to do what it’s not supposed to do – control.
The mind is a great servant, a great tool. But when mistreated, like an animal, it becomes afraid. Michael says this is what we do to our minds. We mistreated it by giving it a responsibility beyond its capability.
What happens when we stretch a thing beyond its stretch limits? It breaks. This is what happened to the mind, it got broken.
With a fearful mind that’s broken, it will malfunction. It gets hyperactive, neurotic. It will give poor advice. It will tell you how to fix things external to it, outside of you, to make it all okay, not knowing that the real problem is not external but internal.
So first, we need to realize it’s our psyche that’s not okay. We must become aware of it, know that we are not the mind, but that we are the consciousness behind it. When we have that awareness, we can stop, look, and listen to our minds.
With constant proper treatment, we can restore the mind. It can work for us and serve its true function greatly.
(See Make Peace with Your Mind for additional reference)
Going beyond always means letting go of the effort to keep things within your defined limits.
So there are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom. In other words, you can devote your whole life to the process of making sure everything fits within your limited model, or you can devote your life to freeing yourself from the limits of your model.
Michael says that we use our mind to create a mental model of reality. Through it, we limit the infinite Universe within a finite world. Because the mind fears the unknown, it makes it known by labeling everything. If something does not fit the model of reality it has created, the mind labels it bad or wrong.
If we think something is bad or wrong, adds Michael, it’s due to the mental model not incorporating the actual reality. In The Road Less Traveled, we’ve learned that psychiatrists call it “Transference,” when we cling to an outdated view of reality. This is what having a fixed mindset is.
And so we try to keep it that way as much as possible. We fix every problem there is. Worse, our minds incessantly look for one. But then something happens that is beyond our control, like the death of a loved one. Suddenly, the world as we know it starts to fall apart.
When it does, Michael reminds us to let go, to stop trying to put everything back and hold it all together. Life is helping you move out of your cage. It is setting you free.
The Only Question That Matters
To begin with, you have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.
“Do you want to be happy or not?” Michael asks, and argues that it’s the only question that matters. Our answer, though, must be unconditional. If it’s yes, then we must commit to our happiness regardless of what happens. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
When we boil it down to that question, then life becomes very simple. Again, simple, not easy. Because things are surely going to happen that will challenge us and test our commitment.
Life strengthens our resolve by showing us our weak spots. It shows us our limits, the conditions we have placed upon our happiness. It teaches us that we cannot control what happens to us, but the choice to be happy is always under our control.
To be happy, we must go beyond conditions. Michael goes back to being open, that if something happens and we feel like closing, we go back to being open.
This means happiness becomes our permanent state. Yes, from time to time, we will experience sadness, grief, anger, but we don’t stay there. We go back to being happy.
As Michael points out, we did not come here to suffer. We are here to experience life. Why not enjoy it?
Life’s Best Teacher
It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second. While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.
While I enjoy learning about life, its mysteries, and other deep stuff, I loved how Michael contemplates death, which he says is the greatest teacher of life.
Life is precious indeed. And it is death that makes it so. That’s why Michael asks us not to fear it, but learn from it instead.
If you knew death would take your life in a week, how would you live differently?
Funny but true, Michael tells how it would go if we are to have a conversation with the Angel of Death who comes by saying it’s taking us tonight. We’d probably say, “No, you’re supposed to give me a warning. You should give me one more week!” Then it would respond, “My God! I gave you 52 weeks this past year alone. What did you do with them?” Hah!
What if you consider every single day as a warning, how would you treat it?
Michael says that’s what happens when you realize death is just around the corner: it doesn’t change life, it changes you.
You start living fully knowing that each passing moment is a dying moment and you want to make the most of it. You learn to love it, enjoy it, and that takes away your fear of death. You learn that fearing death does not prevent you from dying, it prevents you from living.
So live now. Live fully. Be free!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MICHAEL SINGER received a master’s degree in economics from the University of Florida in 1971. During his doctoral work, he had a deep inner awakening and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation. In 1975, he founded Temple of the Universe, a now long-established yoga and meditation center where people of any religion or set of beliefs can come together to experience inner peace. He is also the creator of a leading-edge software package that transformed the medical practice management industry, and founding CEO of a billion-dollar public company whose achievements are archived in the Smithsonian Institution. Along with his more than four decades of spiritual teaching, Michael has made major contributions in the areas of business, education, healthcare, and environmental protection.
Visit untetheredsoul.com for more information.