Posted on 6/9/2020, 10:15:59 PM
This book considers the path towards spiritual enlightenment and a happier, healthier, and calmer life. The author argues that the path to inner peace involves distinguishing between the perceived self and the true self. By cultivating awareness of this difference, and getting in touch with their true self, a person can free themselves from unnecessary stressors and negativity and instead appreciate the full potential of their life.
Everyone has a voice in their head. These thoughts form unspoken words and sentences that interpret the world around us. Psychologists call this “inner speech”.
Singer points out that these thoughts can often be confused with the true self. For example, if a person thinks about doing something immoral, it does not make them an immoral person. On the other hand, if a person thinks a kind thought, this does not necessarily make them a kind person.
This is a key difference. Singer asks the reader to become aware of thoughts as separate from the “conscious” or the part of the self that can be aware of the thoughts. The real self is this consciousness, and the thoughts are just objects of this consciousness.
By becoming aware of these thoughts as separate from your true self, you can prevent yourself from getting caught up in them and reacting in damaging ways.
When we think of things in our internal voice, whether it be another person, a situation that happened to us, or about our identities we describe it in terms. These terms are made up of descriptions we’re used to hearing. These interpretations are not necessarily true and paint a limited picture of how things are.
For example, when we describe ourselves as hard-working and smart, this does not capture the millions of other traits we exhibit. This method of labeling can be used as a way for the mind to avoid truths that threaten our idea of who we are. These labels can function as a cage, making our conceptions of ourselves static and dishonest.
Consciousness, on the other hand, by merely observing and not labeling, can take everything in without clinging to any particular description. It remains open to many possibilities at once.
Singer argues that you shouldn’t let your inner voice selectively create a version of reality that you subscribe to. Instead, open yourself up to the world without interpreting. Observe and be present and let go of the tendency to equate descriptions with the truth. Pull back and take everything in without judgment.
Singer states that when we come across a difficult moment in our life, say a moment of great anxiety or fear, it is easy to get caught up in this feeling. We evolved to feel fear and anxiety deeply to survive in a different world, but it does not have to be so consuming. Singer reminds us that this fear and anxiety do not define us. Like a splinter, it is only an object causing pain. It is unwise to let a splinter fester and continue to cause pain. Singer advises we treat this anxiety like a splinter and focus on removing it.
To transcend fear and anger, we must recognize them as objects of the mind and watch them from a seat of consciousness. When we detach and observe it, it can prevent the feeling of escalating and creating bad reactions in the body.
For example, when angry at a spouse for not doing the dishes, instead of flying at them in rage or yelling, you could observe the thought and notice it. By not letting the anger move into the body and define the moment, you can start thinking of solutions to the problem. This method helps avoid stressful interactions and create helpful solutions.
Think of a time when you felt a jolt of energy. Maybe it was upon seeing friends after a long time apart or feeling emotional after witnessing great art. This sort of energy is always flowing through us and can be a useful and accessible resource. It is known as Chi in Chinese Medicine and Shakti in yogic traditions.
Singer recommends letting this energy flow in order to achieve inner peace. By repressing this energy and not letting it pass through you, you are creating blockages in the mind and body. This can lead to mental and physical ailments.
For example, when angry and sad thoughts are repressed and allowed to fester in the mind, they can build into long-term sadness or depression. For example, if you were once teased and then constantly recall this mental image, the feeling of humiliation can invade the body and begin to overwhelm your thoughts. By noticing this thought and letting it go, or letting it flow through the body and then away, you are allowing your body to release negative feelings rather than allowing them to damage your quality of life.
The easiest way to practice this is through meditation. In meditation, you learn to let go of these external objects and just be aware that you are. To Singer, this is the highest form of consciousness.
When unsure of what to do, Singer suggests you consider Tao or finding a balance between extremes. For example, when considering a dream, in order to move towards it you must find a path that balances the practical and the ideal. This could be wanting to renovate a house, but sticking to a budget and working slowly towards improving individual rooms.
Singer recommends sticking the path of the Tao in everyday activities. Find a balance between what you want and what is realistic. Keeping to this path is easier than wandering and therefore the simplest way to live.
Death is a scary thought that many people avoid. The thought of death can fill us with unbearable fear. But Singer points out that becoming aware of death in our everyday life can help us set priorities. What things would you do if you knew you would die tomorrow? Singer says that such a thought can help us understand what we really want from our lives and that there is little stopping us from doing these things
Your inner voice and thoughts are not your true self and do not define you. You can take control of your life by recognizing your consciousness as your real self and the role of your inner voice in creating your emotions and actions. Once you build awareness of how your body and mind are objects of your consciousness, you can become untethered from them. The result is a happier, healthier, more honest experience in life.
Michael A. Singer is a spiritual teacher and founder of Temple of the Universe, a yoga and meditation center. He experienced his own spiritual awakening after entering seclusion to study yoga and meditation. His other writings include The Surrender Experiment, The Search for Truth, and Three Essays on Universal Law: Karma, Will, and Love.