Untethered Soul, Chapter 1

If you read last week’s post, Untethered Soul: Introduction, you know that for the next few months I will be summarizing and personalizing this enlightening book chapter by chapter.

I want to insert a quick caveat here before moving on to the first chapter: There are many thoughts, many ideas, many ways of looking at any particular object or idea in the world. If the philosophies in this book resonate with you and bring you freedom of any kind, treasure that! If they don’t serve you, let them go. There are fewer and fewer times that I feel I have found a “truth,” but more and more times I feel I have found something helpful. And that is a much better thing to search for after all, isn’t it?

Now, let’s pick up where we left off…

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Last week I introduced the book, The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer with an invitation for you. The invitation was to spend some time contemplating what is YOU. When you say “me,” what do you mean?

Now it’s time to jump into book’s Part One, Awakening Consciousness. Sounds complex. But Singer is great at taking the complex and making it accessible, step by step. The first step, Chapter 1, is called “The Voice Inside Your Head.” The purpose of the chapter is to help us notice this voice. Can you imagine having someone yammering at you all day and not even realizing they are doing it?? Well welcome to the Voice.

Singer begins by pointing out that we have an ongoing dialogue in our head all the time. It is so incessant, so familiar, that we might not even realize it’s happening. We are as the author says, “too close to be objective” so you might not even realize this is happening. But if you think about it, our mind is talking all the time. Sometimes it takes one side, sometimes it takes the other. Sometimes it’s angry. And then the next moment it tells itself not to be angry. It reminds me a lot of the idea of parts that I have described in past posts.

the-voices-in-my-hea

Sometimes we want this voice to stop. We tell it (or, as we usually think of it, we tell ourselves), “Stop! Shut up!” But that’s just our voice again. It’s always in conversation.

Is this you? Is this the Self that I referred to last week? If it is, then how are you talking and listening? You are the talker? Or are you the listener? Singer writes that

…the only way to get your distance from this voice is to stop differentiating what it’s 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. You are the one who notices that it’s talking.

Here is a tidy little exercise to better grasp what he is saying. He suggests that we make our voice say “Hello.” Don’t say it out loud. Just hear it in your head. “Hello.” Now hear it over and over and over. “Hello, hello, hello.” Now make it scream “HELLOOOOO!” You can hear it right? You were listening to it. You are the listener.

Or, here is another activity:

Suppose you were looking at three objects—a flowerpot, a photograph, and a book—and were then asked, ‘Which of these objects is you?’ You’d say, ‘None of them! I’m the one who’s looking at what you’re putting in front of me. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, it’s always going to be me looking at it.

In other words, just as what you see is not you, all of what you hear is not you. You are the listener.

Singer’s next point is that most of these thoughts, perhaps all of these thoughts, really don’t change life much at all. He says it’s like sitting down at night and deciding that you want the sun to come up in the morning. The sun will come up anyway. Life will go on despite all of these thousands of thoughts that you have about it. What they do impact though is your experience of life, your feelings about what is happening. They make you feel better or worse about what is going on.

If you spend your time hoping that it doesn’t rain tomorrow, you’re wasting your time. Your thoughts don’t change the rain. … Eventually you’ll see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems. 

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The purpose of this voice or at least part of the purpose is to narrate the world around us, says Singer. The voice is trying to make sense of it for ourselves. It labels things for us. Judges them. Predicts them. It connects an experience were having now with all of our other thoughts we’ve ever had about a similar experience. It makes us feel safer. Instead of just experiencing the world around us as it is as things are happening now as they are, outside of our control, we compartmentalize with this voice.

What you end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to you, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there.

So now, the question of the hour. Instead of re-creating the outside world inside of yourself in a way that makes you feel more comfortable, what if you decided to do something different? What if you decided not to narrate? What if you could transcend the part of you that feels it always needs protection?

As long as you simply want to feel secure safe and unpredictable world,

…you will be forced to constantly use your mind to buffer yourself from life, instead of living it. This world is unfolding and really has very little to do with you or your thoughts. It was here long before you came, and it will be here long after you leave. In the name of attempting to hold the world together, you’re really just trying to hold yourself together. 

To change this, to really experience life without censorship for the sake of safety, Singer proposes that one can begin to constantly remember: I am the one inside that notices the voice talking. A change will assuredly begin to take place if we were to do this, wouldn’t it?

And so, for this week let’s do that. Begin to notice that you are listening to the voice in your head, but you are not that voice. Let there be a subject (your awareness) and an object (the voice.) Begin to notice that there can be a separation between the two. 

After I read this chapter, I practiced this awareness activity and it was amazing to notice the amount of chatter going on. It already begin to feel emancipating to let go of some of my attachment to that chatter and just let it pass by me. But I’m jumping ahead… More on that next Tuesday. For now….

Enjoy the assignment. You are the listener!

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