Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul: Processing Pain & Letting Go

I've been very influenced by Michael Singer's The Untethered Soul as of late. And to be perfectly honest, I haven't even completed the book. It's one of those books that you can only read so much of. It is very dense; it is a lot to process. In any event, Singer talks a lot about the process of being hit with something uncomfortable -- pain, grief, anger, jealousy, rage, guilt, shame, etc. -- and acknowledging that it is there, seeing it, studying it, watching it from a distance, and then simply allowing it to pass. I know, I know. Easier said than done, but it is possible. If it is possible for me, it is certainly possible for you. To be the observer of your mind, your own feelings and your own thoughts can happen. As my teacher Mokshapriya pointed out to me, you have two minds. If you didn't, how could you watch your thoughts? One mind (the observer, the detached one) can watch the other mind (the impulsive, emotional, ego mind that reacts to stimuli that trigger us). You've had moments like this, yes? To prove this, Singer reminds us... you are able to think and talk about how you feel, what your were thinking, when you are looking back on a situation in retrospect. For example, Singer says "When you tell a friend, 'Every time I talk to Tom, it gets me so upset,' how do you know it gets you upset?" (17) This is one mind watching the other mind (Singer calls it your "roommate.") You can watch, you can notice, you can monitor, control, and separate yourself from the thoughts, the emotions, the impulses and the reactions that drive us to suffer. We have these little episodes of inner dialogue, complaining, resisting, rejecting, suffering... "'My mind is driving me crazy. Ever since he said those things to me, I can't even sleep. My mind just won't shut up'"(27)... and yet, we are able to see it all while it's happening as though we are outside of it, we are not our emotions or our thoughts. We are conscious beings. And as a conscious being, you have the ability and the power to step aside and be aware of your pain and your suffering but not have to feel it, be consumed by it, and be thrown out of balance by it. This is what it is to practice yoga.

I have moments like these, and it is simply incredible. It liberates us. But of course we cannot stay there (for long); you will come in and out of this. You've experienced ephemeral and beautiful moments like these too, I'm sure. Moments where even your suffering can almost become humorous, when you can truly recognize the triviality and drama of the every day B.S. we are gripped with.

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