"The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer

#1
(An updated version of this post can be found on my blog; https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-untethered-soul-by-michael-singer.html)
I have been reading "The Untetherd Soul" by Michael Singer.

I highly recommend this book. Singer offers a somewhat different perspective on certain aspects Buddhism which I have an interest in. His background is in yoga and he writes about many of the more esoteric / mystical aspects of the mind in a way that is much easier to understand than the way it is presented in Buddhism.

He cuts through a lot of the obscure verbal gymnastics you find in Buddhism and explains very clearly how understanding the mind can cause awakening. As far as I have read (74%) he has not given any meditation instructions but if you are already meditating, the information in the book can help you understand how meditation and mindfulness practices should work and how to do them correctly. I have a lot of experience in this area so what I am getting out of it is fairly advanced. I'm not sure how a beginner would react to it. What he is saying is not much different in essence from my own practice (observe the mind, relax, let go of unpleasant emotions) but Singer gives a clear explanation of the nature of the mind and how to use that understanding in combination with letting go of emotions to achieve awakening.

Singer's approach is somewhat different from Buddhism. In Buddhism you are told to meditate and someday if you are lucky something magical will happen and you will get enlightenment and your suffering will end. Singer says you have to confront unpleasant emotions to let go of them and that process leads to enlightenment.

Singer uses some "new age" type jargon chakras and "energy" etc but you can still understand the practical aspects of what to do with the information even if you don't like the way he says it.

I've looked at web sites about yoga and I found them harder to understand than Buddhism so I think what Singer has done is exceptional.

According to his biography "He had a deep inner awakening in 1971 while working on his doctorate in economics and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation."

The book's web site is here:
https://untetheredsoul.com

If you are interested in the book and have access to e-books from your library you might be able to borrow a copy. I borrowed the e-book through hoopla (hoopladigital.com). It is also available to borrow from overdrive.com but there was a waiting list when I checked there.

In the book he explains that you are just awareness. Thoughts and emotions and events around you are things you observe.

Singer uses the analogy of a lucid dream to explain how to experience yourself as just awareness.

In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming. In a regular dream you are immersed in the dream, you think it is real.

When you meditate or practice mindfulness, you know you are observing, you are mindful, you are lucid. But if you get distracted by thoughts and get carried away by them, you become immersed in them, you might notice after a while that you are thinking about something and not meditating you are not lucid. The thoughts have taken over your mind.

By practicing meditation and mindfulness you can learn to be mindful (lucid) all the time. You can be what you are, awareness observing.

If you allow yourself to experience emotional pain (Buddhists say "suffering") you will learn to let go of it and that leads to awakening: the end of suffering. But you have to confront your emotions from a lucid state of mind or you will not be able to let go. When you experience emotions and you are not lucid, you are immersed in the emotions, they will take over your mind, like distracting thoughts during meditation. You will see the event that caused the emotion as a problem needing a solution and you be focused on that. But when you experience emotions while you are lucid, you are not immersed in it, you see the emotion as something you are observing, not necessarily as a problem that has to be solved. Because you are detached, because the emotion has not taken over your mind, you can just relax and allow it to exist until it naturally ends which is the way to let go of emotions - relax and allow them to exist until they cease naturally. When you are lucid, if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with, you will be able to do so without emotions clouding your judgement.

Allowing yourself to feel emotional pain can be difficult, but understanding that the process is beneficial can change your attitude and motivate you to embrace it so you can reap the benefits of letting go. You also quickly learn that most daily upsets are not too bad and that you can endure them quite easily. And if you observe the emotional pain from a lucid state you see emotions as something you are observing rather than a problem that needs a solution.

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.

But even when we are lucid and are being just awareness observing, we still do not understand our true nature. Over a lifetime we have built up a "reality" in our mind with thoughts about who we are, what we are, how we relate to the world, how other people should act, what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad etc. etc. But this is not reality. It is just thought. To see beyond our self constructed reality we have to disassemble it. Allowing ourselves to experience emotional pain can help us disassemble this illusory reality. When things in our experience don't match our expectations, we feel threatened, we feel emotional pain. We protect our mental model of reality by pushing away pain or by clinging to our ideas, Every time we feel emotional pain it is telling us about a flaw in our model of reality. Emotional pain can help us to deconstruct the illusion of reality if we allow ourselves to experience the pain and let go of it because by doing that we are accepting that our mental model of reality is flawed and in time it will be so weakened by so many accumulated flaws that we will be able to see through it. That is awakening.

I have been trying to put this information into practice and I am finding it very helpful.

A form of meditation that would be a good compliment to the book is this:
https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche-on-mahamudra/

In this type of meditation you first sit quietly and relax for a little while. Then begin to notice any thoughts that arise. Observe a thought but do not continue along in a train of thoughts. If there are no thoughts, just sit being aware of awareness. If you are not sure what "being aware of awareness" means, think any random word for example "automobile", when you are thinking it, you are observing a thought, when the thought is over, you are left being aware of awareness. If any unpleasant feelings arise go back to relaxing for a while and return to observing thoughts and awareness when you feel more at ease.
 
Last edited:
#3
I am seeing very clearly how letting myself feel emotional pain is the way to let go of it, and doing so helps get rid of the ego.

For example, if someone says something nasty and I relax and observe the emotional pain it, letting myself feel all of it without looking the other way, the pain lasts a short time and is gone and I don't feel any need to react defensively or vengefully because my feelings are not hurting me. Like if a child having a temper tantrum says "I hate you", the parent laughs it off. If there is no emotional pain, there is no ego.

The same applies if you lose in a game or in some competition, if someone makes you feel inferior, if you are embarrassed, in any situation where ego is normally involved. Ego is really a reaction to hurt feelings. If your emotions are not a problem for you, there will be no ego arising.

I'm not convinced all emotional pain can be let go of, I think some may be due to biological factors that cannot be modified by cognitive processes. But when it is applicable letting go by observing seems to work well.
 
Last edited:
#5
I generally find it unconvincing when people try to use physics to explain properties of consciousness. I don't think consciousness is physical so I don't think it can be explained by things like quantum entanglement. (If there is a relationship between physics and consciousness it is because consciousness is fundamental and physical properties are determined by consciousness not the other way around).

However I think there is a possible analogy between consciousness and quantum superposition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_superposition
Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. It states that, much like waves in classical physics, any two (or more) quantum states can be added together ("superposed") and the result will be another valid quantum state
Superposition does not mean the individual states cease to exist. The superposition could not exist if the individual states did not exist.
 
Last edited:
#6
Chapter 14 in this book explains awakening in the terms of modern psychology:
The Slacker's Guide to Stream Entry: https://archive.org/details/slackers-guide-to-stream-entry/

(Stream entry is the Buddhist term for the first of the four stages of awakening)

The author outlines the development of a person's concept of self from infancy to adulthood - how the concept of self develops and how it results in defense mechanisms that reduce emotional pain and become habitual. At a certain age an infant can recognize objects, later it understands the objects continue to exist even if they are out of sight, later it learns to recognize itself in a mirror - it understands itself as an object, at a later age it understands it can influence the environment around it. Step by step the development of our concept of self develops.

Awakening can by caused in many different ways but what they all have in common is that the experiencer loses the mental filter of the fabricated concept of self. When you lose the filter of the fabricated concept of self, you no longer experience any distinction between self and non-self. You feel that you are the universe and each part of it and everyone and every creature in it.
 
Last edited:
#9
(An updated version of this post can be found on my blog; https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-untethered-soul-by-michael-singer.html)
I have been reading "The Untetherd Soul" by Michael Singer.

I highly recommend this book. Singer offers a somewhat different perspective on certain aspects Buddhism which I have an interest in. His background is in yoga and he writes about many of the more esoteric / mystical aspects of the mind in a way that is much easier to understand than the way it is presented in Buddhism.

He cuts through a lot of the obscure verbal gymnastics you find in Buddhism and explains very clearly how understanding the mind can cause awakening. As far as I have read (74%) he has not given any meditation instructions but if you are already meditating, the information in the book can help you understand how meditation and mindfulness practices should work and how to do them correctly. I have a lot of experience in this area so what I am getting out of it is fairly advanced. I'm not sure how a beginner would react to it. What he is saying is not much different in essence from my own practice (observe the mind, relax, let go of unpleasant emotions) but Singer gives a clear explanation of the nature of the mind and how to use that understanding in combination with letting go of emotions to achieve awakening.

Singer's approach is somewhat different from Buddhism. In Buddhism you are told to meditate and someday if you are lucky something magical will happen and you will get enlightenment and your suffering will end. Singer says you have to confront unpleasant emotions to let go of them and that process leads to enlightenment.

Singer uses some "new age" type jargon chakras and "energy" etc but you can still understand the practical aspects of what to do with the information even if you don't like the way he says it.

I've looked at web sites about yoga and I found them harder to understand than Buddhism so I think what Singer has done is exceptional.

According to his biography "He had a deep inner awakening in 1971 while working on his doctorate in economics and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation."

The book's web site is here:
https://untetheredsoul.com

If you are interested in the book and have access to e-books from your library you might be able to borrow a copy. I borrowed the e-book through hoopla (hoopladigital.com). It is also available to borrow from overdrive.com but there was a waiting list when I checked there.

In the book he explains that you are just awareness. Thoughts and emotions and events around you are things you observe.

Singer uses the analogy of a lucid dream to explain how to experience yourself as just awareness.

In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming. In a regular dream you are immersed in the dream, you think it is real.

When you meditate or practice mindfulness, you know you are observing, you are mindful, you are lucid. But if you get distracted by thoughts and get carried away by them, you become immersed in them, you might notice after a while that you are thinking about something and not meditating you are not lucid. The thoughts have taken over your mind.

By practicing meditation and mindfulness you can learn to be mindful (lucid) all the time. You can be what you are, awareness observing.

If you allow yourself to experience emotional pain (Buddhists say "suffering") you will learn to let go of it and that leads to awakening: the end of suffering. But you have to confront your emotions from a lucid state of mind or you will not be able to let go. When you experience emotions and you are not lucid, you are immersed in the emotions, they will take over your mind, like distracting thoughts during meditation. You will see the event that caused the emotion as a problem needing a solution and you be focused on that. But when you experience emotions while you are lucid, you are not immersed in it, you see the emotion as something you are observing, not necessarily as a problem that has to be solved. Because you are detached, because the emotion has not taken over your mind, you can just relax and allow it to exist until it naturally ends which is the way to let go of emotions - relax and allow them to exist until they cease naturally. When you are lucid, if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with, you will be able to do so without emotions clouding your judgement.

Allowing yourself to feel emotional pain can be difficult, but understanding that the process is beneficial can change your attitude and motivate you to embrace it so you can reap the benefits of letting go. You also quickly learn that most daily upsets are not too bad and that you can endure them quite easily. And if you observe the emotional pain from a lucid state you see emotions as something you are observing rather than a problem that needs a solution.

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.

But even when we are lucid and are being just awareness observing, we still do not understand our true nature. Over a lifetime we have built up a "reality" in our mind with thoughts about who we are, what we are, how we relate to the world, how other people should act, what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad etc. etc. But this is not reality. It is just thought. To see beyond our self constructed reality we have to disassemble it. Allowing ourselves to experience emotional pain can help us disassemble this illusory reality. When things in our experience don't match our expectations, we feel threatened, we feel emotional pain. We protect our mental model of reality by pushing away pain or by clinging to our ideas, Every time we feel emotional pain it is telling us about a flaw in our model of reality. Emotional pain can help us to deconstruct the illusion of reality if we allow ourselves to experience the pain and let go of it because by doing that we are accepting that our mental model of reality is flawed and in time it will be so weakened by so many accumulated flaws that we will be able to see through it. That is awakening.

I have been trying to put this information into practice and I am finding it very helpful.

A form of meditation that would be a good compliment to the book is this:
https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche-on-mahamudra/

In this type of meditation you first sit quietly and relax for a little while. Then begin to notice any thoughts that arise. Observe a thought but do not continue along in a train of thoughts. If there are no thoughts, just sit being aware of awareness. If you are not sure what "being aware of awareness" means, think any random word for example "automobile", when you are thinking it, you are observing a thought, when the thought is over, you are left being aware of awareness. If any unpleasant feelings arise go back to relaxing for a while and return to observing thoughts and awareness when you feel more at ease.
I'm a huge fan of mickey singer ( by the way I keep thinking I already posted this on the forum and if I did I apologize). I find him to be incredibly pragmatic while dispensing some deep deep spiritual truth... and he's a billionaire :)

his video series is extraordinary... life changing for me:
Living From a Place of Surrender - The Untethered Soul ... - Sounds T
 
#10
I'm a huge fan of mickey singer ( by the way I keep thinking I already posted this on the forum and if I did I apologize). I find him to be incredibly pragmatic while dispensing some deep deep spiritual truth... and he's a billionaire :)

his video series is extraordinary... life changing for me:
Living From a Place of Surrender - The Untethered Soul ... - Sounds T
I crossposted here:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...lightenment-be-taught.1953/page-5#post-132815

If he is a billionaire why does he charge $197 to watch his videos and why doesn't he put free ebook versions of his books on a web site?

His video series is called the "surrender course", I call it the "surrender your money course".
https://untetheredsoul.com/surrender-course
 
#12
Doesn't this question answer itself? ;)

Capitalists are capitalists after all. Its a mindset.
The greatest philanthropists in history were capitalists.

And maybe Singer has a good reason. I just asked a question.

Don't blame the failings of human nature on capitalism. There are plenty of examples of greed and selfishness in every other economic system.

Why is it that everyone hates capitalism but at the same time so many people want to get into capitalist countries like the US?
 
Last edited:
#13
The greatest philanthropists in history were capitalists.

And maybe Singer has a good reason. I just asked a question.

Don't blame the failings of human nature on capitalism. There are plenty of examples of greed and selfishness in every other economic system. Close to 100 million people were murdered by communists.

Why is it that everyone hates capitalism but at the same time so many people want to get into capitalist countries like the US?
Singer was an unintentional capitalist:

I posted this on another forum:

The Surrender Experiment is an autobiography of Singer's life in which he decided early on to always take the path that life presented to him without regard to his personal likes or dislikes. The result was that he started out meditating in the woods and step by step, trying to help people who came to him, he ended up the CEO of a billion dollar company and the director of a spiritual temple where yoga and meditation were practiced and taught.​
Singer had bought a parcel of land in the woods in which he planned to mediate in seclusion. After he built a house for himself on his property, someone in his community asked him to do some construction work. That led to more requests from others and Singer eventually formed a construction company. Singer funneled the proceeds into building a temple on his property where people from the community met to practice yoga and meditate.
When Singer bought one of the first models of personal computer on the market, he wrote programs for himself until the owner of the store where he bought it asked if he could refer clients to Singer. That eventually led Singer to form a software company. The software company grew and grew and merged and merged until Singer was CEO of a billion dollar company​
Singer never wanted to be a billionaire, all he ever wanted to do was meditate alone in the woods.
 
Last edited:
#14
One thing I didn't notice in The Untethered Soul is any mention of impersonal views consciousness.
...

Despite my belief that consciousness is non-physical I also believe that in a sense it is an illusion.

Buddha likened consciousness to a magic trick:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.095.than.html
SN 22.95 PTS: S iii 140 CDB i 951​
Phena Sutta: Foam​
translated from the Pali by​
Thanissaro Bhikkhu​
...​
"Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?​
...​

To understand this opinion, consider that you can observe thoughts emotions and impulses as they arise from the unconscious, exist for a time and then fade away. If you can observe them they must be outside you, they cannot be you or yours. They have no substantial existence, they are not real or "reality" they are illusions. You are left with the conclusion that you are just awareness observing thoughts, emotions, and impulses that come from the unconscious. But then consider that you can observe yourself observing. That "observer" is no different from any thought, emotion or impulse, it is an illusion too.

Obviously consciousness exists, we are conscious, but is it what we think it is?

What is consciousness? We are all conscious so in a sense we all know what it is. But in another sense we have no idea. Consciousness is non-physical and we are so biased by our experience in the physical world that have very little ability to conceive of what it could be like in the non-physical realm where time and distance (physical phenomena) do not exist.
...
 
#15
Some people might object to Singer's discussion of the heart chakra.

I believe what Singer wrote is based on his experience and he using words as best he can to describe it.

I believe that because I have similar experiences.

When I meditate it produces feelings of good will and compassion and I get a feeling in the area of my heart. This is the basis for the term "heart chakra". The heart chakra is not a superstitious pre-scientific theory, it is an empirical observation made throughout the ages by people who meditate a certain way. (In modern times we have many similar terms for emotions that we feel as sensations in the body: a lump in the throat, a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, butterflies, a broken heart or heart ache,) Keeping this feeling in the heart, maintaining the emotional experience produced by meditation, is called "keeping the heart open". It is not some new-age aphorism. It is an instruction for a way to integrate the effects of meditation into daily life. Singer says to let emotional pain "flow through" you and not to resist it. This is exactly what happens when you "keep the heart open". Unpleasant emotions arise, you feel them in your body for a brief time, and they fade away.
 
#17
relax and observe the emotional pain
I've heard that emotional states only last 90 seconds. This would comply with your description here that by relaxing and observing pain, it lasts a short time then is gone. Sitting with it one could say?

Even without being a meditator, many tragic outcomes of say, anger reaction could so easily be avoided by knowing and practicing this.
 
#18
I've heard that emotional states only last 90 seconds. This would comply with your description here that by relaxing and observing pain, it lasts a short time then is gone. Sitting with it one could say?
Some emotions are like that. But it is complicated by the fact that the same emotion can be triggered again - it's not like you let go of it and it's permanently gone. The specific instance of it that occured at that time is gone, but you aren't necessarily "cured" of whatever attachment or aversion is responsible for the emotion.

Other emotions seem to last a long time, like anxiety and grief and depression.

Even without being a meditator, many tragic outcomes of say, anger reaction could so easily be avoided by knowing and practicing this.
 
#19
Some emotions are like that. But it is complicated by the fact that the same emotion can be triggered again - it's not like you let go of it and it's permanently gone. The specific instance of it that occured at that time is gone, but you aren't necessarily "cured" of whatever attachment or aversion is responsible for the emotion.

Other emotions seem to last a long time, like anxiety and grief and depression.
Right, hence the need to develop a regular practice, not just to keep it together in traffic for e.g.
Would you compare this practice to a life review, only conducted while still here?
 
#20
Right, hence the need to develop a regular practice, not just to keep it together in traffic for e.g.
Would you compare this practice to a life review, only conducted while still here?
I understand why they seem similar - if we are open to emotions we can learn from them - but there are also differences. The life review in an NDE happens once and it is from other people's perspective. Emotions can keep coming back. It is possible to work on the underlying attachments and aversions but it is a lot of work. Even people who are enlightened have a lot of work - very few if any ever really achieve perfect or full enlightenment.
 
Top