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The radiant seer of Arunachala and one of the most revered spiritual figures in India, Bhagawan Shri Ramana Maharishi, distilled the quintessential nature of his philosophy in three simple, subtle and succinct words, “Who Am I?” According to this philosopher-saint who spent a majority of his years – the whole of his spiritual life- in the city of Tiruvannamalai in South India , the only submission that a seeker needed to make was to the Self manifested outwardly in order to help one discover the Self within. “The Master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. By the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ the thought ‘Who am I?’ will be destroyed all other thoughts and, like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise Self-realisation.”
American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and former software developer, Michael Singer channels the primary teaching of Sri Ramana Maharishi – in addition to a clutch of Eastern and Western philosophies – as he exhorts his readers to undertake a journey into the self. “The Untethered Soul” passionately argues that the best way to quieten the clamour and cacophony of a restless mind (‘mental monologue going on inside your head that never stops), is to anthropomorphize the voice, step back and observe before separating gold dust from garbage.
“True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection”. According to Singer, you must develop an awareness of the fact that you are the one inside that notices the voice talking. To be aware is to undertake a special inner journey. The voice which spews drivel and balderdash can be transformed to spout wisdom and revel in wit. This centre of awareness forms the frontispiece of a multitude of philosophies. The “Atman” for the Hindus, “seat” of the Buddhist self and the Judeo-Christian “soul”, this centre of awareness constitutes the eternal-conscious-bliss continuum of a fulfilling life.
Singer also believes in drawing up on a ‘wellspring of beautiful energy’ that exists within every human being. Distinguishable from the physical and physiological forms of energy that is a direct outcome of calories going in and calories getting burnt, this inner energy can be a constant and ever flowing radiant companion when harnessed in totality. A helpful technique to yoke this energy is to always stay ‘open’. This simply means not being rigid to views that are in direct contradiction to the ones espoused by you or held dear to you, staying closed to the presence even, of someone with whom you are at loggerheads and closing out all avenues to even attempt getting rid of innate phobias and misperceptions. However, Singer leaves this bit of his opinion open ended. “How you learn to stay open is up to you. The ultimate trick is not to close. If you don’t close you would have learned to stay open.”
The practice of looking within and being aware of the seat of the Self also, according to Singer, malleates the relationship that we possess with our psyches. The psyche is unrelenting in its demand and no amount of abundance satisfies the psyche. This is the primary reason for the manifestation of the trait of addiction, whether it be for narcotics or opioids or for materialistic pleasures. Once the voice in the monkey mind is stilled into silence, the message conveyed to the mischief mongering psyche is loud and clear “S.T.O.P” “The truth is everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that is the only time everything will be okay.” A self-perpetuating virtuous cycle.
Singer urges his readers to channel their respective inner Carl Sagans in practicing to create moments of ‘centered consciousness’. For example, ‘every time you get into your car, as you’re settling into the seat, just stop. Take a moment to remember that you are spinning on a planet in the middle of empty space. Then remind yourself that you’re not going to get involved in your own melodrama.” This guide to grasping one’s infinitesimal status in the grander scheme of things, evokes the memorable and epochal “Pale Blue Dot” talk delivered by Carl Sagan. Singer might also be a Sagan fan for every part of the book begins with a picture of the cosmos and some as seen from a Hubble telescope.
Singer also is influenced by the “infiniteness” concept as propounded by James Carse in his complex and convoluted book, “Finite and Infinite Games” (this abstract theory has been simplified by Simon Sinek in “The Infinite Game”). He avers that the act and art of going “beyond” represents the realisation of the infinite in all directions. The concept of finiteness is a self-imposed limitation triggered by perceptions that draw artificial boundaries and hit mental margins. The plain and simple truth however being everything is infinite.
“The Untethered Life” informs us that events in themselves are not problems. Our resistance to events is what creates a problem. When events are dealt with as events taking place in the earth, but detached from our personal lives, events do not transcend the ephemeral form of events. However reaching such a realised and transcendental state brooks neither a reductionist approach does not encourage a simplistic nonchalance. This is akin to a reading of one of the greatest masterpieces of philosophy, the Tao te Ching. ‘You could easily read the Tao te Ching and never understand a single word or you could read it and tears could pour from your eyes with every word you read’. Ultimately it is concentrated practice that helps.
Perhaps before you even read this review, please stop for a few seconds, take a moment to remember that you are spinning on a planet in the middle of empty space. Then remind yourself………
I am sure you have got this!