By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.
Part I: Awakening Consciousness
Chapter 1: The voice inside your head
There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it. If you don’t understand this, you will try to figure out which of the many things the voice says is really you. People go through so many changes in the name of “trying to find myself.” They want to discover which of these voices, which of these aspects of their personality, is who they really are. The answer is simple: none of them.
If you spend your time hoping that it doesn’t rain tomorrow, you are wasting your time. Your thoughts don’t change the rain. You will someday come to see that there is no use for that incessant internal chatter, and there is no reason to constantly attempt to figure everything out. Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.
True personal growth
True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection. This is done by constantly remembering that you are the one inside that notices the voice talking. That is the way out. The one inside who is aware that you are always talking to yourself about yourself is always silent. It is a doorway to the depths of your being.
To be aware that you are watching the voice talk is to stand on the threshold of a fantastic inner journey. If used properly, the same mental voice that has been a source of worry, distraction, and general neurosis can become the launching ground for true spiritual awakening. Come to know the one who watches the voice, and you will come to know one of the great mysteries of creation.
Chapter 2: your inner roommate
Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. You’re ready to grow when you finally realize that the “I” who is always talking inside will never be content. It always has a problem with something. Honestly, when was the last time you really had nothing bothering you? Before you had your current problem, there was a different problem. And if you’re wise, you will realize that after this one’s gone, there will be another one.
The process of seeing something requires a subject-object relationship. The subject is called “The Witness” because it is the one who sees what’s happening. The object is what you are seeing, in this case the inner disturbance. This act of maintaining objective awareness of the inner problem is always better than losing yourself in the outer situation. This is the essential difference between a spiritually minded person and a worldly person. Worldly doesn’t mean that you have money or stature. Worldly means that you think the solution to your inner problems is in the world outside.
Chapter 3: Who are you?
Who is having all these physical, emotional, and mental experiences?” So you contemplate this question a little deeper. This is done by letting go of the experiences and noticing who is left.
You will begin to notice who is experiencing the experience. Eventually, you will get to a point within yourself where you realize that you, the experiencer, have a certain quality. And that quality is awareness, consciousness, an intuitive sense of existence. You know that you’re in there. You don’t have to think about it; you just know. You can think about it if you want to, but you will know that you’re thinking about it. You exist regardless, thoughts or no thoughts.
When you just look without creating thoughts, your consciousness is effortlessly aware of, and fully comprehends, all that it sees. Consciousness is the highest word you will ever utter. There is nothing higher or deeper than consciousness. Consciousness is pure awareness.
The consciousness experiences the creation of thoughts and emotions, and it has the clarity to see where they came from. It sees all of this without thinking about it. It sees what’s going on inside as easily as it sees what’s going on outside. It simply watches. The Self is watching the inside energies change in accordance to both inside and outside forces. All the energies that it watches will just come and go, unless you lose your center of consciousness and go with them.
Chapter 4: The lucid self
When you are an aware being, you no longer become completely immersed in the events around you. Instead, you remain inwardly aware that you are the one who is experiencing both the events and the corresponding thoughts and emotions. When a thought is created in this state of awareness, instead of getting lost in it, you remain aware that you are the one who is thinking the thought. You are lucid.
The Lost Soul
The lost soul is the consciousness that has dropped into the place where one human’s thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell are all synchronized. All these messages come back to one spot. Then the consciousness, which is capable of being aware of anything, makes the mistake of focusing on that one spot too closely. When the consciousness gets sucked in, it no longer knows itself as itself. It knows itself as the objects it is experiencing. In other words, you perceive yourself as these objects. You think you are the sum of your learned experiences.
Chapter 5: Infinite Energy
The only thing you have to know is that opening allows energy in, and closing blocks it out. Now you have to decide whether or not you want this energy. The only thing you have to know is that opening allows energy in, and closing blocks it out. Now you have to decide whether or not you want this energy.
You can actually train yourself to forget how to close. Closing is a habit, and just like any other habit, it can be broken.
Basically, we are programmed to open or close based upon our past experiences. Impressions from the past are still inside of us, and they get stimulated by different events. If they were negative impressions, we tend to close. If they were positive impressions, we tend to open.
We are programmed based upon our past impressions such that all kinds of things can cause us to open and close. If you pay attention, you will see it happen regularly throughout each day.
The more you stay open, the more the energy flow can build. At some point, so much energy comes into you that it starts flowing out of you. You feel it as waves pouring off of you. You can actually feel it flowing off your hands, out your heart, and through other energy centers. All these energy centers open, and a tremendous amount of energy starts flowing out of you. What is more, the energy affects other people. People can pick up on your energy, and you’re feeding them with this flow. If you are willing to open even more, it never stops. You become a source of light for all those around you.
Chapter 6: The secrets of the spiritual heart
The heart is actually very simple to understand. It is an energy center, a chakra. It is one of the most beautiful and powerful energy centers, and one that affects our daily lives. As we have seen, an energy center is an area within your being through which your energy focuses, distributes, and flows. This energy flow has been referred to as Shakti, Spirit, and Chi, and it plays an intricate part in your life. You feel the heart’s energy all the time. Think about what it is like to feel love in your heart. Think about what it is like to feel inspiration and enthusiasm pour from your heart.
“When you are unable to allow life’s events to pass through “you, they stay inside and become a problem. These patterns may be held within you for a very long time.”
In the yogic tradition, that “unfinished energy pattern is called a Samskara. This is a Sanskrit word meaning “impression,” and in the yogic teachings it is considered one of the most important influences affecting your life. A Samskara is a blockage, an impression from the past. It’s an unfinished energy pattern that ends up running your life.
A Samskara is a cycle of stored past energy patterns in a state of relative equilibrium. It is your resistance to experiencing these patterns that causes the energy to keep cycling around “itself.“
Clinging creates positive Samskaras, and when these are stimulated, they release positive energy. Hence two kinds of experiences can occur that block the heart. You are either trying to push energies away because they bother you, or you are trying to keep energies close because you like them. In both cases, you are not letting them pass, and you are wasting precious energy by blocking the flow through resisting and clinging.
Chapter 7: transcending the tendency to close
Many of us no longer lack food, water, clothing, or shelter; nor do we regularly face life-threatening physical danger. As a result, the protective “energies have adapted toward defending the individual psychologically, rather than physiologically. We now experience the daily need to defend our self-concepts rather than our bodies. Our major struggles end up being with our own inner fears, insecurities, and destructive behavior patterns, and not with outside forces.
When you close down and protect yourself, you are pulling a shell around the part of you that is weak. This is the part that feels it needs protection even though no physical attack is taking place. You are protecting your ego, your self-concept. Although a situation may present no physical danger, it may cause you to experience disturbance, fear, insecurity, and other emotional problems. So you feel the need to protect yourself.
What exactly does it mean “to stop”? It’s something you do inside. It’s called letting go. When you let go, you are falling behind the energy that is trying to pull you into it. Your energies inside have power. They are very strong, and they draw your awareness into them.
Consciousness has the tendency to focus on disturbance, and disturbed energies inside are no exception. These disturbed energies will draw your consciousness to them. But you do not have to let this happen. You really do have the ability to disengage and fall back behind them.
Relax and Release
A wise person remains centered enough to let go every time the energy shifts into a defensive mode. The moment the energy moves and you feel your consciousness start to get drawn into it, you relax and release. Letting go means falling behind the energy instead of going into it. It just takes a moment of conscious effort to decide that you’re not going there. You just let go. It’s simply a matter of taking the risk that you are better off letting go than going with the energy. When you’re free from the hold the energy has on you, you will be free to experience the joy and expansiveness that exists within you.
Chapter 8: let go now or fall
The exploration of Self is inextricably interwoven with the unfolding of one’s life. The natural ups and downs of life can either generate personal growth or create personal fears. Which of these dominates is completely dependent upon how we view change.
Change can be viewed as either exciting or frightening, but regardless of how we view it, we must all face the fact that change is the very nature of life. If you have a lot of fear, you won’t like change. You’ll try to create a world around you that is predictable, controllable, and definable. You’ll try to create a world that doesn’t stimulate your fears.
The more you sit in the Self, the more you will begin to feel an energy that you have never experienced before. It comes up from behind, rather than in front where you experience your mind and “emotions. When you are no longer absorbed in your melodrama but, instead, sit comfortably deep inside the seat of awareness, you will start to feel this flow of energy coming up from deep within. This flow has been called Shakti.
Awareness does not fight; awareness releases. Awareness is simply aware while everything in the universe parades before it.
Chapter 10: stealing freedom for your soul
The prerequisite to true freedom is to decide that you do not want to suffer anymore. You must decide that you want to enjoy your life and that there is no reason for stress, inner pain, or fear. Every day we bear a burden that we should not be bearing. We fear that we are not good enough or that we will fail. We experience insecurity, anxiety, and self-consciousness.
To end suffering, you must first realize that your psyche is not okay. You must then acknowledge that it does not have to be that way. It can be healthy. It is truly a gift just to realize that you don’t have to put up with, or protect, your psyche. You don’t have to constantly be mulling over what you said or what this person thinks of you. What kind of life are you going to have if you worry about these things all the time? Inner sensitivity is a symptom of non-well-being.
The body is communicating through its universal language: pain. Your psyche is communicating through its universal language: fear. Self-consciousness, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety—they are all fear.
Identify the root
The fact is, however, external changes are not going to solve your problem because they don’t address the root of your problem. The root problem is that you don’t feel whole and complete within yourself. If you don’t identify the root properly, you will seek someone or something to cover it up. You will hide behind finances, people, fame, and adoration. If you try to find the perfect “person to love and adore you, and you manage to succeed, then you have actually failed. You did not solve your problem.
People just put façades out there. They even admit that one façade is a little more real than the other. You go to work and get lost in your professional façade, but then you say, “I’m going home to be with my family and friends where I can just be myself.” So your work façade drops into the background, and your relaxed social façade comes forward. But what about you, the one who is holding the façade together? Nobody gets near that one. That’s just too scary. That one is too far back there to deal with.
If you stop clinging, you will see why the tendency to cling was there. If you let go of your façade, and don’t try to trade it in for a new one, your thoughts and emotions will become unanchored and begin passing through you. It will be a very scary experience. You will feel panic deep inside, and you will be unable to get your bearings.
That’s the part very few people come to know: it can stop. The noise, the fear, the confusion, the constant changing of these inner energies—it can all stop. You thought you had to protect yourself, so you grabbed onto the things that were coming at you and used them to hide. You took what you could get your hands on, and you started to cling in order to build solidity. But you can let go of what you’re clinging to and not play this game. You just have to take the risk of letting it all go and daring to face the fear that was driving you. Then you can pass through that part of you, and it will all be over. It will stop—no more struggling, just peace.
This is the human predicament. Events have happened and we continue to hold their energy inside of us by resisting them. Now, when we face today’s events, we are neither prepared to receive them nor capable of digesting them. This is because we’re still struggling with past energies. Over time, the energies can build up to the point that a person becomes so blocked that they either blow up or shut down completely. This is what it means to get stressed-out or even totally burned-out.
Chapter 17: contemplating death
It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second. While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.
A wise being completely and totally embraces the reality, the inevitability, and the unpredictability of death.
You must not be afraid to discuss death. Don’t get uptight about it. Instead, let this knowledge help you to live every moment of your life fully, because every moment matters. That’s what happens when somebody knows they only have a week left. You can be certain that they would tell you that the most important week they ever had was that last week. Everything is a million times more meaningful in that final week.
Life is not something you get; it’s something you experience. Life exists with or without you. It has been going on for billions of years. You simply get the honor of seeing a tiny slice of it. If you’re busy trying to get something, you will miss the slice you’re actually experiencing. Every one of life’s experiences is different, and every experience is worth having.
Life is not something to waste. It’s truly precious. That’s why death is such a great teacher. It is death that makes life precious. Look how precious life becomes when you imagine you only have a week left to live. How precious would life be if there was no such thing as death? You’d waste every second of it because you’d figure you’d always have it. It is scarcity that makes things precious. It is scarcity that makes a simple rock become a rare gem.
When you spend your energy trying to maintain the extremes, nothing goes forward. You get stuck in a rut. The more extreme you are, the less forward movement there is. You carve a groove and you get stuck in it. Then there’s no energy moving you in the Tao; it’s all being spent serving the extremes.
The Tao is in the middle. It’s the place where there is no energy pushing in either direction. The pendulum has been permitted to come to balance concerning food, relationships, sex, money, doing, not-doing, and everything else. Everything has its yin and yang. The Way is the place in which these forces balance quietly. And indeed, unless you go out of the Way, they will tend to stay in peaceful harmony.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.