Michael Singer Shares the Secrets to Living a Life of Peace and Joy
Nearly 50 years ago, Michael Singer was in his 20s and had a realization: He was just one human living on a tiny star that essentially spins around this galaxy in the middle of nowhere. And while life on Planet Earth involves all the feels—joy, stress, fear, grief—it’s all part of the experience of living here. When Singer started seeing himself as a curious visitor, he experienced more joy and peace—and less stress and frustration.
“I said to myself, ‘What do I want to do during my stay on this planet?’” says Singer. “After all, I’ll be here for a few years. The last thing I want to do is be neurotic! That doesn’t sound like fun at all.” To remind himself of this ah-ha that changed his life—and that prompted him to write The Untethered Soul, which continues to be a best-seller since it was published in 2007—all Singer has to do is look up at the sun. “It reminds me that I’m spinning around that thing, and that 1.3 million Earths fit inside the sun,” he says. “How do you get uptight when you remember that’s what’s going on?”
It’s so simple, really: We are all here for a short period of time, and our own insignificance in the grand scheme of things should remind us to take it easy on ourselves. Yet as most of us know all too well, life can feel like a lot—especially now, as we charge into the hectic holiday season. The good news? It is possible to take a moment to feel your feet on the Earth, look up at the sun, and remember what’s most important. We sat down with Singer to ask him how to do that more often, and why he thinks so many readers still gravitate toward The Untethered Soul after so many years.
The Untethered Soul has been described as a book that can help us be free from our limitations and achieve inner peace, energy, and happiness. That sounds so nice as we enter the hectic holiday season! Where do we begin?
It all boils down to this: While you’re doing what you’re doing, remember your motive and intent. Let’s say you’re doing some holiday shopping, and you’re nervous, eager to please, worried you won’t buy the perfect gift. It creates tension and anxiety. But if you take a moment to relax and realize what you’re trying to do is express love and care for this person you’re buying a gift for—rather than worry about getting everything right—you won’t have all of the anxiety.
The key is realizing that you are the one creating the anxiety you feel. Remember, if you’re coming from your heart and you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what you do! The same goes for all of life; this is how you solve everything. Be sincere within yourself, express yourself honestly and lovingly, and you’ll be OK.
Why do you think The Untethered Soul continues to be a best-seller 15 years after its publication?
The essence of the book is all about freeing yourself from yourself. I think that’s why the book is still a bestseller 15 years later.
You’re in there—in your body. You’re a conscious being. The question becomes: What is going on in there? What’s it like in there? I know you’re trying to do all this stuff, and there’s an outside world that comes in— thoughts that take up space in your mind, emotions that emanate from your heart. The Untethered Soul says, “Will you please pay attention to what’s in there?
I know it’s hard; you’re probably constantly doing things to feel OK inside. But think of it this way: You’re essentially living in a single-occupancy apartment. Why not take a moment to see what it’s like in there and make it nicer? If your house is a mess, you clean it up! How we do this is to learn to be able to move toward these thoughts and emotions with objective observation, or mindfulness. Notice what your mind is doing: Is it worrying? Self-conscious? Guilty? Notice what’s going on, and then remember you have a right to relax and say, Mind, you’ve got problems. I’m the consciousness that sees that.
The Untethered Soul wakes you up to this and helps you learn to notice that you are not all of these things your mind is saying or your heart is feeling. When these thoughts and emotions are things you notice, it gives you a little distance. And then you can say, “I can handle this.”
My favorite phrase is, “I can handle it.” If you can handle something, it’s not a big deal. When you feel you can’t handle something, that’s when it becomes a big deal.
In your book, you encourage readers to focus less on the world around us and more on changing our relationship with our inner space. What’s the secret to doing it consistently?
Let’s say you’re thinking about something that happened in the past and it makes you upset. Ask yourself this: How does it help one single thing in your life to be bothered by something that’s not happening in this moment? Your thoughts are there because you’ve held them there. There’s no super glue inside your mind! It’s your will. So, the first step is to decide to release anything that’s not happening right now. If it’s not happening now, it shouldn’t be bothering you.
The best way I know how to do this is to be conscious when it’s happening. Eventually, you’ll see this habit pattern in your mind or heart has no basis. Also, instead of getting involved in those thoughts or pulled into the emotions, try to relax. Relax your shoulders, your tummy, your toes—relax! When you’re relaxed, you’ll find you won’t get so involved. Over time, relaxing in the face of what’s bothering you will help you let it go.
We hear you’re writing a new book, which is set to come out in May 2022. Can you give us a sneak preview of what that book will be about?
It’s going to be called Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament. I’ve spent a lot of years writing it and I’m very excited about it. The whole idea is to take what you’re experiencing because of circumstances in the outside world and then ask yourself, “How could this be bothering you?” This book will help you objectively look at your heart and mind, which changes everything.
Editor’s Note: Readers of The Sunday Paper are granted Michael Singer’s course, Living From a Place of Surrender: The Untethered Soul in Action, at a special price. Click here to learn more and sign up.
Michael A. Singer is the author of New York Times bestsellers The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment, which have been published worldwide. 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. In 1975, he founded Temple of the Universe, a now long-established yoga and meditation center where people of any religion or set of beliefs can come together to experience inner peace. He is also the creator of a leading-edge software package that transformed the medical practice management industry, and founding CEO of a billion dollar public company whose achievements are archived in the Smithsonian Institution.