Want to Feel More Joy and Less Stress? Michael Singer's New Book Is Your Compass
Is it just me, or does it feel increasingly difficult to feel unconditional happiness these days?
Inflation is at an all-time high. Women’s reproductive rights are under attack. There’s a senseless war raging in Eastern Europe. The list goes on.
Yet Michael Singer, author of the still-wildly popular best-seller The Untethered Soul, says all of us have the power to feel more joy and less stress—no matter what is going on in the world. “Each one of us has a natural state that’s filled with love, clarity, and spiritual energy,” says Singer. “Understanding how to get back to this natural state will set you free.”
Sign me up. But what can I do to move beyond the thoughts, feelings, and habits that keep me feeling stuck? What are the steps I can take to return to that natural state that’ll set me free?
Thankfully, the answers to these questions and more are in Singer’s new book, Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament. I recently sat down with Singer to talk about this new work, how it can serve as a practical guide for all of us wanting to experience more joy, and why embarking on a journey inward to heal the pain of your past is the secret to letting your spirit soar.
A Converation with Michael Singer
Now more than ever, we’re all looking to feel more joy, happiness, and deeper meaning in our lives. You write that many of us look for these things in the wrong places. What are those wrong places—and where should we be looking instead?
There is no wrong place. It’s not a question of right or wrong, it’s a question of what works.
All of us have desires and fears; that’s just the nature of the game. To go out there and try to find out what’ll make you feel better is a totally natural thing to do. But I’ve found there’s something really beautiful inside—a well of tremendous joy. When you find something that turns you on outside, it’s because your mind and heart open to that thing allowing this joy from the inside to come through. The actual experiences of joy, love, and inspiration are coming from inside. So, it’s not that there are wrong places—it’s that since joy comes from inside, why aren’t we looking for it inside?
You’ll find that if you’re open and receptive, you’re going to feel joy. If you close and resist, you’re not. So, do you want to go out there and be dependent on finding things that will open you, or do you want to find out why you’re opening and closing? If you pay attention, you will see that you’ve stored impressions from the past, and when something stimulates those impressions, it causes your mind to get either negative or positive and your heart to either open or close. You’re not doing this willfully—it is happening by itself.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have some say over whether you stay open and feel more joy in your life rather than allowing these past stored impressions to determine the quality of your life?
There are things you can do to affect whether you stay open in different situations. For example, what if you feel yourself start to close, begin to affirm “I feel love, I feel joy, I’m so inspired to be here” over and over again. Then, if something happens that doesn’t hit you just right, you can still feel love, inspiration, and joy. You have some say in the matter, but you have to be willing to work on yourself, inwardly. To me, that is what spirituality is all about.
What’s your best advice for those of us who want to embark on this inner journey? Where should we start? Or what’s important to keep in mind if we’re already on the path?
A good starting place is to focus on when something happens that causes you to feel love and joy. You feel high, inspired, and filled with energy. When that happens, pay attention to it.
This energy that comes up inside of you is so beautiful. Everyone knows what I’m talking about: Somebody you love says something really nice, your boss compliments you, you hit a good tennis shot. All this positive energy comes up inside. What is that energy, how can you get more of it, and how can you make it unconditional?
It starts with witness consciousness. You’re a conscious being. You can experience what’s changing in there. So, experience when the energy comes and when it goes away rather than focusing on what outside made it change. When you do the latter, you end up leaving your inner focus and trying to manipulate what’s outside.
If you pay attention to your inner energy flow, you will eventually notice that it opens and closes based on past experiences that you either liked or disliked. We store stuff inside of us from the past that either turned us on or turned us off. Then when the present moment hits that stuff it causes us to open or close accordingly. The first step in working with yourself is to notice that when you open, you feel good—and when you close, you feel bad. Then notice that it's actually the change in your energy flow that feels either uplifting or depressing, not the outer event itself.
If you want to feel more love, joy, and inspiration in your everyday life, you have to let go of these impressions from the past that are triggering your opening and closing. You do this by relaxing when you feel the tendency to close. Learn to relax in the face of things that happen to “hit your stuff,” and relax when disturbances from the past resurface inside of you. Relax rather than resist and that will allow disturbances to pass through rather than get stored inside.
Eventually, you will realize that the moment in front of you isn’t bothering you; you are bothering yourself about the moment in front of you. Understanding this is very important, because it gives you the power over your own inner level of happiness.
Living Untethered urges us to try to see the root of why things are the way they are. Can you tell me a little more about this, and why it’s such an important thing to do? Once you truly understand something at its root, it ceases to have the same hold on you, right?
I think the teachings are very simple; doing them is not always so easy.
When things happen in life that are disturbing, we try to protect ourselves by pushing them away inside—in essence, we suppress them. It makes perfect sense that if we store everything that ever disturbed us inside ourselves, it is going to be disturbed in there. You know it’s still in there because it keeps coming up when life’s situations hit it. Eventually you realize that you don’t want all that stuff in there from the past disturbing your present state of being. Believe or not, you are perfectly capable of letting go of all that stored-up stuff from the past.
On a daily basis, when you find your mind or heart dwelling on past disturbances, instead of saying, “That was terrible, I’m still so upset,” try to look at the disturbances and say, “Thank you, come on up because I don’t want to carry you around for the rest of my life!” You can learn how to work with yourself to release these past blockages so that you can be a person with great energy, great happiness—all the time.
Start by practicing not storing meaningless moments of disturbance inside of you. Like being bothered by the weather, or the driver in front of you. These everyday moments are low-hanging fruit where you can practice not making yourself disturbed by meaningless events in your life that you have no control over. In essence, stop bothering yourself and then complaining that you are bothered!
Do you have a mantra to help you practice this?
Yes, here’s one: I can handle this. If you want to handle something, you can. It’s amazing how strong people can be when they want to be.
When something happens that makes you uncomfortable, first handle it—and then work with it, raise it up, and let it go. That’s the key: Let it go. Say someone says something snarky. Fine! Maybe they had a fight with their spouse. Wouldn’t it be great if you learned how to not make a big deal out of that one little moment? You’re sitting on a tiny planet spinning through empty space for a few years. You can handle things.
The Untethered Soul is still wildly popular. Why did you write this follow-up, and what do you hope people will walk away with that they won’t ever forget?
The first book is all about waking people up. It says, Are you in there? And is there a voice inside your head that’s causing all of this trouble? And do you understand you’re not the voice, you’re the consciousness that’s aware of the voice?
Living Untethered goes deeper—it lays out how to free yourself. It shows you how to understand what’s going on in there so you can work with it. For example, it helps you understand why the mind says what it says when it says it. This helps you to not get all caught up in its melodrama.
The new book shows you how to be free inside so you can enjoy everything—your relationships, your work, everything. You can be so filled with love every moment that it just pours off you. Let your intent be to let go of the stuff that’s inside making your life difficult, instead of constantly trying to compensate for it.
Michael A. Singer is the author of New York Times bestsellers The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment, which have been published worldwide. 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.