I wish I would have read The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (Amazon) by Michael Singer before reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (book summary).
The Untethered Soul is a great gateway to spirituality and written in plain language. I found myself nodding my head often throughout the book. Author Michael Singer uses simple examples and metaphors to make spirituality as clear as possible for the reader.
Quick Housekeeping: All quotes are from the author, Michael Singer, unless otherwise stated. I’ve added emphasis to some quotes throughout this post in bold.)
Summary Contents: Click a link below to jump to a section within this post
Short Book Summary of The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
- “In the following chapters, we will undertake a journey of exploration of ‘self.’ But we will not do so in a traditional manner. We will neither call upon the experts in psychology, nor upon the great philosophers. We will not argue and choose between time-honored religious views, or resort to statistically supported surveys of people’s opinions. We will, instead, turn to a single source that has phenomenal direct knowledge on the subject. We will turn to one expert who, for every moment of every day of their life, has been collecting the data necessary to finally put this great inquiry to rest. And that expert is you.“
- “Neither are we interested in what books you have read, classes you have taken, nor seminars you have attended. We are only interested in your intuitive experience of what it is like to be you. We are not looking for your knowledge; we are seeking your direct experience. You see, you can’t fail at this because your ‘self’ is what you are, at all times and in all places.”
- “Are the many aspects of my being all equally part of my ‘self,’ or is there only one of me—and if so, which, where, how, and why?”
20 Conscious Themes from The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer (Book Summary)
Untethered Soul Theme 1: WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE—You are not your self-concept (the structure of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs of yourself in your mind).
- “Let’s get more specific. You try to hold a consistent set of thoughts and concepts in your mind, such as ‘I am a woman.’ Yes, even that is a thought, or a concept held in your mind. You, who are holding onto that, are neither male nor female. You are the awareness who hears the thought and sees a woman’s body in the mirror. But you cling tightly to these concepts. You think, ‘I am a woman, I am of a certain age and I believe in one philosophy versus another.’ You literally define yourself based on what you believe: ‘I believe in God or I don’t believe in God. I believe in peace and nonviolence, or I believe in survival of the fittest. I believe in capitalism, or I believe in neo-socialism.’ You take a set of thoughts in the mind and you hold onto them. You make a highly complex relational structure out of them, and then present that package as who you are. But it is not who you are. It is just the thoughts you have pulled around yourself in an attempt to define yourself. You do this because you are lost inside.”
- “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.”
- “Your self-concept is just a collection of thoughts about yourself.”
- “You must be willing to see that this need to protect yourself is where the entire personality comes from. It was created by building a mental and emotional structure to get away from that sense of fear. You are now standing face-to-face with the root of the psyche.”
- “If you go deep enough, you can watch the psyche being built. You will see that you are in the middle of nowhere, in empty infinite space, and all of these inner objects are flowing toward you. Thoughts, feelings, and the impressions of worldly experiences are all pouring into your consciousness. You will clearly see that the tendency is to protect yourself from this flow by bringing it under your control.”
Untethered Soul Theme 2: WHO YOU ARE—You must awaken to the nature of Self.
- “As you associate less with the physical and psychological parts of your being, you begin to identify more with the flow of pure energy.”
- “Because of this, you naturally begin to center more and more on the spiritual part of your being. You do this not by reaching for Spirit, but by letting go of the rest. There really is no other way. The personal self cannot touch Spirit; you must release the personal self. As you release it, you drift back. As you go further back, you get higher. You get higher in vibration and higher in the amount of love and lightness that you feel. You just begin to soar. This happens in an ever-increasing, continuous progression.”
- “When you contemplate the nature of Self, you are meditating. That is why meditation is the highest state. It is the return to the root of your being, the simple awareness of being aware. Once you become conscious of the consciousness itself, you attain a totally different state. You are now aware of who you are. You have become an awakened being. It’s really just the most natural thing in the world. Here I am. Here I always was. It’s like you have been on the couch watching TV, but you were so totally immersed in the show that you forgot where you were. Someone shook you, and now you’re back to the awareness that you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. Nothing else changed. You simply stopped projecting your sense of self onto that particular object of consciousness. You woke up. That is spirituality. That is the nature of Self. That is who you are.“
- “When the drop of consciousness that knows itself as an individual drifts back far enough, it becomes like the drop that falls into the ocean. The Atman (Soul) falls into the Paramatman (Supreme Soul). The individual consciousness falls into the Universal Oneness.“
- “The drop of consciousness, which is individual Spirit, is like a ray of light emanating from the sun. The individual ray is really no different from the sun. When consciousness stops identifying itself as the ray, it comes to know itself as the sun. Beings have merged into that state.”
- “One of these great saints, Ramana Maharshi, used to ask, ‘Who am I?’ We see now that this is a very deep question. Ask it ceaselessly, constantly. Ask it and you will notice that you are the answer. There is no intellectual answer—you are the answer. Be the answer, and everything will change.“
Untethered Soul Theme 3: CONTROL—You re-create the world within your mind so you can try to control it and live in your mind.
- “Basically, you re-create the outside world inside yourself, and then you live in your mind.”
- “You will get to a point in your growth where you understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free. It’s that simple. Because you’re scared, you have locked yourself within your house and pulled down all the shades. Now it’s dark and you want to feel the sunlight, but you can’t. It’s impossible. If you close and protect yourself, you are locking this scared, insecure person within your heart. You will never be free that way.”
- “We think we’re supposed to figure out how life should be, and then make it that way. Only someone who looks deeper, and questions why we need the events of life to be a particular way, will question this assumption. How did we come up with the notion that life is not okay just the way it is, or that it won’t be okay the way it will be? Who said that the way life naturally unfolds is not all right?”
- “It is actually possible to never have another problem for the rest of your life. This is because events are not problems; they’re just events. Your resistance to them is what causes the problem.”
- “You will have to keep everybody and everything straight in order to reconcile your conceptual model with reality. It’s a constant struggle to keep it together. What it means to live spiritually is to not participate in this struggle.“
- “Permit the things that disturb your model to act as the dynamite to break it up and free you. This is what it means to live spiritually.“
Untethered Soul Theme 4: MIND & SUFFERING—Stop expecting your mind to fix what’s wrong inside of you.
- “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.”
- “Inner sensitivity is a symptom of non-well-being.”
- “What you’ll see is that your mind is always telling you that you have to change something outside in order to solve your inner problems. But if you are wise, you won’t play this game.”
- “You have given your mind an impossible task by asking it to manipulate the world in order to fix your personal inner problems.”
- “You’re not living life; you’re living mind.”
Untethered Soul Theme 5: WITNESSING YOUR MIND—The only real solution is to take the seat of witness consciousness and completely change your frame of reference.
- “This involves a change from ‘outer solution consciousness’ to ‘inner solution consciousness.’ You have to break the habit of thinking that the solution to your problems is to rearrange things outside. The only permanent solution to your problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problems with reality.”
- “There are two distinct aspects of your inner being. The first is you, the awareness, the witness, the center of your willful intentions; and the other is that which you watch.”
- “If you are in there experiencing the peace that occurs when your thoughts stop, then obviously your existence is not dependent upon the act of thinking.”
- “You are not the thinking mind; you are aware of the thinking mind. You are the consciousness that is behind the mind and is aware of the thoughts. The minute you stop putting your whole heart and soul into the mind as if it were your savior and protector, you will find yourself behind the mind watching it. That’s how you know about your thoughts: you are in there watching them. Eventually, you will be able to just sit in there quietly, and consciously watch the mind.”
- “Thinking is something you watch the mind do. You are just in there, aware that you are aware. You are the indwelling being, the consciousness. It is not something that you have to think about; you are it.”
- “The only way to inner freedom is through the one who watches: the Self. The Self simply notices that the mind and emotions are unraveling, and that nothing is struggling to hold them together.”
Untethered Soul Theme 6: CONSCIOUSNESS & AWARENESS—The root of the Self, the seat of consciousness. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all the inner and outer things.
- “Now you are in your center of consciousness. You are behind everything, just watching. That is your true home. Take everything else away and you’re still there, aware that everything is gone. But take the center of awareness away, and there is nothing. That center is the seat of Self. From that seat, you are aware that there are thoughts, emotions, and a world coming in through your senses. But now you are aware that you’re aware. That is the seat of the Buddhist Self, the Hindu Atman, and the Judeo-Christian Soul. The great mystery begins once you take that seat deep within.”
- “If you go very deep, that is where you live. You live in the seat of consciousness. A true spiritual being lives there, without effort and without intent.”
- “Consciousness is the highest word you will ever utter. There is nothing higher or deeper than consciousness. Consciousness is pure awareness.”
- “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.“
- “What differentiates a conscious, centered being from a person who is not so conscious is simply the focus of their awareness. It’s not a difference in the consciousness itself. All consciousness is the same. Just as all light from the sun is the same, all awareness is the same. Consciousness is neither pure nor impure; it has no qualities. It’s just there, aware that it’s aware. The difference is that when your consciousness is not centered within, it becomes totally focused on the objects of consciousness. When you are a centered being, however, your consciousness is always aware of being conscious. Your awareness of being is independent of the inner and outer objects you happen to be aware of.“
- “That is how an awakened being lives in the ‘now.’ They are present, life is present, and the wholeness of life is passing through them. Imagine if you were so fully present during each experience of life that it was touching you to the depth of your being. Every moment would be a stimulating, moving experience because you would be completely open, and life would be flowing right through you.”
Untethered Soul Theme 7: INNER ENERGY—The flow of spiritual energy from the depth of your being (Chi, Shakti, Spirit).
- “Consciousness is one of the great mysteries in life. Inner energy is another. It’s actually a shame how little attention the Western world pays to the laws of inner energy. We study the energy outside, and give great value to energy resources, but we ignore the energy within. People go about their lives thinking, feeling, and acting, without the understanding of what makes these activities take place.”
- “You should know about this energy because it’s yours. It’s your birthright, and it’s unlimited. You can call upon it any time you want. It has nothing to do with age. Some eighty-year-old people have the energy and enthusiasm of a child. They can work long hours for seven days a week. It’s just energy. Energy doesn’t get old, it doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t need food. What it needs is openness and receptivity. This energy is equally available to everybody. The sun does not shine differently on different people.”
- “As you explore your inner energy, a whole world of discovery opens up to you.”
- “The most important thing in life is your inner energy.”
Untethered Soul Theme 8: STAYING OPEN—If you remain open enough, waves of uplifting energy will fill your heart. Don’t ever close.
- “You should never leave something as important as your energy flow to chance. If you like energy, and you do, then don’t ever close. The more you learn to stay open, the more the energy can flow into you. You practice opening by not closing.“
- “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.”
- “So you learn to stay open no matter what happens. If you do, you get for free what everybody else is struggling for: love, enthusiasm, excitement, and energy.”
- “If you really want to stay open, pay attention when you feel love and enthusiasm.”
- “What you’ll find is that the only thing you really want from life is to feel enthusiasm, joy, and love.”
Untethered Soul Theme 9: HEART—The natural state of a healthy heart allows energy to flow through for unending inspiration, unending love, and unending openness.
- “Your reward is a permanently open heart. There is no more valve. You live in love, and it feeds you and strengthens you. That is an open heart. That is the instrument of the heart as it was meant to be.“
- “At some point in the journey it all becomes heart, not mind. You will see that the mind follows the heart. The heart reacts way before the mind starts talking. When you are conscious, the shifts of energy in your heart cause you to instantaneously be aware that you are back there noticing. The mind doesn’t even get a chance to start up because you let go at the heart level.”
- “In truth, you are not your heart. You are the experiencer of your heart.”
Untethered Soul Theme 10: LIBERATION—Commit to the inner work and free yourself by finding yourself.
- “How do you free yourself? In the deepest sense, you free yourself by finding yourself.“
- “If you want to free yourself, you must first become conscious enough to understand your predicament. Then you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom. You do this as though your life depended on it, because it does.”
- “The reward for not protecting your psyche is liberation. You are free to walk through this world without a problem on your mind. You are just having fun experiencing whatever happens next.”
- “The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay.”
- “So you decide to use life to free yourself. You become willing to pay any price for the freedom of your soul. You will realize that the only price you have to pay is letting go of yourself. Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can. It doesn’t matter what others do, unless you decide that it matters to you.”
Untethered Soul Theme 11: LETTING GO—Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. Constantly let go and get permanent peace, permanent joy, and permanent happiness.
- “If you’re willing to let go, you’ll fall back and it will open into an ocean of energy. You will become filled with light. You will become filled with a light that has no darkness, with a peace that passeth all understanding. You will then walk through every moment of your daily life with the flow of this inner force sustaining you, feeding you, and guiding you from deep within. You will still have thoughts, emotions, and a self-concept floating around in inner space, but they will be just one small part of what you experience. You will not identify with anything outside the sense of Self.“
- “Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. It is the path of nonresistance, the path of acceptance, the path of surrender.”
Untethered Soul Theme 12: CENTEREDNESS—Persistently centered consciousness is the seat of the witness, the seat of Self.
- “If you aren’t centered, your consciousness is just following whatever catches its attention.”
- “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.”
- “This place of centered awareness is the seat of the witness, the seat of Self. That is the only seat from which you can let go.”
- “If you maintain your center, you can learn to appreciate and respect even the difficult experiences.”
Untethered Soul Theme 13: THE MIDDLE WAY—Where the energies are balanced and where you get filled with energy.
- “No discussion of living life as a spiritual path is complete without addressing one of the deepest of all spiritual teachings, the Tao te Ching.“
- “When you move in the Tao, you are always present. Life becomes absolutely simple. In the Tao, it’s easy to see what’s happening in life—it’s unfolding right in front of you. But if you have all kinds of reactions going on inside because you’re involved in the extremes, life seems confusing. That’s because you’re confused, not because life’s confusing.”
- “If you have no preference, if the only thing you want is to remain centered, then life unfolds while you simply feel for the center. There is an invisible thread that passes through everything. All things move quietly through that center balance. That is the Tao.“
Untethered Soul Theme 14: UNCONDITIONAL HAPPINESS—If you decide that you’re going to be happy, you will not only be happy, you will become enlightened.
- “People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.”
- “This choice to enjoy life will lead you through your spiritual journey. In truth, it is itself a spiritual teacher. Committing yourself to unconditional happiness will teach you every single thing there is to learn about yourself, about others, and about the nature of life.”
- “Once you have passed through trial by fire, and you are thoroughly convinced that you will let go no matter what, then the veils of the human mind and heart will fall away. You will stand face-to-face with what is beyond you because there is no longer a need for you. When you are done playing with the temporal and finite, you will open to the eternal and infinite. Then the word ‘happiness’ can’t describe your state. That’s where words like ecstasy, bliss, liberation, Nirvana, and freedom come in. The joy becomes overwhelming, and your cup runneth over.”
- “No matter what happens, just enjoy the life that comes to you.”
- “The key to staying happy is really very simple. Begin by understanding your inner energies. If you look inside, you will see that when you’re happy, your heart feels open and the energy rushes up inside of you. When you aren’t happy, your heart feels closed and no energy comes up inside. So to stay happy, just don’t close your heart.“
Untethered Soul Theme 15: SPIRITUAL GROWTH—The path of using life to evolve spiritually is truly the highest path.
- “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.“
- “Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself.“
- “As you grow spiritually, you will realize that your attempts to protect yourself from your problems actually create more problems.”
- “Spiritual growth is about the point at which you start to feel your energy change.”
- “When you become truly spiritual, you are totally different from everybody else. That which everybody else wants, you don’t want. That which everybody else resists, you totally accept. You want your model to break, and you honor the experience when something happens that can cause disturbance within you.”
- “When the events of this world make it through you, you have reached a deep spiritual state.”
Untethered Soul Theme 16: GOING BEYOND—The word ‘beyond’ captures the true meaning of spirituality. Free your infinite soul from its cage.
- “You are a great being who has been given a tremendous opportunity to explore beyond yourself. The whole process is very exciting, and you will have good times and bad times. All sorts of things will happen. That’s the fun of the journey.”
- “So there are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom. In other words, you can devote your whole life to the process of making sure everything fits within your limited model, or you can devote your life to freeing yourself from the limits of your model.”
- “When you truly awake spiritually, you realize you are caged. You wake up and realize that you can hardly move in there. You’re constantly hitting the limits of your comfort zone.”
- “Going beyond means going beyond the borders of the cage. There should be no cage. The soul is infinite. It is free to expand everywhere. It is free to experience all of life. This can only happen when you are willing to face reality without mental boundaries. If you still have barriers, and you know what they are because you hit them every day, you must be willing to go beyond them. Otherwise you remain within your cage. And remember, decorating your cage with beautiful experiences, fond memories, and great dreams is not the same as going beyond. A cage by any other name is still a cage. You must be willing to go beyond.“
- “Your cage is just like this. When you approach the edges you feel insecurity, jealousy, fear, or self-consciousness. You pull back, and if you are like most people, you stop trying. Spirituality begins when you decide that you’ll never stop trying. Spirituality is the commitment to go beyond, no matter what it takes. It’s an infinite journey based upon going beyond yourself every minute of every day for the rest of your life. If you’re truly going beyond, you are always at your limits. You’re never back in the comfort zone. A spiritual being feels as though they are always against that edge, and they are constantly being pushed through it.”
- “Imagine a comfort zone that is so expanded that it can easily fit the entire day, no matter what happens. The day unfolds and the mind doesn’t say anything. You simply interact with the day with a peaceful, fully inspired heart. If your edges happen to get hit, the mind doesn’t complain. It all just passes through. This is how great beings live. When you are trained, like a great athlete, to immediately relax through your edges when they get hit, then it’s all over. You realize that you will always be fine. Nothing can ever bother you except your edges, and now you know what to do with them. You end up loving your edges because they point your way to freedom. All you have to do is constantly relax and lean into them. Then one day, when you least expect it, you fall through into the infinite. That is what it means to go beyond.“
Untethered Soul Theme 17: LIFE ITSELF—The highest spiritual path is life itself. If you know how to live daily life, it all becomes a liberating experience.
- “You can wake up in the morning, look forward to the day, and not worry about what will happen. Your daily life can be like a vacation. Work can be fun; family can be fun; you can just enjoy all of it. That does not mean you don’t do your best; you just have fun doing your best. Then, at night when you go to sleep, you let it all go. You just live your life without getting uptight and worrying about it. You actually live life instead of fearing or fighting it.“
- “Daily work is fun. In fact, it’s easy. Your work is just what you do with yourself during the day while you’re spinning on a planet through empty space. If you want to be content and enjoy your work, you have to let go of yourself and let events flow through you. Your real work is what is left to do after all else passes through.“
Untethered Soul Theme 18: TRANSCENDENCE—Transcend the personal and naturally awaken to the higher aspects of your being.
- “If you sit within the Self, you will experience the strength of your inner being even when your heart feels weak. This is the essence of the path. This is the essence of a spiritual life. Once you learn that it’s okay to feel inner disturbances, and that they can no longer disturb your seat of consciousness, you will be free. You will begin to be sustained by the inner energy flow that comes from behind you. When you have tasted the ecstasy of the inner flow, you can walk in this world and the world will never touch you. That’s how you become a free being—you transcend.“
- “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.“
Untethered Soul Theme 19: GOD—If you want to be close to God (Eternal, Conscious Bliss), learn to be joyful.
- “This is how you know something about God. You become one with Him. Ultimately, the only way to know about God is by letting your being merge into The Being, and then seeing what happens to you. This is universal consciousness, and the qualities of the beings who have attained this deep state are similar in every religion.”
- “Such a state exists; one can merge into the Universal Absolute. One can merge into God.”
- “The greatest gift one can give to God is to be pleased with His creation.”
Untethered Soul Theme 20: DEATH—The best teacher of life is death. What gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. If you are living fully, death doesn’t take anything from you.
- “It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death.”
- “Regardless of your philosophical beliefs, the fact remains that you were born and you are going to die. During the time in between, you get to choose whether or not you want to enjoy the experience.“
- “It shouldn’t take death to challenge you to live at your highest level. Why wait until everything is taken from you before you learn to dig down deep inside yourself to reach your highest potential? A wise person affirms, ‘If with one breath all of this can change, then I want to live at the highest level while I’m alive. I’m going to stop bothering the people I love. I’m going to live life from the deepest part of my being.'”
- “Learn to live as though you are facing death at all times, and you’ll become bolder and more open. If you live life fully, you won’t have any last wishes. You will have lived them every moment. Only then will you have fully experienced life and released the part of you that is afraid of living. There is no reason to be afraid of life. And the fear will fade once you understand that the only thing there is to get from life is the growth that comes from experiencing it. Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship. Everything else you’re doing is just focusing on a tiny subset of life in the attempt to give life some meaning. What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.”
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Thanks so much for this very deep and long book summary. It is one of the books I have not heard of and read yet.
You got it, Dominik! It’s a good one. Michael Singer has a couple others on my reading list.
I thank you so much, Sir, for investing effort and time to put together some invaluable teachings from the book, as excerpts harried minds (like so many of us) can derive a lot from.
Really grateful! This article helped me enormously today and will help me for the rest of my life!
Take care! : )