One of the most powerful books I’ve read in recent years is Michael A. Singer’s extraordinary 2007 bestseller The Untethered Soul. Each chapter is a treasure, and the fact that I revisit these 200 pages so often, I would even go as far as calling the book a personal talisman. But of all the book’s most memorable moments of enlightenment, perhaps my favorite is Singer’s metaphor where he likens the human mind to a theatre with one performer on stage (i.e. your neverending chatterbox mind which is not the real you) and one person sitting in the audience (i.e. your true self, that ocean of pure consciousness inside you, which is forced to listen to this performer for your entire waking life).
Singer writes: “In case you haven’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it? How much of what it says turns out to be true? How much of what it says is even important? And if right now you are hearing, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have any voice inside my head!’ That’s the voice we’re talking about. If you’re smart, you’ll take the time to step back, examine this voice, and get to know it better. The problem is, you’re too close to be objective. If you spend some time observing this mental voice, the first thing you will notice is that it never shuts up. When left to its own, it just talks.”
Eckart Tolle refers to this voice as that little yappy dog that never shuts up and follows you everywhere, biting your pant leg forever. This voice is the price we pay for being able to revel in the gift of consciousness, and if there is one secret out there to finding the path to happiness then it has everything to do with tuning out this voice. First, this voice (i.e. your mind) is not the real you — it is merely a radio station barrage of unconscious thoughts. And second, although this voice cannot be turned off, it can most definitely be turned down. And it’s this ability that lies at the core of mindfulness, inner peace, and with a lot of hard work, possibly even enlightenment.
So how do you master the ability to turn down the volume of that performer on stage? The best way is to recognize its favorite thought patterns so that when they appear you are ready to press the mute button. Below are some of the most recognizable and damaging negative thoughts which, when left to fester, can quite easily sabotage your life:
1. YOU ARE A VICTIM OF REGRET: Ask any student of psychology and they will tell you on day one the first thing they learn is how much of psychological pain is self-inflicted and rooted in regret. Overcoming this dangerous thought pattern is quite possibly the most important of all. If you can’t do it yourself then find a friend or expert to help guide you through the darkness and into the light — and do it as soon as possible (i.e. today).
2. YOU ARE THE SUPERSTAR, DIRECTOR, AND PRODUCER OF YOUR OWN LIFE MOVIE: When you’re lost in the story of your life you tend to believe you’re in full control of the narrative. The downside is that when even the slightest thing doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped then the movie is ruined. The secret is to let go of this control and throw out the script. This thought pattern is toxic to your happiness and will always have you living in the future.
3. YOU EXPECT TOO MUCH: A wise Hindu guru once warned of the dangers of having expectations. “Having expectations is a lot like having a baby — sooner of later you’re going to have to give birth to it and it’s going to be very, very painful.” Having goals is healthy, but having expectations is not. Get rid of them for good.
4. YOU THINK RANDOM EVENTS ARE INTENTIONAL: Remember that time you were about to cash out your groceries and the cashier, who was finishing up with the person in front of you, slapped down her “This Lane Closed” sign? You thought she did it on purpose didn’t you? She didn’t — she was already 15 minutes late for her break and it was her first chance to take it. It had nothing to do with you at all. This happens all the time in your head — you convince yourself that people are intentionally mistreating you, when it’s nothing of the sort.
5. YOU’RE A CHICKEN: The greatest risk is taking no risk at all. We get so comfortable in our daily routines that we often fail to remember the vital importance of making bold moves. We’re only here for a short time, so incorporate a healthy dose of risk-taking into your life. For every ten you take, there’s one that will almost certainly lead you to a brilliant return.
6. YOU THINK YOU’RE DESTINED FOR SOMETHING AMAZING: I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction, but for many folks this can slip into the lazy terrain where you believe you simply have to sit back and do nothing because the Universe has something amazing planned for you, right? Don’t fall into this trap — a beautiful destiny is something you work hard everyday to build, and it’s this hard work that sparks the Law of Attraction into fruition. A beautiful destiny is not something you are entitled to — it’s something you make.
7. YOU COMPARE SO MUCH YOU KILL YOUR JOY: Instagram is probably the single most awful spawn of the social media age. Day in and day out your mind sees photos of other people living the most fabulous lives and you can’t help but look at your own in comparison and weep. Comparison is one of the most damaging thought patterns of the human mind, and you need to stop torturing yourself like that.
8. YOU ASSUME A DISASTER: You left your computer on during your lunch break and that asshole in the office beside you definitely must have sat down and stole your personal files, photos, identity, or something else horrible right? Wrong. The next time you find your mind jumping into “disaster default mode” you need to remind yourself it’s not real. You’re just being neurotic.
9. YOU GIVE AWAY YOUR TIME & SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO DON’T DESERVE IT: There are some people in our lives who drain our souls and spirits to the point where we have nothing left. Your time and your spirit are precious — make sure you’re giving them to the ones who are the most deserving and appreciative of them.
10. CONNECT WITH SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF: It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day, take-and-take nonsense of our lives that we forget about giving back. Find a place nearby where you can volunteer your time and give back to those in need of a helping hand. Your soul will thank you and you will feel more rejuvenated than you can possibly imagine.
Be sure to get your own copy of Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul on Amazon, watch clips from his appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday below, and visit his home at UntetheredSoul.com.
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