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The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

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Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider these aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. In The Untethered Soul, spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves, and the world around us. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, 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.

This book, copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), offers a frank and friendly discussion of consciousness and how we can develop it. In part one, he examines the notion of self and the inner dialogue we all live with. Part two examines the experience of energy as it flows through us and works to show readers how to open their hearts to the energy of experience that permeates their lives. Ways to overcome tendencies to close down to the rest of the world are the subject of part three. Enlightenment, the embrace of universal consciousness, is the subject of part four. And finally, in part five, Singer returns to daily life and the pursuit of unconditional happiness. Throughout, the book maintains a light and engaging tone, free from heavy dogma and prescriptive religious references. The easy exercises that figure in each chapter help readers experience the ideas that Singer presents.

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Suchitra Manpuri
This book does change the way you think. The way your mind is convincing you to think, at the end of this book you'll be more detached from your thoughts and your mind that seem to create all the chaos and confusion. I think you'll need to keep reading and re-reading it to get it.
24 December 2020 (08:29) 
This book changed me a lot
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“In the book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer takes you step-by-step through the process of Gyana, the Yoga of the Intellect, to the Source. Moreover, he does it with elegant simplicity. Read this book carefully and you will get more than a glimpse of eternity.”

—Deepak Chopra, Author, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof

“In lucid, unadorned prose, Michael Singer delivers the essence of the great spiritual teachings of the Ages. Each chapter of The Untethered Soul is an instructive meditation on the binds of the human condition and how each and every knot can be gracefully untied so that our souls may fly. The accuracy and simplicity of this work is a measure of its pure mastery.”

—James O’Dea, President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)

“Deep spirituality is within your reach in this book. In it you will find the mirror to see your unconditional, holy Self. If you look for practical spirituality not encumbered by credo and ritual, read this book.”

—Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: coauthor of Jewish With Feeling and From Age-ing To Sage-ing

“Michael Singer has opened my mind to an entirely new dimension of thought. Through The Untethered Soul I have been challenged both psychologically and intellectually in a new and exciting way. It may take more than one reading and many hours of introspection but The Untethered Soul is a must read for anyone in search of greater understanding of themselves and of the truth.”

—Louis Chiavacci, Senior Vice-President, Merrill Lynch, ranked in Barron’s top 15 U.S. Investment Managers

“The Untethered Soul is a brilliant treatment of the path of spiritual consciousness. It is clearly and powerfully written. Michael Singer provides a firm step for those on a spiritual journey.”

—Abdul Aziz Said, Professor of Peace Studies, Chair of Islamic Peace, American University

“This publication has released boundless joy for the hungry souls of the world.”

—Ma Yoga Shakti Saraswati, founder of Yogashakti International Mission, recipient of Hinduism Today ‘Hindu o; f the Year 2000’ award

“East is East and West is West, but Michael Singer bridges these two great traditions in a radiant treatise on how to succeed in life from our spiritual quest to our everyday tribulations. Freud said that life was composed of love and work. With great eloquence, wit, and compelling logic, Singer’s brilliant book completes this thought by showing them to be two poles of the same selfless devotion.”

—Ray Kurzweil, inventor, National Medal of Technology recipient and author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Singularity is Near, and other books

“This is a seminal book that quite frankly is in a class by itself. In a simple, yet paradoxically profound way, Michael Singer takes the reader on a journey that begins with consciousness tethered to the ego, and ends having taken us beyond our myopic, contained self-image to a state of inner freedom and liberation. Michael Singer’s book is a priceless gift to all who have futilely searched and yearned for a richer, more meaningful, creative life.”

—Yogi Amrit Desai, internationally recognized pioneer of modern yoga

Publisher’s Note

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

A copublication of New Harbinger Publications and Noetic Books.

Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books

Copyright © 2007 by Michael A. Singer

New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

5674 Shattuck Avenue Oakland, CA 94609

Acquired by Catharine Sutker

All Rights Reserved

* * *

Epub ISBN: 978-1-60882-049-8

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as:

Singer, Michael A.

The untethered soul : the journey beyond yourself / Michael A. Singer.

p. cm.

ISBN-13: 978-1-57224-537-2

ISBN-10: 1-57224-537-9

1. Consciousness. 2. Self. I. Title.

BF311.S5683 2007



To the Masters




Part 1: Awakening Consciousness

1 The Voice Inside Your Head

2 Your Inner Roommate

3 Who Are You?

4 The Lucid Self

Part 2: Experiencing Energy

5 Infinite Energy

6 The Secrets of the Spiritual Heart

7 Transcending the Tendency to Close

Part 3: Freeing Yourself

8 Let Go Now or Fall

9 Removing Your Inner Thorn

10 Stealing Freedom for Your Soul

11 Pain, the Price of Freedom

Part 4: Going Beyond

12 Taking Down the Walls

13 Far, Far Beyond

14 Letting Go of False Solidity

Part 5: Living Life

15 The Path of Unconditional Happiness

16 The Spiritual Path of Nonresistance

17 Contemplating Death

18 The Secret of the Middle Way

19 The Loving Eyes of God



The seeds for this work were planted many years ago when Linda Bean was transcribing some of my lectures and encouraged me to write a book. She patiently labored through years of archived material until it was time for me to begin writing. Her commitment and dedication to this project are deeply appreciated.

Once I began writing, Karen Entner assisted me by organizing materials, making content suggestions, and maintaining the manuscript. We worked together to edit version after version until the flow of words brought a sense of peace to the heart, mind, and soul. Her dedication and heartfelt work are much appreciated and one of her lifelong dreams comes to fruition with the publication of this book.


“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” —William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s age-honored words, spoken by Polonius to his son Laertes in Act I of Hamlet, sound so clear and unambiguous. They tell us that to maintain honest relations with others we must first be true to ourselves. Yet if Laertes were to be totally honest with himself, he would realize that his father may as well have told him to catch the wind. After all, to which “self” are we to be true? Is it the one that shows up when we’re in a bad mood, or the one that is present when we feel humbled by our mistakes? Is it the one who speaks from the dark recesses of the heart when we’re depressed or upset, or the one that appears during those fleeting moments when life seems so fanciful and light?

From these questions we see that the concept of “self” may turn out to be a bit more elusive than initially presumed. Perhaps if Laertes could have turned to traditional psychology, it would have shed some light on the subject. Freud (1927), the father of psychology, divided the psyche into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. He saw the id as our primal, animal nature; the superego as the judgment system that society has instilled within us; and the ego as our representative to the outside world that struggles to maintain a balance between the other two powerful forces. But this certainly would not have helped young Laertes. After all, to which of these conflicting forces are we to be true?

Again we see that things are not always as simple as they seem. If we dare to look past the surface of the term “self,” questions arise that many people would rather not ask: “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?”

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.

But before you get too excited, or decide that you’re not up to the task, first be clear that we’re not after your views or opinions on the subject. 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. We simply need to sort it out. After all, it can get quite confusing in there.

The chapters of this book are nothing but mirrors for seeing your “self” from different angles. And though the journey we are about to embark on is an inner one, it will draw upon every aspect of your life. The only requirement asked of you is the willingness to honestly look at yourself in the most natural, intuitive manner. Remember, if we are seeking the root of “self,” what we are actually seeking is you.

As you read through these pages, you will find that you know much more than you thought you did about some very deep subjects. The fact is, you already know how to find yourself; you have just gotten distracted and disoriented. Once refocused, you will realize that you not only have the ability to find yourself, you have the ability to free yourself. Whether you choose to do so or not is entirely up to you. But upon completion of your journey through these chapters, there will be no more confusion, no more lack of empowerment, and no more blaming others. You will know exactly what must be done. And should you choose to devote yourself to the ongoing journey of self-realization, you will develop a tremendous sense of respect for who you really are. It is only then that you will come to appreciate the full depth of meaning in the advice: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Part I

awakening consciousness

Dusty Spiral Galaxy NGC 4414

Image credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)


the voice inside your head

“Shoot, I can’t remember her name. What is her name? Darn, here she comes. What is it… Sally… Sue? She just told me yesterday. What’s the matter with me? This is going to be embarrassing.”

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. You have to step way back and watch it converse. While you’re driving, you hear internal conversations like,

“Wasn’t I supposed to call Fred? I should have. Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot! He’s going to be so mad. He may never talk to me again. Maybe I should stop and call him right now. No. I don’t want to stop the car right now…”

Notice that the voice takes both sides of the conversation. It doesn’t care which side it takes, just as long as it gets to keep on talking. When you’re tired and trying to sleep, it’s the voice inside your head that says,

“What am I doing? I can’t go to sleep yet. I forgot to call Fred. I remembered in the car but I didn’t call. If I don’t call now…oh wait, it’s too late. I shouldn’t call him now. I don’t even know why I thought about it. I need to fall asleep. Oh shoot, now I can’t fall asleep. I’m not tired anymore. But I have a big day tomorrow, and I have to get up early.”

No wonder you can’t sleep! Why do you even tolerate that voice talking to you all the time? Even if what it’s saying is soothing and nice, it’s still disturbing everything you’re doing.

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. Imagine if you were to see someone walking around constantly talking to himself. You’d think he was strange. You’d wonder, “If he’s the one who’s talking and he’s the one who’s listening, he obviously knows what’s going to be said before he says it. So what’s the point?” The same is true for the voice inside your head. Why is it talking? It’s you who’s talking, and it’s you who’s listening. And when the voice argues with itself, who is it arguing with? Who could possibly win? It gets very confusing. Just listen:

“I think I should get married. No! You know you’re not ready. You’ll be sorry. But I love him. Oh come on, you felt that way about Tom. What if you had married him?”

If you watch carefully, you’ll see that it’s just trying to find a comfortable place to rest. It will change sides in a moment if that seems to help. And it doesn’t even quiet down when it finds out that it’s wrong. It simply adjusts its viewpoint and keeps on going. If you pay attention, these mental patterns will become obvious to you. It’s actually a shocking realization when you first notice that your mind is constantly talking. You might even try to yell at it in a feeble attempt to shut it up. But then you realize that’s the voice yelling at the voice:

“Shut up! I want to go to sleep. Why do you have to talk all the time?”

Obviously, you can’t shut it up that way. The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter is to step back and view it objectively. Just view the voice as a vocalizing mechanism that is capable of making it appear like someone is in there talking to you. Don’t think about it; just notice it. No matter what the voice is saying, it’s all the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s saying nice things or mean things, worldly things or spiritual things. It doesn’t matter because it’s still just a voice talking inside your head. In fact, the only way to get your distance from this voice is to stop differentiating what it’s saying. Stop feeling that one thing it says is you and the other thing it says is not you. If you’re hearing it talk, it’s obviously not you. You are the one who hears the voice. You are the one who notices that it’s talking.

You do hear it when it talks, don’t you? Make it say “hello” right now. Say it over and over a few times. Now shout it inside! Can you hear yourself saying “hello” inside? Of course you can. There is a voice talking, and there is you who notices the voice talking. The problem is that it’s easy to notice the voice saying “hello,” but it’s difficult to see that no matter what the voice says, it is still just a voice talking and you listening. There is absolutely nothing that voice can say that is more you than anything else it says. Suppose you were looking at three objects—a flowerpot, a photograph, and a book—and were then asked, “Which of these objects is you?” You’d say, “None of them! I’m the one who’s looking at what you’re putting in front of me. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, it’s always going to be me looking at it.” You see, it’s an act of a subject perceiving various objects. This is also true of hearing the voice inside. It doesn’t make any difference what it’s saying, you are the one who is aware of it. As long as you think that one thing it’s saying is you, but the other thing it’s saying is not you, you’ve lost your objectivity. You may want to think of yourself as the part that says the nice things, but that’s still the voice talking. You may like what it says, but it’s not you.

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 watch it objectively, you will come to see that much of what the voice says is meaningless. Most of the talking is just a waste of time and energy. The truth is that most of life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind says about it. It’s like sitting down at night and deciding whether you want the sun to come up in the morning. The bottom line is, the sun will come up and the sun will go down. Billions of things are going on in this world. You can think about it all you want, but life is still going to keep on happening.

In fact, your thoughts have far less impact on this world than you would like to think. If you’re willing to be objective and watch all your thoughts, you will see that the vast majority of them have no relevance. They have no effect on anything or anybody, except you. They are simply making you feel better or worse about what is going on now, what has gone on in the past, or what might go on in the future. 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.

Now this raises a serious question: If so much of what the voice says is meaningless and unnecessary, then why does it even exist? The secret to answering this question lies in understanding why it says what it says when it says it. For example, in some cases the mental voice talks for the same reason that a teakettle whistles. That is, there’s a buildup of energy inside that needs to be released. If you watch objectively, you will see that when there’s a buildup of nervous, fearful, or desire-based energies inside, the voice becomes extremely active. This is easy to see when you are angry with someone and you feel like telling them off. Just watch how many times the inner voice tells them off before you even see them. When energy builds up inside, you want to do something about it. That voice talks because you’re not okay inside, and talking releases energy.

You will notice, however, that even when you’re not particularly bothered by something, it still talks. When you’re walking down the street it says things like,

“Look at that dog! It’s a Labrador! Hey, there’s another dog in that car. He looks a lot like my first dog, Shadow. Whoa, there’s an old Oldsmobile. It’s got Alaska plates. You don’t see many of those down here!”

It is actually narrating the world for you. But why do you need this? You already see what’s happening outside; how does it help to repeat it to yourself through the mental voice? You should examine this very closely. With a simple glance, you instantly take in the tremendous detail of whatever you’re looking at. If you see a tree, you effortlessly see the branches, the leaves, and the flowering buds. Why then do you have to verbalize what you have already seen?

“Look at that dogwood. The green leaves are so beautiful against the white flowers. Look how many flowers there are. Wow, it’s so full!”

What you’ll see, if you study this carefully, is that the narration makes you feel more comfortable with the world around you. Like backseat driving, it makes you feel as though things are more in your control. You actually feel like you have some relationship with them. A tree is no longer just a tree in the world that has nothing to do with you; it is a tree that you saw, labeled, and judged. By verbalizing it mentally, you brought that initial direct experience of the world into the realm of your thoughts. There it becomes integrated with your other thoughts, such as those making up your value system and historical experiences.

Take a moment to examine the difference between your experience of the outside world and your interactions with the mental world. When you’re just thinking, you’re free to create whatever thoughts you want in your mind, and these thoughts are expressed through the voice. You are very accustomed to settling into the playground of the mind and creating and manipulating thoughts. This inner world is an alternate environment that is under your control. The outside world, however, marches to its own laws. When the voice narrates the outside world to you, those thoughts are now side by side, in parity, with all your other thoughts. All these thoughts intermix and actually influence your experience of the world around you. What you end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to you, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there. This mental manipulation of the outer experience allows you to buffer reality as it comes in. For example, there are myriad things that you see at any given moment, yet you only narrate a few of them. The ones you discuss in your mind are the ones that matter to you. With this subtle form of preprocessing, you manage to control the experience of reality so that it all fits together inside your mind. Your consciousness is actually experiencing your mental model of reality, not reality itself.

You have to watch this very carefully because you do it all the time. You’re walking outside in the winter, you start to shiver, and the voice says, “It’s cold!” Now how did that help you? You already knew it was cold. You’re the one who’s experiencing the cold. Why is it telling you this? You re-create the world within your mind because you can control your mind whereas you can’t control the world. That is why you mentally talk about it. If you can’t get the world the way you like it, you internally verbalize it, judge it, complain about it, and then decide what to do about it. This makes you feel more empowered. When your body experiences cold, there may be nothing you can do to affect the temperature. But when your mind verbalizes, “It’s cold!” you can say, “We’re almost home, just a few more minutes.” Now you feel better. In the thought world there’s always something you can do to control the experience.

Basically, you re-create the outside world inside yourself, and then you live in your mind. What if you decided not to do this? If you decide not to narrate and, instead, just consciously observe the world, you will feel more open and exposed. This is because you really don’t know what will happen next, and your mind is accustomed to helping you. It does this by processing your current experiences in a way that makes them fit with your views of the past and visions of the future. All of this helps to create a semblance of control. If your mind doesn’t do this, you simply become too uncomfortable. Reality is just too real for most of us, so we temper it with the mind.

You will come to see that the mind talks all the time because you gave it a job to do. You use it as a protection mechanism, a form of defense. Ultimately, it makes you feel more secure. As long as that’s what you want, you will be forced to constantly use your mind to buffer yourself from life, instead of living it. This world is unfolding and really has very little to do with you or your thoughts. It was here long before you came, and it will be here long after you leave. In the name of attempting to hold the world together, you’re really just trying to hold yourself together.

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.


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 bottom line is, you’ll never be free of problems until you are free from the part within that has so many problems. When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, “What should I do about it?” Ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?” If you ask, “What should I do about it?” you’ve already fallen into believing that there really is a problem outside that must be dealt with. If you want to achieve peace in the face of your problems, you must understand why you perceive a particular situation as a problem. If you’re feeling jealousy, instead of trying to see how you can protect yourself, just ask, “What part of me is jealous?” That will cause you to look inside and see that there’s a part of you that’s having a problem with jealousy.

Once you clearly see the disturbed part, then ask, “Who is it that sees this? Who notices this inner disturbance?” Asking this is the solution to your every problem. The very fact that you can see the disturbance means that you are not it. 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. You think that if you change things outside, you’ll be okay. But nobody has ever truly become okay by changing things outside. There’s always the next problem. The only real solution is to take the seat of witness consciousness and completely change your frame of reference.

To attain true inner freedom, you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them. No solution can possibly exist while you’re lost in the energy of a problem. Everyone knows you can’t deal well with a situation if you’re getting anxious, scared, or angry about it. The first problem you have to deal with is your own reaction. You will not be able to solve anything outside until you own how the situation affects you inside. Problems are generally not what they appear to be. When you get clear enough, you will realize that the real problem is that there is something inside of you that can have a problem with almost anything. The first step is to deal with that part of you. 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. Once you do that, you’ll be clear enough to deal with what’s left.

There really is a way to let go of the part of you that sees everything as a problem. It may seem impossible, but it’s not. There is a part of your being that can actually abstract from your own melodrama. You can watch yourself be jealous or angry. You don’t have to think about it or analyze it; you can just be aware of it. Who is it that sees all this? Who notices the changes going on inside? When you tell a friend, “Every time I talk to Tom, it gets me so upset,” how do you know it gets you upset? You know that it gets you upset because you’re in there and you see what’s going on in there. There’s a separation between you and the anger or the jealousy. You are the one who’s in there noticing these things. Once you take that seat of consciousness, you can get rid of these personal disturbances. You start by watching. Just be aware that you are aware of what is going on in there. It’s easy. What you’ll notice is that you’re watching a human being’s personality with all its strengths and weaknesses. It’s as though there’s somebody in there with you. You might actually say you have a “roommate.”

If you would like to meet your roommate, just try to sit inside yourself for a while in complete solitude and silence. You have the right; it’s your inner domain. But instead of finding silence, you’re going to listen to incessant chatter:

“Why am I doing this? I have more important things to do. This is a waste of time. There’s nobody in here but me. What’s this all about?”

Right on cue, there’s your roommate. You may have a clear intention to be quiet inside, but your roommate won’t cooperate. And it’s not just when you try to be quiet. It has something to say about everything you look at: “I like it. I don’t like it. This is good. That’s bad.” It just talks and talks. You don’t generally notice because you don’t step back from it. You’re so close that you don’t realize that you’re actually hypnotized into listening to it.

Basically, you’re not alone in there. 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. The problem is, the part that you watch never shuts up. If you could get rid of that part, even for a moment, the peace and serenity would be the nicest vacation you’ve ever had.

Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have to bring this thing with you everywhere you go. Real spiritual growth is about getting out of this predicament. But first you have to realize that you’ve been locked in there with a maniac. In any situation or circumstance, your roommate could suddenly decide, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to talk to this person.” You would immediately feel tense and uncomfortable. Your roommate can ruin anything you’re doing without a moment’s notice. It could ruin your wedding day, or even your wedding night! That part of you can ruin anything and everything, and it generally does.

You buy a brand-new car and it’s beautiful. But every time you drive it, your inner roommate finds something wrong with it. The mental voice keeps pointing out every little squeak, every little vibration, until eventually you don’t even like the car anymore. Once you see what this can do to your life, you are ready for spiritual growth. You’re ready for real transformation when you finally say, “Look at this thing. It’s ruining my life. I’m trying to live a peaceful, meaningful existence, but I feel like I’m sitting on top of a volcano. At any moment this thing can decide to freak, close down, and fight with what’s happening. One day it likes someone, and the next day it decides to pick on everything they do. My life is a mess just because this thing that lives in here with me has to make a melodrama out of everything.” Once you’ve seen this, and learn to no longer identify with your roommate, you’re ready to free yourself.

If you haven’t reached this awareness yet, just start to watch. Spend a day watching every single thing your roommate does. Start in the morning and see if you can notice what it’s saying in every situation. Every time you meet somebody, every time the phone rings, just try to watch. A good time to watch it talk is while you’re taking a shower. Just watch what that voice has to say. You will see that it never lets you just take a peaceful shower. Your shower is for washing the body, not for watching the mind talk nonstop. See if you can stay conscious enough throughout the entire experience to be aware of what’s going on. You’ll be shocked by what you see. It just jumps from one subject to the next. The incessant chatter seems so neurotic that you won’t believe that it’s always that way. But it is.

You have to watch this if you want to be free of it. You don’t have to do anything about it, but you have to get wise to the predicament you’re in. You have to realize that somehow you’ve ended up with a mess for an inner roommate. If you want it to be peaceful in there, you’re going to have to fix this situation.

The way to catch on to what your inner roommate is really like is to personify it externally. Make believe that your roommate, the psyche, has a body of its own. You do this by taking the entire personality that you hear talking to you inside and imagine it as a person talking to you on the outside. Just imagine that another person is now saying everything that your inner voice would say. Now spend a day with that person.

You’ve just sat down to watch your favorite TV show. The problem is, you have this person with you. Now you’ll get to hear the same incessant monologue that used to be inside, except that it’s sitting next to you on the couch talking to itself:

“Did you turn off the light downstairs? You better go check. Not now, I’ll do it later. I want to finish watching the show. No, do it now. That’s why the electric bill is so high.”

You sit in silent awe, watching all of this. Then, a few seconds later, your couch-mate is engaged in another dispute:

“Hey, I want to get something to eat! I’m craving some pizza. No, you can’t have pizza now; it’s too far to drive. But I’m hungry. When will I get to eat?”

To your amazement, these neurotic bursts of conflicting dialogue just keep going on and on. And as if that’s not enough, instead of simply watching TV, this person starts verbally reacting to whatever comes on the screen. At one point, after a redhead appears on the show, your couch-mate starts mumbling about an ex-spouse and a painful divorce. Then the yelling starts—just as though the ex-spouse were in the room with you! Then it stops, just as suddenly as it started. At this point, you find yourself hugging the far corner of the couch in a desperate attempt to get as far away from this disturbed person as you possibly can.

Will you dare to do this experiment? Don’t try to make the person stop talking. Just try to get to know what you live with inside by externalizing the voice. Give it a body and put it out there in the world just like everybody else. Let it be a person who says on the outside exactly what the voice of your mind says inside. Now make that person your best friend. After all, how many friends do you spend all of your time with and pay absolute attention to every word they say?

How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does? How would you relate to a person who opened their mouth to say everything your mental voice says? After a very short period of time, you would tell them to leave and never come back. But when your inner friend continuously speaks up, you don’t ever tell it to leave. No matter how much trouble it causes, you listen. There’s almost nothing that voice can say that you don’t pay full attention to. It pulls you right out of whatever you’re doing, no matter how enjoyable, and suddenly you’re paying attention to whatever it has to say. Imagine that you’re in a serious relationship and are about to get married. You’re driving to the wedding and it says,

“Maybe this is not the right person. I’m really getting nervous about this. What should I do?”

If someone outside of you said that, you’d ignore them. But you feel you owe the voice an answer. You have to convince your nervous mind that this is the right person, or it won’t let you walk down the aisle. That’s how much respect you have for this neurotic thing inside of you. You know that if you don’t listen to it, it will bother you every day of your life:

“I told you not to get married. I said I wasn’t sure!”

The bottom line is undeniable: If somehow that voice managed to manifest in a body outside of you, and you had to take it with you everywhere you went, you wouldn’t last a day. If somebody were to ask you what your new friend is like, you’d say, “This is one seriously disturbed person. Just look up neurosis in the dictionary and you’ll get the picture.”

That being the case, once you’ve spent a day with your friend, what is the probability you’d go to them for advice? After seeing how often this person changed their mind, how conflicted they were on so many subjects, and how emotionally overreactive they tended to be, would you ever ask them for relationship or financial advice? As amazing as it seems, you do just that every moment of your life. Having taken its rightful place back inside of you, it is still the same “person” who tells you what to do about every aspect of your life. Have you ever bothered to check its credentials? How many times has that voice been totally wrong?

“She doesn’t care for you anymore. That’s why she hasn’t called. She’s going to break up with you tonight. I can feel it coming; I just know it. You shouldn’t even answer the phone if she calls.”

After thirty minutes of this, the phone rings and it’s your girlfriend. She’s late because it’s your one-year anniversary and she was preparing for a surprise dinner. It was definitely a surprise to you, since you completely forgot the anniversary. She says she’s on her way over to pick you up. Well, you’re very excited and your inner voice is chatting about how great she is. But haven’t you forgotten something? Haven’t you forgotten about the bad advice the inner voice gave you that caused you to suffer for the last half hour?

What if you had hired a relationship advisor who had given you that terrible advice? They had completely misread the entire situation. Had you listened to the advisor, you never would have picked up the phone. Wouldn’t you fire them on the spot? How could you ever trust their advice again after seeing how wrong they were? Well, are you going to fire your inner roommate? After all, its advice and analysis of the situation were totally wrong. No, you never hold it responsible for the trouble it causes. In fact, the next time it gives advice, you’re all ears. Is that rational? How many times has that voice been wrong about what was going on or what will be going on? Maybe it’s worth noticing whom you’re going to for advice.

When you’ve sincerely tried these practices of self-observation and awareness, you’ll see that you’re in trouble. You’ll realize that you’ve only had one problem your entire life, and you’re looking at it. It’s pretty much the cause of every problem you’ve ever had. Now the question becomes, how do you get rid of this inner troublemaker? The first thing you’ll realize is that there’s no hope of getting rid of it until you really want to. Until you’ve watched your roommate long enough to truly understand the predicament you’re in, you really have no basis for practices that help you deal with the mind. Once you’ve made the decision to free yourself from the mental melodrama, you are ready for teachings and techniques. You will now have a real use for them.

You will be relieved to know that you are not the first person to have this problem. There are those who have gone before you who found themselves in the same situation. Many of them looked for guidance from those who had mastered this field of knowledge. They were given teachings and techniques, such as yoga, which were created to help in this process. Yoga is not really about getting your body healthy, although it does that too. Yoga is about the knowledge that will help you out of your predicament, the knowledge that can free you. Once you’ve made this freedom the meaning of your life, there are spiritual practices that can help you. These practices are what you do with your time in order to free yourself from yourself. You will eventually catch on that you have to distance yourself from your psyche. You do this by setting the direction of your life when you’re clear and not letting the wavering mind deter you. Your will is stronger than the habit of listening to that voice. There is nothing you can’t do. Your will is supreme over all of this.

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. As it is right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner roommate, the psyche. You have to take it back. Stand firm in the seat of the witness and release the hold that the habitual mind has on you. This is your life—reclaim it.


who are you?

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), a great teacher in the yogic tradition, used to say that to attain inner freedom one must continuously and sincerely ask the question “Who am I?” He taught that this was more important than reading books, learning mantras, or going to holy places. Just ask, “Who am I? Who sees when I see? Who hears when I hear? Who knows that I am aware? Who am I?”

Let’s explore this question by playing a game. Make believe that you and I are having a conversation. Typically, in Western cultures, when someone comes up to you and asks, “Excuse me, who are you?” you don’t admonish them for asking such a deep question. You tell them your name, for example, Sally Smith. But I’m going to challenge this response by taking out a piece of paper and writing the letters S-a-l-l-y S-m-i-t-h, and then showing it to you. Is that who you are—a collection of letters? Is that who sees when you see? Obviously not, so you say,

“Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry. I’m not Sally Smith. That’s just a name people call me. It’s a label. Really, I’m Frank Smith’s wife.”

No way, that’s not even politically correct nowadays. How could you be Frank Smith’s wife? Are you saying you didn’t exist before you met Frank, and you would cease to exist if he died or you got remarried? Frank Smith’s wife can’t be who you are. Again, that’s just another label, the result of another situation or event you participated in. But then, who are you? This time you respond,

“Okay, now you have my attention. My label is Sally Smith. I was born in 1965 in New York. I lived in Queens with my parents, Harry and Mary Jones, until I was five years old. Then we moved to New Jersey and I went to Newark Elementary School. I got all A’s in school, and in the fifth grade I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I started dating in the ninth grade, and my first boyfriend was Joe. I went to Rutgers College where I met and married Frank Smith. That is who I am.”

Wait a minute, that’s a fascinating story, but I didn’t ask you what has happened to you since you were born. I asked you, “Who are you?” You’ve just described all these experiences, but who had these experiences? Wouldn’t you still be in there, aware of your existence, even if you had gone to a different college?

So you contemplate this, and you realize that never in your life have you asked yourself that question and really meant it. Who am I? That is what Ramana Maharshi was asking. So you ponder this more seriously and you say,

“Okay, I am the body that is occupying this space. I am five foot six and I weigh 135 pounds, and here I am.”

When you were Dorothy in the fifth grade play you weren’t five foot six, you were four foot six. So which are you? Are you the four foot six person or are you the five foot six person? Weren’t you in there when you were Dorothy? You told me you were. Aren’t you the one who had the experience of being Dorothy in the fifth grade play and is now having the ­experience of trying to answer my questions? Isn’t this the same you?

Perhaps we need to step back for a moment to ask some exploratory questions before returning to the core question. When you were ten years old, didn’t you look in the mirror and see a ten-year-old body? Wasn’t that the same you that now sees an adult body? What you looked at has changed; but what about you, the one who is looking? Isn’t there a continuity of being? Wasn’t it the same being that looked in the mirror throughout the years? You have to contemplate this very carefully. Here’s another question: When you go to sleep every night, do you dream? Who dreams? What does it mean to dream? You answer, “Well, it’s like a motion picture plays in my mind and I watch it.” Who watches it? “I do!” The same you who looks in the mirror? Does the same you who is reading these words also look in the mirror and watch the dreams? When you awake, you know you saw the dream. There is a continuity of conscious awareness of being. Ramana Maharshi was just asking some very simple questions: Who sees when you see? Who hears when you hear? Who watches the dreams? Who looks at the image in the mirror? Who is it that is having all these experiences? If you try to just give honest, intuitive answers, you are simply going to say, “Me. It’s me. I’m in here experiencing all of this.” That’s about the best answer you’ll have.

It’s actually pretty easy to see that you’re not the objects you look at. It’s a classic case of subject-object. It’s you, the subject, that is looking at the objects. So we don’t have to go through every object in the universe and say that object is not you. We can very easily generalize by saying that if you are the one who is looking at something, then that something is not you. So right away, in one fell swoop, you know what you’re not: you’re not the outside world. You’re the one who is inside looking out at that world.

That was easy. Now at least we’ve eliminated the countless things outside. But who are you? And where are you if you’re not outside with all the other things? You just have to pay attention and realize that you would still be in there experiencing feelings even if all the outside objects disappeared. Imagine how much fear you would feel. You might also feel frustration, and even anger. But who would be feeling these things? Again you say “Me!” And that’s the right answer. The same “me” experiences both the outside world and the inside emotions.

To take a clear look at this, imagine that you’re watching a dog play outdoors. Suddenly you hear a noise right behind you—a hiss, like a ­rattlesnake! Would you still be looking at the dog with the same intensity of focus? Of course not. You’d be feeling tremendous fear inside. Though the dog would still be playing in front of you, you’d be completely preoccupied with the experience of fear. All of your attention can very quickly become absorbed in your emotions. But who feels the fear? Isn’t it the same you who was watching the dog? Who feels love when you feel love? Can’t you feel so much love that it’s hard to keep your eyes open? You can become so absorbed in beautiful inner feelings, or frightening inner fears, that it’s hard to focus on outer objects. In essence, inside and outside objects compete for your attention. You are in there having both inner and outer experiences—but who are you?

To explore this more deeply, answer another question: Don’t you have times when you’re not having emotional experiences and, instead, you just feel quiet inside? You’re still in there, but you’re just aware of peaceful quiet. Eventually, you will begin to realize that the outside world and the flow of inner emotions come and go. But you, the one who experiences these things, remain consciously aware of whatever passes before you.

But where are you? Maybe we can find you in your thoughts. René Descartes, a great philosopher, once said, “I think, therefore I am.” But is that really what’s going on? The dictionary defines the verb “to think” as “to form thoughts, to use the mind to consider ideas and make judgments” (Microsoft Encarta 2007). The question is, who is using the mind to form thoughts and then manipulate them into ideas and judgments? Does this experiencer of thoughts exist even when thoughts are not present? Fortunately, you don’t have to think about it. You are very aware of your presence of being, your sense of existence, without the help of thoughts. When you go into deep meditation, for example, the thoughts stop. You know that they’ve stopped. You don’t “think” it, you are simply aware of “no thoughts.” You come back and say, “Wow, I went into this deep meditation, and for the first time my thoughts completely stopped. I was in a place of complete peace, harmony, and quiet.” 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.

Thoughts can stop, and they can also get extremely noisy. Sometimes you have many more thoughts than other times. You may even tell someone, “My mind is driving me crazy. Ever since he said those things to me, I can’t even sleep. My mind just won’t shut up.” Whose mind? Who is noticing these thoughts? Isn’t it you? Don’t you hear your thoughts inside? Aren’t you aware of their existence? In fact, can’t you get rid of them? If you start to have a thought you don’t like, can’t you try to make it go away? People struggle with thoughts all the time. Who is it that is aware of the thoughts, and who is it that struggles with them? Again, you have a subject-object relationship with your thoughts. You are the subject, and thoughts are just another object you can be aware of. You are not your thoughts. You are simply aware of your thoughts. Finally you say,

“Fine, I’m not anything in the outside world and I’m not the emotions. These outer and inner objects come and go and I experience them. Plus, I’m not the thoughts. They can be quiet or noisy, happy or sad. Thoughts are just something else I’m aware of. But who am I?”

It starts to become a serious question: “Who am I? 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.

To make this more experiential, let’s try a consciousness experiment. Notice that with a single glance at a room, or out a window, you instantaneously see the full detail of everything that’s in front of you. You are effortlessly aware of all the objects that are within the scope of your vision, both near and far away. Without moving your head or eyes, you perceive all the intricate detail of what you immediately see. Look at all the colors, the variations of light, the grain of wood furniture, the architecture of buildings, and the variations of bark and leaves on trees. Notice that you take all this in at once, without having to think about it. No thoughts are necessary; you just see it. Now try to use thoughts to isolate, label, and describe all the intricate detail of what you see. How long would it take your mental voice to describe all that detail to you, versus the instantaneous snapshot of consciousness just seeing? 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. But what is awareness? Let’s try another experiment. Let’s say you are in a room looking at a group of people and a piano. Now make believe the piano ceases to exist in your world. Would you have a major problem with that? You say, “No, I don’t think so. I’m not attached to pianos.” Okay then, make believe the people in the room cease to exist. Are you still okay? Can you handle it? You say, “Sure, I like being alone.” Now make believe your awareness doesn’t exist. Just turn it off. How are you doing now?

What would it be like if your awareness didn’t exist? It’s actually pretty simple—you wouldn’t be there. There would be no sense of “me.” There wouldn’t be anyone in there to say, “Wow, I used to be in here but now I’m not.” There would no longer be an awareness of being. And without awareness of being, or consciousness, there is nothing. Are there objects? Who knows? If no one is aware of the objects, their existence or nonexistence becomes completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how many things are in front of you; if you turn off the consciousness, there is nothing. If you are conscious, however, there can be nothing in front of you but you are fully aware that there is nothing. It’s really not that complicated, and it’s very enlightening.

So now if I ask you, “Who are you?” you answer,

“I am the one who sees. From back in here somewhere, I look out, and I am aware of the events, thoughts, and emotions that pass before me.”

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. Just as you effortlessly look outside and see all that you see, you will eventually sit far enough back inside to see all your thoughts and emotions, as well as outer form. All of these objects are in front of you. The thoughts are closer in, the emotions are a little further away, and form is way out there. Behind it all, there you are. You go so deep that you realize that’s where you’ve always been. At each stage of your life you have seen different thoughts, emotions, and objects pass before you. But you have always been the conscious receiver of all that was.

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 Self1, the Hindu Atman2 and the Judeo-Christian Soul. The great mystery begins once you take that seat deep within.

1As explicated by the Buddha in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (trans. Kosho Yamamoto 1973).

2Atman: Hinduism - The innermost essence of each individual (Merriam-Webster 2003).


the lucid self

There is a type of dream, called a lucid dream, in which you know that you’re dreaming. If you fly in the dream you know that you’re flying. You think, “Hey, look! I’m dreaming that I’m flying. I’m going to fly over there.” You are actually conscious enough to know that you are flying in the dream and that you are dreaming the dream. That’s very different from regular dreams, in which you are fully immersed in the dream. This distinction is exactly the difference between being aware that you are aware in your daily life, and not being aware that you are aware. 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.

This raises some very interesting questions. If you are the indwelling being who is experiencing all this, then why do these different levels of perception exist? When you are seated in the awareness of Self, you are lucid. Where are you when you are not seated deeply enough inside the Self to be the conscious experiencer of all you are experiencing?

To begin with, consciousness has the ability to do what is called “focus.” It is part of the nature of consciousness. The essence of consciousness is awareness, and awareness has the ability to become more aware of one thing and less aware of something else. In other words, it has the ability to focus itself on certain objects. The teacher says, “Concentrate on what I’m saying.” What does that mean? It means focus your consciousness on one place. Teachers figure you know how to do that. Who taught you how to do that? What class in high school taught you how to take your consciousness and move it somewhere in order to focus on something? Nobody taught you this. It was intuitive and natural. You’ve always known how to do it.

So we do know that consciousness exists; we just don’t normally talk about it. You probably went through grade school, high school, and college without anyone discussing the nature of consciousness. Fortunately, the nature of consciousness has been studied very closely in deep teachings such as yoga. In fact, the ancient teachings of yoga are all about consciousness.

The best way to learn about consciousness is through your own direct experience. For example, you know very well that your consciousness can be aware of a wide field of objects, or it can be so focused on one object that you are unaware of anything else. This is what happens when you get lost in thought. You can be reading, and then suddenly you’re not reading anymore. It happens all the time. You just start thinking about something else. Outside objects or mental thoughts can catch your attention at any time. But it’s still the same awareness, whether it is focused on the outside or on your thoughts.

The key is that consciousness has the ability to concentrate on different things. The subject, consciousness, has the ability to selectively focus awareness on specific objects. If you step back, you will clearly see that objects are constantly passing before you at all three levels: mental, emotional, and physical. When you’re not centered, your consciousness invariably gets attracted toward one or more of those objects and focuses on them. If it concentrates enough, your sense of awareness loses itself in the object. It is no longer aware that it is aware of the object; it just becomes object-conscious. Have you ever noticed that when you’re deeply absorbed in watching TV, you have no awareness of where you’re sitting or what else is going on in the room?

The TV analogy is perfect for examining how our center of consciousness shifts from awareness of Self to being lost in the objects we’re focused upon. The difference is that instead of sitting in your living room getting absorbed in the TV, you’re sitting in your center of consciousness getting absorbed in the screens of mind, emotions, and outside images. When you concentrate on the world of the physical senses, it draws you in. Then your emotional and mental reactions draw you in further. At that point, you are no longer sitting in the centered Self; you are absorbed in the inner show you’re watching.

Let’s look at your inner show. You have an underlying pattern of thoughts that goes on around you all the time. This pattern of thoughts stays pretty much the same. You are as familiar and comfortable with your normal thought patterns as you are with the living space of your home. You also have emotions that are your norm: a certain amount of fear, a certain amount of love, and a certain amount of insecurity. You know that if certain things happen, one or more of these emotions will flare up and dominate your awareness. Then, eventually, they will settle back down to the norm. You know this so well that you are very busy inside making sure nothing happens to create these disturbances. In fact, you are so preoccupied with controlling your world of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that you don’t even know you’re in there. That is the normal state for most people.

When you are in this lost state, you get so totally absorbed in the objects of thoughts, feelings, and the senses, that you forget the subject. Right now, you are sitting inside the center of consciousness watching your personal TV show. But there are so many interesting objects distracting your consciousness that you can’t help but get drawn into them. It’s overwhelming. It’s three-dimensional. It’s all around you. All of your senses draw you in—sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch—as well as your feelings and your thoughts. But you are really sitting quietly inside looking out at all these objects. Just as the sun does not leave its position in the sky to illuminate objects with its radiating light, so consciousness does not leave its center to project awareness onto the objects of form, thoughts, and emotions. If you ever want to re-center, just start saying “hello” inside, over and over. Then notice that you are aware of that thought. Don’t think about being aware of it; that’s just another thought. Simply relax and be aware that you can hear “hello” being echoed in your mind. That is your seat of centered consciousness.

Now let’s move from the small screen to the big one. Let’s study consciousness using the example of a movie. When you go to a movie, you let yourself get drawn in. It’s part of the experience of watching the movie. With a movie you use two senses: seeing and hearing. And it’s very important that these senses synchronize. You wouldn’t get as involved in the film if they didn’t. Imagine if you were watching a James Bond movie and the soundtrack didn’t synchronize with the scenes. Instead of getting drawn into the magical world of the movie, you would remain very aware that you were sitting in a theater and that something was wrong. But because soundtracks and scenes normally synchronize perfectly, movies capture your awareness and you forget that you’re sitting in the theater. You forget your personal thoughts and emotions, and your consciousness gets pulled into the film. It’s actually quite phenomenal to contemplate the difference between the experience of sitting next to strangers in a cold, dark theater versus being so absorbed in the movie that you are totally unaware of your surroundings. In fact, with an engaging film, you may go for the full two hours without any awareness of yourself. So the synchronization of sight and sound is very important if your consciousness is to become absorbed in the movie. And that’s just two of your senses.

What will happen when your experience of a movie includes smell and taste? Imagine that you’re experiencing a film in which someone is eating and you taste what they taste and smell what they smell. You would surely get caught in that one. The sensory input has doubled and therefore the number of objects drawing on your consciousness has also doubled. Sound, sight, taste, smell, and we haven’t mentioned the big one yet—would you even go to a theater that has touch? When they get all five senses working together, you don’t stand a chance. If they all synchronize, you’ll be completely absorbed into the experience. But then again, not necessarily. Imagine you’re sitting in the theater, and even with this overwhelming sensory experience, you still become bored with the movie. It just isn’t capturing your attention, so your thoughts start to wander. You begin thinking about what you’ll do when you get home. You start ­thinking about something that happened to you in the past. After a while, you’re so lost in your thoughts that you’re hardly aware that you’re watching a movie. This occurs despite the fact that your five senses are still sending you all these movie messages. This can only happen because your thoughts can still occur independently of the movie. They provide an alternative place for the consciousness to focus.

Now imagine that movies are made that not only engage the five senses, but also make your thoughts and emotions synchronize with what’s happening on the screen. With this movie experience, you’re hearing, seeing, tasting, and suddenly you begin feeling the character’s emotions and thinking the character’s thoughts. The character says, “I’m so nervous. Should I ask her to marry me?” and suddenly insecurity wells up inside of you. Now we have the full dimension of the experience: five physical senses, plus thoughts and emotions. Imagine going to that movie and getting plugged in. Careful, that would be the end of you as you know yourself. There would be no object of consciousness that is not synchronized with the experience. Any place your awareness falls would be part of the movie. Once the movie gets control of the thoughts, it’s over. There is no “you” in there saying, “I don’t like this movie. I want to leave.” That would take an independent thought, but your thoughts have been taken over by the movie. Now you are completely lost. How will you ever get out?

As scary as it sounds, that is your predicament in life. Because all of the objects you’re aware of are synchronized, you get sucked in and are no longer aware of your separateness from the objects. The thoughts and the emotions move in accordance with the sights and the sounds. It all comes in, and your consciousness gets totally absorbed in it. Unless you’re fully seated in witness consciousness, you’re not back there being aware that you’re the one watching all this. That is what it means to be lost.

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.

That is what you would think when you go to one of these advanced movies. At such a movie, you would first get to select which character you want to be. Let’s say you decide, “I’ll be James Bond.” Okay, but once you push the button, that’s it. The button had better be on a timer! You, as you currently know yourself, are no longer there. Since all of your thoughts are now James Bond’s thoughts, your entire existing self-concept is gone. Remember, your self-concept is just a collection of thoughts about yourself. Likewise, your emotions are Bond’s and you are watching the movie through his visual and auditory perspective. The only aspect of your being that remains the same is the consciousness that is aware of these objects. It is the same center of awareness that was aware of your old set of thoughts, emotions, and sensory input. Now someone turns off the movie. Immediately, Bond’s thoughts and emotions are replaced with your old set of thoughts and emotions. You’re back to thinking that you’re a forty-year-old woman. All the thoughts match. All the emotions match. Everything looks like, smells like, tastes like, and feels like it did before. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is all just something consciousness is experiencing. It is all just objects of consciousness, and you are the consciousness.

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.

If you really want to understand this difference, you must begin by realizing that consciousness can focus on anything. That being the case, what if consciousness were to focus on itself? When that happens, instead of being aware of your thoughts, you’re aware that you’re aware of your thoughts. You have turned the light of consciousness back onto itself. You’re always contemplating something, but this time you’re contemplating the source of consciousness. This is true meditation. True meditation is beyond the act of simple, one-pointed concentration. For the deepest meditation, you must not only have the ability to focus your consciousness completely on one object, you must also have the ability to make awareness itself be that object. In the highest state, the focus of consciousness is turned back to the Self.

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.

As you pull back into the consciousness, this world ceases to be a problem. It’s just something you’re watching. It keeps changing, but there is no sense of that being a problem. The more you are willing to just let the world be something you’re aware of, the more it will let you be who you are—the awareness, the Self, the Atman, the Soul.

You realize that you’re not who you thought you were. You’re not even a human being. You just happen to be watching one. You will begin to have deep experiences within your own center of consciousness. These will be deep, intuitive experiences of the true nature of Self. You will find that you are tremendously expansive. When you start to explore consciousness instead of form, you realize that your consciousness only appears to be small and limited because you are focusing on small and limited objects. That’s exactly what happens when you’re focusing solely on the TV—there’s nothing else in your world. If you pull back, however, you can see the whole room, including the TV. Likewise, instead of just focusing so intently on this one human being’s thoughts, emotions, and sensory world, you can pull back and see everything. You can move from the finite to the infinite. Isn’t this what they’ve been trying to tell us—Christ, Buddha, and the great saints and sages of all time and all religions?

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.

Part II

experiencing energy

Reflection Nebula in the Pleiades IC 349

Image credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)]


infinite energy

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. The truth is, every movement of your body, every emotion you have, and every thought that passes through your mind is an expenditure of energy. Just as everything that happens outside in the physical world requires energy, everything that happens inside requires an expenditure of energy.

For example, if you concentrate on a thought and another thought interferes, you will have to assert an opposing force to fight the interfering thought. That requires energy, and it can wear you out. Likewise, if you have a thought that you’re trying to hold in your mind but it keeps drifting off, you have to willfully concentrate to bring it back. When you do this, you are actually sending more energy to the thought in order to hold it in a given place. You also assert energy to deal with your emotions. If you have an emotion you don’t like and it’s interfering with what you’re doing, you just push it aside. You do this almost instinctively so that the unwanted emotion doesn’t come up and disturb you. Every one of these acts is an expenditure of energy.

Creating thoughts, holding onto thoughts, recalling thoughts, generating emotions, controlling emotions, and disciplining powerful inner drives, all require a tremendous expenditure of energy. Where does all this energy come from? Why is the energy there sometimes, and at other times you feel completely drained? Have you ever noticed that when you are mentally and emotionally drained, food doesn’t help that much? Conversely, if you look at the times in your life when you were in love, or excited and inspired by something, you were so filled with energy that you didn’t even want to eat. This energy we are discussing does not come from the calories your body burns from food. There is a source of energy you can draw upon from inside. It is distinct from the outer energy source.

The best way to examine this source of energy is to look at an example. Let’s say that you’re in your twenties and your girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with you. You get so totally depressed that you start staying home alone. Soon, because you don’t have the energy to clean up, everything ends up sprawled all over the floor. You can hardly get out of bed, so you just sleep all the time. You must be eating, because there are pizza boxes lying all around. But nothing seems to help. You just have no energy. Your friends invite you out, but you decline. You are simply too tired to do anything.

Most people have been there at some time in their lives. You feel that you have no way out, and it seems like you will stay there forever. Then suddenly, one day, the phone rings. It’s your girlfriend. That’s right, the one who dumped you three months ago. She’s crying as she says, “Oh, my God! Do you remember me? I hope you’ll still talk to me. I just feel so terrible. Leaving you was the worst mistake I ever made. I see now how important you are to me, and I can’t live without you. The only real love I ever felt in my life was during the time we were together. Would you please forgive me? Could you ever forgive me? Can I come over and see you?”

Now how are you doing? Seriously, how long does it take you to get enough energy to jump out of bed, clean up the apartment, take a shower, and get some color back in your face? It’s practically instantaneous. You’re filled with energy the moment you hang up the phone. How does this happen? You were completely drained. For months and months, you had no energy. Then out of nowhere, in a matter of seconds, there is so much energy it blows you away.

You can’t just ignore these enormous shifts in your energy level. Where exactly did all that energy come from? There was no sudden change in your eating or sleeping habits. Yet when your girlfriend comes by, you end up talking all night and going out to see the sunrise in the morning. You’re not tired at all. You’re together again and you’re holding hands and these rushes of joy just won’t stop overwhelming you. People see you and they remark that you look like a bundle of light. Where did all this energy come from?

What you’ll see, if you watch carefully, is that you have a phenomenal amount of energy inside of you. It doesn’t come from food and it doesn’t come from sleep. This energy is always available to you. At any moment you can draw upon it. It just wells up and fills you from inside. When you’re filled with this energy, you feel like you could take on the world. When it is flowing strongly, you can actually feel it coursing through you in waves. It gushes up spontaneously from deep inside and restores, replenishes, and recharges you.

The only reason you don’t feel this energy all the time is because you block it. You block it by closing your heart, by closing your mind, and by pulling yourself into a restrictive space inside. This closes you off from all the energy. When you close your heart or close your mind, you hide in the darkness within you. There is no light. There is no energy. There is nothing flowing. The energy is still there but it can’t get in.

That is what it means to be “blocked.” That is why you have no energy when you’re depressed. There are centers within that channel your energy flow. When you close them, there is no energy. When you open them, there is. Although various energy centers exist within you, the one you intuitively know the most about opening and closing is your heart. Let’s say that you love somebody, and you feel very open in their presence. Because you trust them, your walls come down allowing you to feel lots of high energy. But if they do something you don’t like, the next time you see them you don’t feel so high. You don’t feel as much love. Instead, you feel a tightness in your chest. This happens because you closed your heart. The heart is an energy center, and it can open or close. The yogis call energy centers chakras. When you close your heart center, energy can’t flow in. When energy can’t flow in, there’s darkness. Depending upon how closed you are, you either feel tremendous disturbance or overwhelming lethargy. Often people fluctuate between these two states. If you then find out that your loved one didn’t do anything wrong, or if they apologize to your satisfaction, your heart opens again. With this opening you get filled with energy, and the love starts flowing again.

How many times have you experienced these dynamics in your life? You have a wellspring of beautiful energy inside of you. When you are open you feel it; when you are closed you don’t. This flow of energy comes from the depth of your being. It’s been called by many names. In ancient Chinese medicine, it is called Chi. In yoga, it is called Shakti. In the West, it is called Spirit. Call it anything you want. All the great spiritual traditions talk about your spiritual energy; they just give it different names. That spiritual energy is what you’re experiencing when love rushes up into your heart. That is what you’re experiencing when you’re enthused by something and all this high energy comes up inside of you.

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. If you’re good, it shines on you. If you did something bad, it shines on you. It’s the same with the inner energy. The only difference is that with the inner energy, you have the ability to close up inside and block it. When you close, the energy stops flowing. When you open, all the energy rushes up inside of you. True spiritual teachings are about this energy and how to open to it.

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. How high do you want to get? How much love do you want to feel? How much enthusiasm do you want to have for the things you do? If enjoying a full life means experiencing high energy, love, and enthusiasm all the time, then don’t ever close.

There is a very simple method for staying open. You stay open by never closing. It’s really that simple. All you have to do is decide whether you are willing to stay open, or whether you think it’s worth closing. You can actually train yourself to forget how to close. Closing is a habit, and just like any other habit, it can be broken. For example, you could be the type of person who has an underlying fear of people and tends to close when you first meet them. You could actually be in the habit of experiencing an uptight, closing sensation whenever somebody walks up to you. You can train yourself to do the opposite. You can train yourself to open every time you see a person. It’s just a question of whether you want to close or whether you want to open. It’s ultimately under your control.

The problem is, we don’t exercise that control. Under normal circumstances, our state of openness is left to psychological factors. 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. Let’s say you smell a certain scent that reminds you of what it was like when you were young and somebody was cooking dinner. How you react to this scent depends upon the impressions left by your past experiences. Did you enjoy having dinner with the family? Was the food good? If so, then the smell of that scent warms you and opens you. If it wasn’t so much fun eating together, or if you had to eat food you didn’t like, then you tighten up and close. It really is that sensitive. A smell can make you open or close, and so can seeing a car of a certain color, or even the type of shoes a person is wearing. 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.

But 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. Any time you start to close, ask yourself whether you really want to cut off the energy flow. Because if you want, you can learn to stay open no matter what happens in this world. You just make a commitment to explore your capacity for receiving unlimited energy. You simply decide not to close. At first it feels unnatural since your innate tendency is to close as a means of protection. But closing your heart does not really protect you from anything; it just cuts you off from your source of energy. In the end, it only serves to lock you inside.

What you’ll find is that the only thing you really want from life is to feel enthusiasm, joy, and love. If you can feel that all the time, then who cares what happens outside? If you can always feel up, if you can always feel excited about the experience of the moment, then it doesn’t make any difference what the experience is. No matter what it is, it’s beautiful when you feel that way inside. 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. You simply realize that defining what you need in order to stay open actually ends up limiting you. If you make lists of how the world must be for you to open, you have limited your openness to those conditions. Better to be open no matter what.

How you learn to stay open is up to you. The ultimate trick is to not close. If you don’t close, you will have learned to stay open. Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. When your heart starts to close, just say, “No. I’m not going to close. I’m going to relax. I’m going to let this situation take place and be there with it.” Honor and respect the situation, and deal with it. By all means deal with it. Do the best you can. But deal with it with openness. Deal with it with excitement and enthusiasm. No matter what it is, just let it be the sport of the day. In time, you will find that you forget how to close. No matter what anyone does, no matter what situation takes place, you won’t even feel the tendency to close. You will just embrace life with all your heart and soul. Once you’ve attained this very high state, your energy level will be phenomenal. You will have all the energy you need at all times. Just relax and open, and tremendous energy will rush up inside of you. You are only limited by your ability to stay open.

If you really want to stay open, pay attention when you feel love and enthusiasm. Then ask yourself why you can’t feel this all the time. Why does it have to go away? The answer is obvious: it only goes away if you choose to close. By closing, you are actually making the choice not to feel openness and love. You throw love away all the time. You feel love until somebody says something you don’t like, and then you give up the love. You feel enthused about your job until someone criticizes something, and then you want to quit. It’s your choice. You can either close because you don’t like what happened, or you can keep feeling love and enthusiasm by not closing. As long as you are defining what you like and what you don’t like, you will open and close. You are actually defining your limits. You are allowing your mind to create triggers that open and close you. Let go of that. Dare to be different. Enjoy all of life.

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.

Just keep opening and not closing. Wait until you see what happens to you. You can even affect the health of your body with your energy flow. When you start to feel the tendency of an illness coming on, you just relax and open. When you open, you bring more energy into the system, and it can heal. Energy can heal, and that’s why love can heal. 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. If you’re always tired and never enthused, then life is no fun. But if you’re always inspired and filled with energy, then every minute of every day is an exciting experience. Learn to work with these things. Through meditation, through awareness and willful efforts, you can learn to keep your centers open. You do this by just relaxing and releasing. You do this by not buying into the concept that there is anything worth closing over. Remember, if you love life, nothing is worth closing over. Nothing, ever, is worth closing your heart over.


the secrets of the spiritual heart

Very few people understand the heart. In truth, your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings, or flutes. You can hear an instrument, but you feel your heart. And if you think that you feel an instrument, it’s only because it touched your heart. Your heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy that few people come to appreciate.

In most human beings, the heart does its work unattended. Even though its behavior governs the course of our lives, it is not understood. If at any given point in time the heart happens to open, we fall in love. If at any given point in time it happens to close, the love stops. If the heart happens to hurt, we get angry, and if we stop feeling it altogether, we get empty. All of these different things happen because the heart goes through changes. These energy shifts and variations that take place in the heart run your life. You are so identified with them that you use the words “I” and “me” when you refer to what’s going on in your heart. But in truth, you are not your heart. You are the experiencer of your 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. Think about what it is like to feel energy well up in your heart making you confident and strong. All of this happens because the heart is an energy center.

The heart controls the energy flow by opening and closing. This means that the heart, like a valve, can either allow the flow of energy to pass through, or it can restrict the flow of energy from passing through. If you observe your heart, you know very well what it feels like when it’s open and what it feels like when it’s closed. In fact, the state of your heart changes quite regularly. You can be experiencing great feelings of love while in the presence of someone, until they say something you don’t like. Then your heart closes toward them, and you simply don’t feel the love anymore. We have all experienced this, but what exactly is causing it? Since we all have to experience the heart, we might as well understand what’s going on in there.

We begin this analysis by asking a fundamental question: What is it about the structure of the heart center that permits it to close? What you will find is that the heart closes because it becomes blocked by stored, unfinished energy patterns from your past. You need only examine your everyday experiences to understand this. As events take place in this world, they come in through your senses and have an impact on your inner state of being. The experience of these events may bring up some fear, some anxiety, or maybe some love. Different experiences happen inside because of how you take in and digest the world as it passes through you. When you take in the world through your senses, it is actually energy that is coming into your being. Form itself does not come into your mind or heart. Form stays outside, but it is processed by your senses into energy patterns that your mind and heart can receive and experience. Science explains this sensory process to us. Your eyes are not really windows through which you look out into the world. Your eyes are cameras that send electronic images of the world into you. This is true of all your senses. They sense the world, convert the information, transmit the data through electrical nerve impulses, and then the impressions get rendered in your mind. Your senses are, indeed, electronic sensing devices. But if the energy patterns that are coming into your psyche create disturbance, you will resist them and not allow them to pass through you. When you do this, the energy patterns actually get blocked within you.

This is very important. To better understand what it’s like to have these energies stored within you, let’s first examine what it would be like if nothing was stored. What if everything just passed right through you? For example, when you’re driving down a highway, you probably pass thousands of trees. They don’t leave impressions on you. They’re gone as soon as they’re perceived. While you’re driving you see trees, you see buildings, you see cars, and none of these make lasting impressions on you. There’s just a momentary impression that allows you to see them. Though they do come in through the senses and make impressions upon your mind, as quickly as the impressions are made, they are released. When you have no personal issues with them, impressions process freely.

This is how the overall system of perception is meant to work. It’s meant to take things in, allow you to experience them, and then let them pass through so that you’re fully present in the next moment. While this system is in a working, operative state, you are fine and it is fine. You’re simply having experience after experience. Driving is an experience, trees passing by are an experience, and cars passing by are an experience. These experiences are gifts that are being given to you, like a great movie. They are passing into you, awakening and stimulating you. They are actually having a profound effect on you. Moment after moment, experiences are coming in and you’re learning and growing. Your heart and mind are expanding and you are being touched at a very deep level. If experience is the best teacher, there’s nothing that comes close to the experience of life.

What it means to live life is to experience the moment that is passing through you, and then experience the next moment, and then the next. Many different experiences will come in and pass through you. It’s a phenomenal system when it is working properly. If you could live in that state, you would be a fully aware being. 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.

But that’s not what happens inside most of us. Instead, it’s more like you’re driving down the street, here come the trees, here come the cars, and it’s all passing right through you with no trouble. Then, inevitably, something comes in that doesn’t make it through. There was this one car, a light blue Ford Mustang, that looked like your girlfriend’s car. But as it passed by, you noticed two people hugging in the front seat. At least it looked like they were hugging, and it sure looked like your girlfriend’s car. But it was a car just like all the other cars, wasn’t it? No. It wasn’t just like all the other cars to you.

Let’s look carefully at what happened. Surely for the camera of the eyes there’s no difference between that car and the others. There’s light bouncing off of objects, passing through your retina, and making a visual impression on your mind. So at the physical level, nothing different is going on. But at the mental level, the impression didn’t make it through. When the next moment comes, you no longer notice the rest of the trees. You’re not seeing the rest of the cars. Your heart and mind are fixated on that one car, even though it’s gone. You’ve got yourself a problem here. There’s a blockage, an event that got stuck. All the subsequent experiences are trying to pass through you, but something has happened inside that has left this past experience unfinished.

What happens to that experience that didn’t make it through? Specifically, what happens to the image of the girlfriend’s car if it doesn’t just fade away into deep memory like everything else? At some point, you’ll have to stop focusing on it in order to deal with something else—like the next stoplight. What you don’t realize is that your entire experience of life is about to change because of what didn’t make it through you. Life must now compete with this blocked event for your attention, and the impression does not just sit in there quietly. You will see that your tendency is to think about it constantly. This is all in an attempt to find a way to process it through your mind. You didn’t need to process the trees, but you need to process this. Because you resisted, it got stuck, and now you have a problem. You see the thoughts start up: “Well, maybe it wasn’t her. Of course it wasn’t her. How could that possibly have been?” Thought after thought goes on inside. It drives you crazy in there. All that inner noise is just your attempt to process the blocked energy and get it out of the way.

Long term, the energy patterns that cannot make it through you are pushed out of the forefront of the mind and held until you are prepared to release them. These energy patterns, which hold tremendous detail about the events associated with them, are real. They don’t just disappear. 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.

It is not easy to keep energy together in one place for long. As you willfully struggle to keep these events from passing through your consciousness, the energy first tries to release by manifesting through the mind. This is why the mind becomes so active. When the energy can’t make it through the mind because of conflicts with other thoughts and mental concepts, it then tries to release through the heart. That is what creates all the emotional activity. When you resist even that release, the energy gets packed up and forced into deep storage within the heart. 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.

In order to understand this, let’s first take an in-depth look at the physics behind these blocked energy patterns. Just like energy waves, the energy that comes into you must keep moving. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get blocked within you. There is a way that the energy can both keep moving and stay in one place—and that is to circle around itself. We see this in atoms and in planetary orbits. Everything is energy, and energy will just expand outward if it is not contained. For there to be manifest creation, energy must get in the dynamic of cycling around itself to create a stable unit. That’s why energy manifesting as an atom forms the basic building block of this entire physical universe. Energy cycles around itself, and as we’ve discovered, atoms have enough harnessed energy to blow up the world when that energy is released. But unless forced otherwise, the energy will stay harnessed because of its equilibrium state.

This process of cycling energy is exactly what happens with a Samskara. 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. There is no other place for it to go. You won’t let it. This is how most people process their issues. This packet of cycling energy is literally stored in your energetic heart center. All the Samskaras you have collected over your life are stored there.

To fully appreciate what this means, let’s go back to the example of the light blue Mustang that looked like your girlfriend’s car. Once the disturbed energy patterns are packaged and stored in the heart, they are basically inactive. It may look to you like you have handled the situation and that you have no more issues with that experience. You may not even mention the event to your girlfriend because it would look like you were jealous. You didn’t know what to do, so you resisted the energy, and it got stored in the heart where it could fall into the background and not be bothersome. While it may seem like it’s done, like it is all over and gone, it really isn’t.

Every one of the Samskaras that you’ve stored is still there. Everything that did not make it through you, from the time you were a baby all the way to this moment, is still inside of you. It is these impressions, these Samskaras, that encrust the valve of the spiritual heart. That encrustation builds up and restricts the energy flow.

Now that we understand where the blockages within the heart come from, we have answered the structural question of how the heart gets blocked. You can certainly see the potential for impressions to build up to the point where very little energy can make it through. If they build up sufficiently, you will find yourself in a state of depression. In that state, all becomes dark. This is because very little energy is coming into your heart or mind. Eventually, everything appears negative because the world of the senses must pass through this depressed energy before it gets to your consciousness.

But even if you aren’t prone to depression, your heart still gets blocked over time. It just builds up. It doesn’t always stay blocked, however. Depending upon life’s experiences, it can open and close quite frequently. This leads us to our next question: What is the cause of these frequent changes in the state of the heart? If you watch carefully, you will see it is related to the same stored past impress