There is no perfect book.
People ask me all the time what one book they should read, my opinion is that productive reading is an ongoing (forever) process. Occasionally if you’re really lucky you’ll come across the right book at the right time, and for me this was the very right book for the very right time.
Despite being a spiritual self-help book, the complete opposite of what I usually read, I actually found my experience reading this book to be sublime. There is a high chance that if you know my usual content you’ve heard me dumping on self-help books in the past. Does this make me a hypocrite??? ….probably, yeah!!!
For this reason I really didn’t have high hopes going in, it’s been on my wish list for nearly 2 years because when someone recommends me a book I put it on my list and eventually get to it, but recently I met a new lady who suggested it at which point I felt compelled to me to finally read it. Although in defense of my romanticism I would have done anything this girl told me to do….
“This above all: to thine own self be true"
This is a quote from Hamlet, the book opens with this quote and while I have not yet read Hamlet I find myself increasingly obsessed with it. The universe has been telling me to read Hamlet for a long time, ad I’ve been listening. In fact, 5 days earlier this week I was at an Airbnb and the host had a copy of Hamlet on a bookshelf that caught my attention and now the book I’m reading opens with a Hamlet quote.
Coincidences are just coincidences and I don’t believe in fate, but something about them feels meaningful and I just prefer to accept that they are meaningful. Sometimes I call it the universe talking to me.
“The Untethered Soul” describes the very common human problem where we allow our inner dialogue to wreak havoc on our life.
I suffer from this in the most terrible way. I’ve known for a long time that this is a problem but have never really addressed it. From neuroticism to self loathing my own internal self talk is and has always been the most dominant negative impact on my life. The book describes the voice we talk to in our head as a “roommate in your mind”, if this is the case I have an extremely abusive roommate.
I don’t want to paint too bleak of a picture, all things considered I’m fairly well adjusted fella and I mostly keep it together. My life is going pretty damn well in the face of this torture (hence this website) and the irony I’ve found is that the more freedom I create in my life the more I notice that my brain is riddled with hostility and it all stems from this endless voice in my head that just seems to enjoy making my life painful.
If I had read this book a year ago I’m not sure I would have been so receptive to it’s lessons. 9 months ago I ended my life’s longest relationship, then I spent the last ~5 months mostly isolated in quarantine, and then the last 2 weeks I sort of had a culmination of this internal volatility that made me desperate enough to sign up for therapy. When I say this book was the right book for the right time, I fuckin mean it.
For the first 37 years of my life I would have said this book is spiritual fu-fu nonsense and dismissed it instantly, instead I think this book has allowed me to really confront the idea that my mental roller coaster is something that I might actually be able to work on, or even fix.
This book talks heavily about dealing with subconscious disagreements, something that I’m fortunate I don’t have a big problem with thanks to a nearly accidental but profound early experience with psychedelics. There is no better way to experience dissolution of ego or talk to our inner self than through the use of these medicines, I didn’t have those problems thankfully, though the book addresses them, still there is no medicine that can fix a person for good. Self improvement is a process, just as is reading, fitness, relationships, or making money.
Reading this did give me some good advice for dealing with these internal problems that I actively manifest into the world, which for me is a common occurrence. Those that know me may describe me as unbridled, unbounded Chaos. This book prompted me to ask myself not if what I’m feeling is internally stressful, which it often is, but instead to ask if anyone else notices that anxiety. If no one notices my anxiety then I can simply not act on it and my life would be better. This doesn’t change the way I feel inside but it is extremely comforting to understand this perspective and it feels like this alone could fix 90% of my mess.
I’m warming up to the heavy “eastern philosophy” approach to dealing with mental health. Currently my favorite spiritual approach to dealing with this stuff is Old Testament Judaism which I summarize as “Life is a series of relentless and unfair bouts of suffering, your life’s meaning will come when you bear the your responsibility of that suffering”. I think my system would work better if my life had a lot more on the line but the sad truth is that my life is too easy so I have no suffering to extract meaning from. This book has encouraged me to use a different method to find peace.
"When you are comfortable with pain passing through you, you will be free"
I think after this week meditation is going to become an important tool in my life going forward. This is something I’ve used previously and have found value in it but couldn’t really get it to stick. 4 days before I picked this book up I started doing it daily in the mornings and have been feeling significantly better, then I read this book which explains how to use meditation as a tool to deal with negative self thoughts?! Another incredible coincidence!
Ever meet a new potential intimate partner, get too excited about it and over think it until you become frazzled or even self defeating? As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have this problem, or rather I used to have this problem when I was younger but I haven’t dated in the last ~9 years until very recently. Since my new adventures I’ve noticed a slight resurgence of this poor behavior and it would be an understatement to say that I don’t like it and generally neither do they. I’m easily excitable especially with new people and I get in my head too much about these things, I don’t think it’s appropriate to apologize for being a Shakespearean hopeless romantic, but I also realize that Romeo killed himself for no reason over a girl he had only met the day before…patience is a virtue. I believe with meditation and some of the lessons in this book I can quite likely gain some control over these emotions and do myself a great service.
This little video of a hilarious old movie I love called “Swingers” takes this poor behavior to the extreme. I’ve carried this movie with me my whole life and yet still have trouble learning it’s lessons. I include it here for laughs:
“Respond, don't react”
~10 years ago a mentor of mind gave me this advice. I’ve never yet been able to implement it like I would want but it’s been sitting in my brain since I heard it and I try to use it as much as possible. I know it’s good advice but the heat of the moment doesn’t always allow me the self control to follow through. The Untethered Soul is in great part a nuanced and expansive expression of this advice: we must observe the chaos in our life, we should accept but not dwell on it, and don’t react to it. I don’t think this is breakthrough information but the timing of all these events has had a meaningful and remarkable impact on my confidence to enact them in the future.
To wrap: This book is one that I would have never thought I could recommend but I’m glad I read it and I’m happy I can say with confidence that it’s helped me sort through some of my chaos. I could have written this review without my personal story and just told you what the book was about, but for me in this moment of my life I felt compelled to expand on how I feel and what I’ve been going through in hopes that someone who reads this will have a similar chaos they now feel confident they can solve.
Thank you to those who read through
In the immortal words of Maynard James Keenan, “This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality
Embrace this moment, remember
We are eternal, all this pain is an illusion”
…also I started Hamlet immediately after I finished this. The universe is working through me strong right now.
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