This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Untethered Soul" by Michael A. Singer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Is it possible to attain unconditional happiness? Do you think you can remain happy in spite of any challenges and misfortunes that life throws your way?
According to Michael A. Singer, a spiritual teacher and the founder of the Temple of the Universe meditation center, your happiness shouldn’t be tied to external conditions that you don’t have control over. You can choose to stay happy no matter what. As paradoxical as it may sound, the key to attaining unconditional happiness is to drop resistance to the things that make you unhappy.
Here is how you can achieve unconditional happiness, according to Michael A. Singer.
Is It Possible to Achieve Unconditional Happiness?
If you place limits or conditions on your happiness—you can’t be happy if your spouse leaves you, or if your car breaks down—then that’s on you. You can’t control those things, but you can refuse to give them power over your happiness. You can remain happy no matter what, even if people starve you and put you in solitary confinement.
Reflect on the examples of people throughout history, such as Gandhi, who have remained happy even in the face of persecution and deprivation. The only rational response to life here on this planet spinning through empty space in a vast universe is to enjoy it. There’s ultimately no legitimate reason to resist life, no reason to close your heart and enable the buildup of tension that leads to unhappiness.
Take a Vow to Unconditional Happiness
View your life this way: You’ve taken a vow of unconditional happiness. And because of this, life will test you. You’ll miss your flight. Somebody will put a dent in your new car. Are you going to remain faithful to your vow? It’s as simple as that.
To remain faithful to your vow of unconditional happiness, you must reject resistance. When you identify specific areas of resistance in your life, immediately work to clear these out. The benefits will extend to the rest of your experience.
Imagine, for instance, that a childhood experience instilled a fear of dogs in you. You can work with this, learning to relax and have a new and enjoyable relationship with dogs. Then, whenever someone says or does something you don’t like, you can treat this the same way you’ve treated your fear of dogs: no resistance.
In most situations, there’s really nothing to deal with except your own desires and fears, which make everything seem complicated. Without desires and fears, life would just happen naturally, with no problems.
Anytime you notice any part of yourself growing unhappy, drop the unhappiness like a hot coal. For help in doing this, use any number of specific spiritual practices that seem helpful, such as affirmations or meditation. Formal meditation techniques might be especially helpful, as they’ll build the muscles of your awareness that enable you to recognize when unhappiness is trying to take root in you. Just remember that all such techniques and practices are means, not ends.
Use what you’ve learned about inner energy. Refuse to close your spiritual heart, no matter what happens. Refuse the siren call to fall into unhappiness and dysfunction. Refuse to build up new Samskaras, those knots of negative energy that you generate by resisting life. Recognize when something activates one of your existing Samskaras and tempts you to identify with a limited and distorted view of things. Remember that nothing makes you close and that there’s literally nothing worth closing over. Remain alert and savvy to your mind’s attempts to convince you otherwise.
Great areas for practicing nonresistance and dropping unhappiness include your relationships and your work. Also remember that your real work is what’s left to do after everything else passes through you. As you practice nonresistance and unconditional happiness, you’ll discover that new talents and abilities emerge for doing this work.
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