Each and every human is born with a little brain which grows and a mind develops with its likes and dislikes. While we are born with everything we need, there is one thing missing, a user manual for the mind and its chatterbox inner voice. How do we manage this chatterbox inner voice? Read on as Michael Singer tells his story of encounter with the inner voice and how he learned to surrender to the unfolding flow of life before him.
The Inner Voice
Most of us would be aware of an inner voice (or feeling, for some). It reacts to the world, it has likes and dislikes, it has wants and desires, it is patient and impatient, it is demanding and it can be serene. This inner voice (or feeling) is always reacting to external phenomena and defending the inner territory within. It does want to change life; it wants to change life to what it wants, what it feels is a safety zone. It is a chatterbox, and very, very hard to quieten. Often it feels out of control to you, the owner, the user.
There is no manual for this inner chatterbox. There are no instructions to slow it down, quieten it, give us peace of mind. It can start up the moment we wake up, it can go all day long, in the house, out of the house, at school, at work, at sport and play, in our romances, in our relationships. Oh, this is where this inner voice is at its most destructive, with its wants, its proclamation that “I am perfect, you have to change!”, with its hurts and pains. We need to get a handle on this inner voice. It can destroy happiness.
There are plenty of books on Happiness, but no user manuals for this inner voice, this chatterbox within. “Woe is me!” so many exclaim as this inner voice drives them to distraction, drives them to drink, drives them to spend money, drives them to buy love, or to shut oneself off from the world. The inner voice is responsible for much of the behaviour we observe of our fellow man and woman. Bullying in the school playground is an activity of the inner voice, causing its owner to feel strong and proud and to suppress feelings of inferiority. How can one and all manage this voice which tells us what to do?
Michael Singer noted that life flows with perfection; our hearts beat, food is digested, cells divide in the body, the Sun gives light, the planets follow their orbit, and the Universe has been unfolding with perfection ever since the Big Bang (or the beginning of Creation). Our own human evolution has also been unfolding with perfection: humans have consciousness, are self-aware, create vistas of stunning beauty and design our future with creativity and enthusiasm. Life also unfolds with perfection from the hands of the human.
What if we, the human, were to surrender to what is presented to us by life itself? What if we were to ignore the inner voice, the chatterbox within with its likes and dislikes? What if we – with appropriate common sense and not place ourselves nor others in personal danger – were to surrender to that which is presented to us in our everyday endeavours and surrender to life itself? What would be the outcomes?
Michael Singer, the author of The Surrender Experiment, my journey into life’s perfection did just that. However, before we leap into surrendering to the ants coming in under the front door, we need to take a look at Michael Singer’s life: the context, the support, the basis which underpinned his daily practice of surrender. And this was daily meditation. And this did not begin with perfection, it was a journey into the interior spaces of the mind-body-spirit complex, and allowing surrender within. It was certainly not push-button silence within, when he began meditation, something that is doubtless a fervent wish for many of us readers. Alack, the chatterbox voice accompanies us into meditation, too!
And many would say, “What to do?”. Some fight the inner voice, some tell it to shut up! and some force it away with visualisation, mantras, technique. One can never cheat with the inner voice, that dratted companion of ours. One has to lead it like a child toward inner peace and silence, with gentle and loving discipline, with relentless perseverance and boundaries. One perseveres with the meditation no matter what: for a gentle, self-loving discipline always has its fruits. Michael Singer admits freely in the pages of this book, it was a struggle to get into a really quiet state.
Singer shares that as he matured in his spiritual practices, he began to surrender inside, just like he was doing in my outer life. He simply allowed whatever thoughts needed to arise, to arise, and simply tried to relax instead of engaging with them. No struggle, just deep relaxation — regardless of what the voice was saying. Singer continues his explanation: “Over time, like magic, my awareness lost interest in the thoughts and ceased to become distracted by them.”
Singer explains his practice of surrender:
By that stage of my growth, I could see that the practice of surrender was actually done in two, very distinct steps: first, you let go of the personal reactions of like and dislike that form inside your mind and heart; and second, with the resultant sense of clarity, you simply look to see what is being asked of you by the situation unfolding in front of you. Waht would you be doing if you weren’t being influenced by the reactions of like or dislike? Following that deeper guidance will take your life in a very different direction from where your preferences would have led you. That is the clearest I can explain my surrender experiment, and it became the foundation of both my spiritual and worldly life. (p 65, op.cit)
This also became the foundation of following that which was natural for Singer: to practice meditation twice daily, to visit those in prison, to have his own space around him (which eventually became over 180 acres with a temple) to become skilled at different occupations, to learn to write code and develop a successful software company, to trust and surrender when the forces of life around him became ugly and threatening. All this, buffered by twice-daily meditation, the practice of surrender, and allowing the flow of reality around him.
Reading this book, you get a very clear sense that Singer knew what he wanted, and followed that. He lived very simply, did not have a lot of attachments nor responsibilities: he had a lifestyle that he chose clearly, simply. There were no others hurt, nor diminished by his choices. He used his common sense and his inner wisdom at critical times and often went off to meditations or took time out before making the really big decisions. Surrender is something that comes with its own common sense, and this common sense is the fruit of pesonal self discipline, self-respect, self-control. Surrender is never abandonment of responsibility to yourself and others, your family nor those who depend upon you, nor it is abandonment and walking away from your obligations, the contracts you have made with others, the commitments you have given. Running away, avoiding consequences, denying personal responsibility is never surrender. Surrender is embedded with a personal ethic.
Surrender is always something that is done with integrity. Integrity is the foundation of excellence in character, that is to say, unity of what you think, say and do. Excellence of human character is unity of thoughts, words and action. This is integrity, what you think is in alignment with your words and words are followed by deeds. Surrender will always be embedded with integrity and excellence of character. Good character will be the fruit of true surrender, surrender that brings peace.
It is important to note that the author, Mickey Singer, did not always have peace when he was confronted with situations which called him to surrender more deeply to the flow of life. Peace – and beauty of life, inner beauty, these were the fruits that were to follow his acts of surrender, his ignoring the chatterbox voice within. This is a lifetime discipline, a lifetime practice which brings many fruits and rewards. However, we keep in mind that surrender is always a challenge, and surrender is always embedded in a personal ethic of excellence of character.
There is much we can say about Mickey Singer’s personal life (he shares his inner life in the pages of this book) as we go on this unfolding journey of Surrender with him. However, this book is not really about him but rather, what happened when he engaged with life in an act of surrender to its unfolding before him. An intensely readable book, personable, a fast read. There is much to absorb, and this book is worth a second read, even, keeping as a reference as we underline the important passages and come back to them in order to deepen our own understanding of surrender. An excellent read which will have benefic influence on your own life. Enjoy!