Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review / The Surrender Experiment

Do you guys know that little voice that lives inside your head? You know, that one you're always telling to shut up? Or if you're like me, it's always repeating the last song I heard on the radio that morning. (And usually only the same two or three lines of that song, even more annoying.) Is your voice always discouraging you or telling you no to something before you even have time to think about it? "Oh no there's Mary. I don't want to talk to Mary. Walk away." Do you feel like your mind is forever in a constant battle between your likes and dislikes? Anyone else trying desperately and seeming to always fail at controlling the outcomes of their life? I think most everyone would agree, both hands up, yes! What if we stopped listening to that voice. What if that voice wasn't really us at all. What if we weren't just one person, but two; a spiritual self and a personal self. And what if we shut that personal self off and stopped doing what it wanted and instead the universe lead. What would happen? Would everything crumble apart, or would life bring to us exactly what we needed, and maybe more? 

I just finished reading the most unreal book, where the author Michael A. Singer did just that. He surrendered to life by silencing that inner dialog and letting life make the decisions for him. At first it wasn't perfect, but he committed himself to this journey and now with 40 years of experience he's sharing his knowledge and guidance on the subject, as well as the story he calls his "surrender experiment." 

* For anyone whose a visual person like me, this is the author. He refers to himself as a "ponytail wearing yogi." This here is him speaking with Oprah about his first book and that "voice" in our heads. *

I'm all about "going with the flow" but he takes it to a totally different extreme. Basically the idea is to shut off the inner chatter in our minds with mediation. Find peace. Surrender to life, not by dropping out but by living without being controlled by our own fears and desires. Letting the flow of life decide what happens to us and create our path. (Basically want nothing, and say yes to everything.)

And apparently he is really onto something with this idea because his first book "The Untethered Soul" (which I am totally reading next, and probably should have started with.) was also a best seller, and was the foundation upon which he wrote this book. By living this untethered lifestyle and surrendering to life, he goes from student, to teacher, to entrepreneur, all the way to being CEO of a multi-million dollar company. He doesn't ask for any of it, and knows very well that had he let his personal self (the inner voice) decide that he would have said no to all of this. But since it came to him as a "gift" from the universe, he accepted it. And when he almost lost everything, it was his many years of practicing peace and surrender that helped him to get through the hardest time in his life.

I find that pretty brave. Some might argue that it is considered lazy to just sit back and let life happen without trying or having any goals, but that's not it at all. He worked hard, and was successful because he gave it his all. To quote him on this, he shares "My formula for success was very simple: Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart and soul without regard to personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itself - because it was."(Feeling inspired yet?)

I'm really into spiritual and self-help style books, but this was definitely different than anything I've ever read before. I was skeptical at first that I wouldn't relate at all, but I like to go outside of my comfort zone and hear new ideas. Only a few pages into the book I already knew it would be an eye-opener and by the time I finished, I had the pages full of highlighted sections and post-it notes with thoughts on them. A book hasn't made me think so much in a long time (or ever.) What a shame it would be if there weren't people like Michael Singer in the world to make us think.

Not to say that I didn't find myself a few times going "this is getting weird" but he even admits that he sounds crazy multiple times throughout the book. He knows it's radical. I highlighted one line from the book where I thought he was really losing it, during an intense moment in a meditation session with a famed yogi by the name of Baba- "In an instant I was no longer in my body. Me, the one who lives in here, the one who looks out through the eyes and hears through the ears, the center of conscious awareness that notices the thoughts and emotions-I was no longer sitting inside doing those things." Part of me wanted to eye roll at that part and my inner voice was definitely saying "come on, really?" But what do I know? I haven't even tried meditation, ever, so maybe that's exactly what happens. Even in the times I thought he was getting a little looney, I was still seriously fascinated by this man.

Am I going to change my entire life now, live in the woods and mediate 12 hours a day? No. But I'd be willing to try to surrender a little bit more. That's what I love so much about this style of book, it always gets me inspired to live a better lifestyle. It's easy to keep up, keep up, keep going, going, going, going, and the mind is always wanting more and more and this and that and everything, all in the pursuit of happiness. But maybe if we just learned to let life flow more organically, we would see that we don't have to chase anything at all. Maybe that's the key.

Although I really enjoyed the message of this book, the downside was that because it was a book that I actually wanted to learn from, it took me about 5 times longer to read. It felt like work at times, and I tend to avoid work. I'm usually a quick reader, and can blow through something like a Nicholas Sparks book in a day, but since this was something I really wanted to absorb I made sure to give it my full attention. I actually read most of it out loud to make sure I was paying total attention (and you know how long that takes) meaning that I only wanted to read it when I was alone. All in all, it took me about a month to get through. But not the books fault, I'm sure someone else could finish it a day if they wanted. That was just me. 

Despite being time consuming in that way, I would consider it was a pretty easy read. The author explains everything very simply in a way that anyone can understand, and accompanies every lesson with an example. It's clear that he wants readers to learn from his experience, to be able to apply that to ones own life. He ends chapter one by saying "I share these with you only because as human beings we have the extraordinary ability to learn from one another's experiences." (Isn't that why we all love blogging so much right?)  The chapters all flowed together nicely, and even though the timeline of his story was over 40 years long, he also broke it down into sections to make it even easier to see the changes happening within the flow of his life. 

I would say that the beginning held my attention a little better, but only because I'm into more personal stories and the second half of the book was more business talk so I found myself a little lost and just moving on without fully understanding, (or caring.) But I had a feeling what would happen in the end, was what did happen, and it was perfect. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood made a movie out of his story. Just add in a little extra drama, more on the love story and boom! Hit movie. His life is legitimately that unbelievable. 

And I'll leave you with the ending paragraph. May we all find the peace that Mr. Singer has created. "At some point there's no more struggle, just the deep peace that comes from surrendering to a perfection that is beyond your comprehension. Eventually, even the mind stops resisting, and the heart loses the tendency to close. The joy, excitement, and freedom are simply too beautiful to give up. Once you are ready to let go of yourself, life becomes your friend, your teacher, your secret lover. When life's way becomes your way, all the noise stops, and there is a great peace." 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own ;)

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