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Cobalt Blue: A Novel

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Emails to my Therapist

The Untethered Soul: Becoming a Truly Free Spirit

Dear Nicholas, I’ve stumbled onto a radical view of freedom, and the truth of it seems to be taking me over. The source is a book: The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

The main idea is: live life from the deepest part one’s self, and from that vantage point, notice one’s emotions and the chatter of the inner voice, feel the feelings, and then let both feelings and thoughts drift on by.

The Untethered Soul

Sounds to me like a constant meditative state maintained while living an active life. Also, it sounds difficult. And the author does not give specific directions on how to do this.

A Message That Soaks In

Even so, I feel the message of the book installing itself in me, as if I’d downloaded it, as if it were rising into my personal operating system from below. I visualize this process not in computer terms, though, but more as rising waters starting to float me.

This main idea is similar to that in a book highly recommended to me some months ago: Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade. This eighteenth- century spiritual classic describes the relocating of the “self” in theological terms, as giving one’s will to God.

The Untethered Soul, while devoting the last chapter to God, could serve as well for non-believers. Though I’m a believer, I found this contemporary book was the one that spoke to me, that affected me profoundly.

In the author’s words, “The only way to inner freedom is through the one who watches: the Self.”

A Personal Experience on a Medical Table

An odd occurrence years ago set me up for the idea of an inner watching Self. I was about to be knocked out for a medical test. The doctor had just plugged the sedative-bearing IV tube into the port in my arm. I was starting to fade when he mentioned my novel Sister India, saying that he hoped reading about India would relieve him of any need to go.

I loved my time in India and tried to rally my consciousness to tell him so. With all my powers of  concentration and mental strength fighting the sedation, I laboriously got out a few halting words: “It’s…a…good…place…to…go.”

When I heard my simple hard-won sentence, an intelligent voice from somewhere deep inside me said in an affectionate and genial tone: “Well, you sound like a dummy.”

The doctor said, “I know it is,” in the indulgent inflected tone you might use for a toddler.

My deep inner voice, still amused, said, “He does too.”

That moment has given me a sense that there is an untethered “me” that lives behind my usual consciousness and it is undimmed by drugs. It’s my un-ethered soul, if you can stand a bit of word play. It can’t be knocked out. That’s my small personal experience of immortality and I find it disproportionately sustaining.

An Attempt to Distill Some of the Other Ideas

There are corollaries to the basic idea in The Untethered Soul. Some of these argue:

*That spiritual energy wells up from our depths. “In ancient Chinese medicine, it is called Chi. In yoga, it is called Shakti. In the West, it is called Spirit.” (In my novel, Cobalt Blue, it is called kundalini.) It must not be blocked by judging, begrudging, clinging….

*That to live a full life, we need to reside in our deep center and stay “open” to the present moment, without shutting down acceptance of what is happening. (This present-moment practice is an idea you’re pretty strong on, as I recall.)

*That this openness, without clinging to past experiences, is the source of happiness deep in one’s self, even when bad things are happening.

*That feeling pain rather than warding it off allows it to pass.

I’m not satisfied with this summary. Nor should you be. Do read the book if you haven’t already.

Evangelically yours,







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  • kenju
    October 24, 2017 at 8:54 pm Reply

    I have not read that book, but I shall venture to say I think it means you become a true observer, not only of others and their actions, but the action of your mind. Notice what you are thinking, and how it makes you feel – and then you will be able to release those emotions.

    It is easier said than done, however. Makes me think of Ram Dass and “Be Here Now.”

    • Peggy Payne
      October 24, 2017 at 8:57 pm Reply

      I also liked Be Here Now, kenju, but it didn’t have the same effect as this one has. Maybe it’s the timing. I find myself taking to it without explaining it to myself.

  • October 25, 2017 at 9:41 am Reply

    I read the book a few years ago, before I was mature enough to understand what it was telling me. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 25, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

      So good to hear from you, Mohana. There are quite a few books on my read-too-soon list. I’ll bet you got something out of this one the first go-round anyway.

  • Gail Waters
    October 25, 2017 at 11:15 pm Reply

    This book profoundly changed me when I first read it . You have reminded me that I want to reread it.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 26, 2017 at 2:03 am Reply

      I’m glad to hear this, Gail. I hope the change has lasted, mostly at least. Maybe I should keep a copy close by for refreshers!

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