In the early 1970s, Michael Singer (featured in this issue’s “Listening in With …”) was headed toward a career as an economist. That all changed when, as a doctoral student at the University of Florida, he read Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. Singer began meditating and had a spiritual awakening in which he realized the voice we hear in our heads when we think isn’t who we really are. Our true identity is the awareness behind those thoughts that hears us thinking them—the inner witness that observes our incessant mind chatter with detachment. “You are not your thoughts,” Singer explains. “You are simply aware of your thoughts.”
Craving solitude for meditation, he built a house on 10 wooded acres outside of Gainesville, Florida. Singer still taught college courses as a grad student but became much more interested in spiritual pursuits. Students started dropping by to meditate with him, and a spiritual community soon grew. His dissertation ended up more a metaphysical take on the existence of God than a treatise on economics. When the doctoral committee rejected it, Singer published it as a book, The Search for Truth (Shanti Publications, 1974). The next year he built the Temple of the Universe, a yoga and meditation center (where he still speaks regularly) on his land.
Singer didn’t remain solely steeped in the spiritual. So many people admired the temple’s architecture and asked him to build them homes that he started a construction company. Soon after, he became fascinated with an early model personal computer he saw at Radio Shack and taught himself programming. He wrote an accounting program for his business, and that led to programming gigs for other businesses and eventually to his founding a billion-dollar medical practice management software company that went public in 1997.
Life then handed Singer the perfect opportunity to walk his spiritual talk. In 2003, the FBI raided his software business. When the ensuing investigation caught a company executive operating a kickback scheme, the person falsely implicated Singer, who was indicted for accounting fraud. Six grueling years and a $2.5 million settlement later, all charges against him were dropped.
In the midst of this ordeal, Singer began writing a book about staying centered and identifying with the inner witness. The Untethered Soul (New Harbinger Publications, 2007) landed him an interview on Oprah and became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller. Eight years later, The Surrender Experiment (Harmony Books, 2015), his second best-seller, outlined his practice of letting go of all judgment and surrendering resistance to whatever unfolds—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This practice, he insists, leads not only to peace but also to joy. “If you let go at the core,” he told me, “then everything that happens just looks like the dance of the universe.”
Katy Koontz, Editor