Watching My Roommate
Have you ever had the experience of living with an annoying and needy person, someone who is insecure and critical, never pleased with anything in life, constantly demanding attention and reassurance? The contemporary spiritual author Michael Singer, in his book The Untethered Soul, says we all live with such a “roommate,” but we don’t realize it because this roommate is inside of us – it is our mind, our constant inner chitter-chatterer. We identify with this mind, not with the soul consciousness that we really are.
Maharaj Charan Singh says, in describing the mind, that it is dissatisfied because it constantly “tries to find happiness in these outside material things, in this matter composed of five elements
-earth, water, fire, air and ether.” He goes on to say in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Now we hardly differentiate between the mind and the soul, so we think that whatever our mind wants, our soul probably wants it. But then a time comes when we feel the soul never wanted it. It was something else that was wanting it. Otherwise, what the soul wants, it wants that always and it never wavers. The soul never feels frustrated with what it wants; but the mind does sometimes feel frustrated with what it wants. The soul is happy when it gets what it wants. It is always happy there and it never likes to change. The mind always wants change and it always shifts from one thing to another.
Michael Singer asks us to try to differentiate between our soul, our real consciousness, and our mind, this roommate we think is our real self. He asks us to imagine what it would be like if our mind were made physical, and we actually had to live with such a person. Imagine living with someone as crazy, obsessive, insecure, melodramatic and nasty as our mind really is. We would hate him, would refuse to put up with him, and would do everything possible to get rid of him.
But do we show this obnoxious creature, the mind, the door? Do we do everything possible to prevent this character from taking over our life? No! We don’t because we’re afraid to, because we think he’s helpful, we think he is the one taking care of our problems - defending us and caring for us. We are so delusional! Does this roommate solve our problems? Does he bring happiness and peace to our lives? Even when we start to recognize that this crazy creature is not who we are, is not who we want to be, we find it very hard to quiet him down and to stop identifying with him.
We can’t actually get rid of our roommate, our mind – as long as we are in this life, we have to live with him. But we can change him from a roommate to a housemate only, we can choose to shut ourselves in our room and ask him to stay outside occasionally. And we can stop identifying with him.
If we can accept on a theoretical level that this life is not real, that it is a play, a movie, then we can attend the movie with our Master, watching our housemate play his roles. We are soul consciousness, the one who is watching the movie of life and listening to the dialogue. We can watch as our housemate plays the role of the star of the movie, falling in love, having adventures, defying enemies; or as he acts as the director, responsible for controlling what happens and how it happens. We can watch as he constantly participates in the movie of life as a critic, keeping up a running commentary on what was done, analyzing whether it should have been done this way or shouldn’t have been done that way.
As the audience, all we have to do is to sit and watch and enjoy the movie along with our Master. Whatever happens in the movie, we can enjoy. We may laugh and cry along with the characters, but we don’t enjoy the movie less because it is sad, or because someone’s love is spurned, or someone gets murdered. If the roles are badly played, we don’t care. We would enjoy this movie of life more if we didn’t identify with our housemate, if we could disassociate ourselves from him and realize more and more deeply that we are soul.
We learn to do this in meditation. In order to disassociate ourselves from our housemate, we have to shut ourselves in our room daily and practice being alone with our Master, paying attention to him rather than our housemate, sitting in stillness, not talking or listening to our housemate, but talking to our Master and listening to his sweet voice. Doing this we build our relationship with our Master, we become intimate with him, we start to identify with him. We decrease our identity with our housemate and stop listening to him and wanting to make his life perfect.
When we leave our room, we don’t become our housemate, we merely watch him play the role he has to play. We take our Master with us and take refuge in him, relying on him to protect and care for us. We realize that our housemate can never take care of us. We don’t try to stop our housemate from playing his role. Most of the time, we let him do what he wants to do. We watch and listen to him interacting with his fellow characters, but always with the Master with us and always non-judgmentally. We realize that God doesn’t care whether our housemate messes up his life or straightens it out. He’s just playing the role he has to play. And when we do this, a miracle happens. We start living with our Master, talking to him throughout the day, watching and enjoying our lives. We experience the bliss of detaching ourselves from our mind. We stop constantly judging ourselves and others. We live in mindfulness and love. We enjoy being still, listening to the music of the Shabd.
As we do this, we find that our housemate also starts to change. He also starts to fall in love with the Master. As he sees the peace he can be associated with, he also wants to live in that peace. As he comes in contact with the Shabd, he wants constant association with the Shabd. And he realizes he can get this only if he remains still. He starts to want to be subdued; he turns from a noxious irritation to a friend. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
We have to subdue our mind before we can drive the ego from us. As I have said so many times, the mind is fond of pleasures. Unless we give our mind better pleasures than the pleasures of the senses, the mind never leaves the desire and craving for possessions in this world. Therefore, saints always advise us to withdraw our mind by simran, by dhyan, back to the eye centre and to attach it to that sound, to see that light. When we are attached to that, we are automatically detached from the senses, the desires and cravings for possessions.
Imagine what life would be like if we could attain this detachment, if we could stop being critics. We would feel constant love and appreciation for every person we encounter, in every situation we find ourselves in. As Michael Singer says in The Untethered Soul:
What if it is really true that God is not judging? What if God is loving? We all know that true love doesn’t judge. Love sees nothing but beauty.… The reality is that God’s way is love, and you can see this for yourself. If, for even one moment, you can look at someone with the eyes of true love, you’ll know those eyes are not yours. Your eyes could never look with that amount of love.… Those are the eyes of God looking down through you.… Instead of being unwilling to lift your eyes to the Divine because of what you’ve said or done, you’ll see the Divine as a place of unconditional refuge.
When we start looking through the eyes of love rather than judgment, when we see the movie as a movie, and the reality as reality, we become happy. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
If this is all a play, then what is the reality? What is my role in that reality? It is actually the Lord preparing us from within to hold on to something that is real. He is preparing us, after making us realize the unworthiness of all this – our surroundings, our environment. It is the Lord preparing us to be one with the reality. Then this vacuum automatically goes. Then that bliss and peace and happiness fill us. Then we, without any rhyme or reason, remain happy. We then have a sense of belonging to someone and someone belonging to us. And then automatically we become happy.