It’s been a few years since I last wrote a book recommendation. I want to pick this up again. So, as a comeback to book recommendations, hereby a recommendation of a book close to my journey but that feels unrelatable to my experiences: The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer. I read The Untethered Soul by Singer back in 2018 and bought The Surrender Experiment shortly after. I read The Untethered Soul with much engagement and resonated deeply with its messages, which made me curious about The Surrender Experiment by Singer. But it’s been a journey with this book; it took me over 4 years to finish it.
I started reading The Surrender Experiment during my solo trip while I was in Portugal in August 2018 and was halfway through it, but the book went back on my bookshelf when I got back to the Netherlands at the end of the vacation. It stayed there until October last year.
Around the end of October, while showering, I felt inspired to pick up this book again. During that same weekend that I felt inspired to get back to reading The Surrender Experiment, I met up with my friend from the U.S., Daniel, who was visiting the Netherlands for the Amsterdam Dance Event. Daniel sent me a message that he’d be in Amsterdam for the weekend and would love to give me a hug.
For friends like Daniel, you make time. We met up on October 23rd in Amsterdam. Our encounter was blissful and fulfilling, to say the least.
We walked around and talked about a bunch of stuff, including how he went from working in an office to being a DJ traveling the world doing what he loves. We got to a point where we were sitting quite peacefully on a bench under a beautiful tree and got deeper into our conversation. I was mentioning to Daniel that I had just quit my job and the upcoming week would be my last week at the office. I admitted to him that I had no clue how life would unfold as I didn’t have a job secured and didn’t have an idea as to what I’d be doing next.
Daniel responded with, “There is this book…”, and I could hear my thoughts saying, “Don’t say it, don’t say it”, and he goes… “The Surrender Experiment.” I had the book in my bag. So I opened my bag and pulled out the book – kind of like, “this one?”
We looked at each other in awe and jumped out of our seats! Euphoric under the impression, he took to the left, and I went to the right. Just mindblown. It was quite an experience. Out of all the books that Daniel could recommend me to read, he recommended me that book; the one I felt inspired to finish a few days before meeting up with him and that I had on my bookshelf for over 4 years.
I thought, there must be a reason why this book is popping up at this phase of my life. So I leaned into it. But I couldn’t read it at once. It took me almost 4 months to read The Surrender Experiment since I started again in October last year but okay, I finally finished it. Let me tell you a bit about it…
Michael A. Singer takes us on his personal journey of what he came to call a Surrender Experiment. He talks about the voice in our head that constantly talks, with its many preferences and opinions. Singer became aware of this voice and he made it his mission to quiet this voice and let go of himself.
A lot happens to Singer according to his accounts. A lot that, were it up to him, would not fully unfold the way they did. From dropping everything to live in the woods to pursue his spiritual practices to still ending up teaching at university to then becoming a builder, to then building a temple, to then becoming a programmer and building revolutionary software worth hundreds of millions of dollars and becoming the CEO of a huge company, to then the FBI raiding his company, this man takes you on a journey that makes you raise your eyebrows quite a lot. Like, HOW?
Singer shares experiences in the book that someone with a critical and cynical mind would not easily believe, like him passing university exams without really studying, or getting opportunities seemingly out of the blue, and how one thing kept leading to another. Like he writes in the book, “the right person would show up at just the right time.” As if some things were just meant to happen. He was experiencing the unfolding of things that were beyond his control but that was working in his favor.
He noted that at a certain point, he was living “in a fairy tale”.
Impressive. But also quite privileged if you ask me.
I wish more people would live a fairy tail beyond their wildest imagination, but unfortunately, this is not the reality of most people. Not many people can drop everything and pursue a life of spiritual enlightenment in the woods and end up building an empire from scratch.
Notwithstanding the fairytale-ish elements of The Surrender Experiment, I believe the experiences shared in this book because I’ve had several experiences myself to attest to serendipitous moments and impressive unfolding of events that were/are WAAYYYY beyond my comprehension or imagination. Perhaps because I’m going through my own sort of surrender experiment I’m less cynical of this book. Perhaps it is because I have lived my fair share of serendipitous synchronicities that I believe in the stories and events discussed in this book, seemingly quite outer-worldly.
The main message I got out of this book was to let go; surrender. Letting go requires you to leave your preferences aside. But as Singer clearly notes before the book’s first chapter, “this type of surrender does not mean living life without the assertion of will” – which makes this book all the more interesting. Surrender had taught Singer “to willingly participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and open heart”. He was listening to “subtle nudges instead of listening to the not-so-subtle mental and emotional reactions” caused by his personal preferences. Interesting, but for many, I think, it sounds a bit “out there” and not really relatable.
For some reason, The Surrender Experiment wasn’t an easy read for me. Even felt tedious at a certain point. But I set out to read fully and I’m glad I did.
While I’m aware that Michael A. Singer speaks from a rather privileged position for many reasons, I would still encourage you to read this book for a few reasons:
- I think we tend to have a rather negative outlook when it comes to the unknown. We take comfort in security; we like to know what’s ahead of us. We like to plan and to some extent know where we are headed and what we are building. This book shares a different perspective on the matter.
- Even though I cannot relate to this person’s privilege, access, or the time he lived in, I can find myself in the surrender experiment itself. Singer let Life lead and enjoyed the journey. It was inspiring to read all that can happen when you learn to trust as you let go of yourself. What came out of Singer’s desire to let go will not be mine or yours, but that doesn’t mean it can’t/won’t be rewarding.
- The book is thought-provoking and brings lessons with it. It’s not a mere autobiography. Singer writes about his lifestyle of surrendering, nonresistance, and release. He shares his spiritual journey, his experiences with harsh discipline in the name of enlightenment, and how a decision to live a life of solitude ended up conflating with community and servitude. His documented growth was inspiring to me.
To finish, remember to take what works for you and leave the rest. Not every piece will resonate with everyone. Whenever you read, whatever you read, remind yourself to read, digest, and cease to attach.