Our consciousness tends to be so fluid and so mixed that it is difficult, if not practically impossible, to distinguish what represents our own internal process and what is coming to us from outside, from our interaction with others, from environmental influences. None of these things remains pure and unadulterated. There is a constant mixing process that goes on. We can observe the thoughts. We can observe the emotions. We can observe the vital reactions. We can observe the physical responses. But we generally are not able to separate the various elements or threads that constitute each of these things and see clearly what we are taking on, and how it is impacting us, from our external life.

If we can identify one clear benefit from a period of separation from the life of the world, through withdrawing to the cave, the ashram, the monastery, the mountain or the desert or the forest, it is that we can theoretically use that time, examining our own process and thus, establish what may be considered a baseline representing our current organised being and personality. Obviously, this is itself constructed from our earlier life, the impact of our forbears, and any family or social influences that helped create the identity we consider to be ourselves. As an observational stage, however, the value comes when we eventually return to the larger active life in the world, as we can begin to distinguish what we knew to be our own baseline from new energetic responses and effects that we begin to experience. This helps us to create a differential diagnosis and gain clarity about the mix of vibrations that is always occurring and how it impacts us and how it changes us. At the same time, we may be able to observe how our own characteristic vibrations go out and impact others in the world and change their responses!

The Mother observes: “Are you able to know, when you are with others, what comes from you and what from the others? To what extent their way of being, their particular vibrations act upon you? You are not aware of this at all. You live in a kind of ‘approximate’ consciousness, half-awake, half-asleep, in something very vague, where you have to grope like this in order to catch things. But do you have a precise, clear, exact notion of what goes on in you, why it goes on in you? And then, this: the vibrations which come to you from outside and those which come from within you? And then, again, what can come from others, changing all this, giving another orientation? You live in a kind of hazy fluidity, certain small things suddenly crystallise in your consciousness, you have just caught them for a moment; and it is just clear enough like that, as though there was a projector, just something passing on the screen and becoming clear for a second: the next minute everything has become vague, imprecise, but you are not aware of this because you have not even asked yourself the question, because you live in this way.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 3 Hidden Forces Around, pp. 66-67

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast located at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky
He is author of 20 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
Video presentations, interviews and podcast episodes are all available on the YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at Lotus Press www.lotuspress.com