There is a phenomenon that is called “entering the zone”. This is a state of consciousness where one essentially acts without the involvement of the ego and identifies with the action one is undertaking. Amazing results or performances come about through entry into the “zone”. There is a one-pointed concentration on the focused action or event. If one becomes self-conscious, this status dissolves and the individual falls back into their ordinary level of ability, with all its limitations, obstacles and difficulties.

For those who seek to follow the yogic path, confusion may arise with the apparent conflict between being totally immersed in the action of the nature, versus the prescription to step back and become the witness consciousness observing the nature. The sense of observing oneself with a critical eye in the midst of action breaks the type of one-pointed concentrated needed for successful action in the world. This is the opposite of being ‘in the zone’. It is also still rooted in the ego, with all the worry, fear and insecurity that comes with the limitations of any human individual who is trying to compare himself to others or some imaginary concept about who he is, what the result should be and how things should be understood and appreciated by others. Once one shifts to the standpoint of the Purusha, the witness-consciousness, there occurs a true separation between the soul as witness and the nature as actor. The soul-witness does not interfere in the action of the nature, allowing the complete concentration needed, without involvement of the ego-personality or the desire-soul in weighing, evaluating or judging the action or the result.

The Mother observes: “… if you want to do something well, whatever it may be, any kind of work, the least thing, play a game, write a book, do painting or music or run a race, anything at all, if you want to do it well, you must become what you are doing and not remain a small person looking at himself doing it; for if one looks at oneself acting, one is… one is still in complicity with the ego. If, in oneself, one succeeds in becoming what one does, it is a great progress. In the least little details, one must learn this. Take a very amusing instance: you want to fill a bottle from another bottle; you concentrate (you may try it as a discipline, as a gymnastic); well, as long as you are the bottle to be filled, the bottle from which one pours, and the movement of pouring, as long as you are only this, all goes well. But if unfortunately you think at a given moment: ‘Ah! it is getting on well, I am managing well’, the next minute it spills over! It is the same for everything, for everything. That is why work is a good means of discipline, for if you want to do the work properly, you must become the work instead of being someone who works, otherwise you will never do it well. If you remain ‘someone who works’ and, besides, if your thoughts go vagabonding, then you may be sure that if you are handling fragile things they will break, if you are cooking, you will burn something, or if you are playing a game, you will miss all the balls! It is here, in this, that work is a great discipline. For if truly you want to do it well, this is the only way of doing it.”

“Take someone who is writing a book, for instance. If he looks at himself writing the book, you can’t imagine how dull the book will become; it smells immediately of the small human personality which is there and it loses all its value. When a painter paints a picture, if he observes himself painting the picture, the picture will never be good, it will always be a kind of projection of the painter’s personality; it will be without life, without force, without beauty. But if, all of a sudden, he becomes the thing he wants to express, if he becomes the brushes, the painting, the canvas, the subject, the image, the colours, the value, the whole thing, and is entirely inside it and lives it, he will make something magnificent.”

“For everything, everything, it is the same. There is nothing which cannot be a yogic discipline if one does it properly. And if it is not done properly, even tapasya will be of no use and will lead you nowhere. For it is the same thing, if you do your tapasya, all the time observing yourself doing it and telling yourself, ‘Am I making any progress, is this going to be better, am I going to succeed?’ then it is your ego, you know, which becomes more and more enormous and occupies the whole place, and there is no room for anything else.”

“What gives most the feeling of inferiority, of limitation, smallness, impotence, is always this turning back upon oneself, this shutting oneself up in the bounds of a microscopic ego. One must widen oneself, open the doors. And the best way is to be able to concentrate upon what one is doing instead of concentrating upon oneself.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Feelings of Inferiority, pp. 64-65

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 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.