It is a quality of human nature. When things are going well, we are happy and contented, we tend not to make extraordinary efforts or focus on change. We feel like things are where they should be in our lives, and we move into ‘enjoyment mode’ rather than ‘change mode’. In some cases, we believe that things going well is some kind of karmic reward for our good behaviour and, thus, we try to justify the enjoyment and the lack of effort. When we are facing difficulties of some sort, either externally in our lives, our relationships, our ability to meet our needs, or internally, as we struggle with issues of spiritual growth and overcoming the limitations of human nature, we tend to focus our energy, and take steps to implement positive changes that will, hopefully, resolve the issues we are facing.

When Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi was a youth, he observed his aunt and uncle taking advantage of his mother and himself after the death of his father. He became upset and determined he would not stand for what had happened. He left his village to find a teacher of black magic, and used what he learned to bring about devastation and destruction on the culprits. Afterwards, upon reflection, he suffered remorse and decided to dedicate his life to the effort to achieve liberation, and thus went seeking out his guru, and undertaking the arduous tasks for which he is rightly renowned and revered. His impetus was the suffering and difficulties he experienced. It is that way with all of us.

Those who make music understand clearly the need for just the right amount of tension to ensure the beauty of the sound. Too little tension on the strings of a violin and there will not be any music. Too much tension and the strings will snap, again, resulting in no music. Those who believe a life without any tension, a life of relaxed ease, will yield to optimum results, tend to overlook this point.

The Mother writes: “And in fact, this perhaps is the reason why things don’t always go well. For if they went according to a normal, usual rhythm, one would never be conscious of what one is doing; one would do it by habit, automatically, spontaneously, without thinking, and would not watch what one is doing, and so one would never be able to acquire self-mastery. It would be ‘something’, a vague consciousness in the background expressing itself without your even watching what you are doing, and which would make you act; and then if there came along some strange or unknown current of force, it could make you do anything at all, without your even noticing the process by which it makes you act. And in fact that is what does happen.”

“It is only when one is fully conscious of the process, when one knows how life works, the movement of life and the process of life, that one can begin to have control; otherwise at first one doesn’t even think at all of having any control; but if unpleasant things occur, if, for instance, you do something which has unfortunate consequences and you tell yourself, ‘Oh! but I should stop doing that’, then, at that moment, you realise that there is a whole technique of ‘how to live’ which is necessary to be able to control your life! Otherwise one is a kind of more or less coordinated medley of actions and reactions, of movements and impulses, and one doesn’t know at all how things happen. This is what is developed in the being by shocks, frictions, all the apparent disorders of life, and what forms the consciousness in very small children. A small child is altogether unconscious, and only gradually, very gradually, does he begin to grow aware of things. But unless they take special care, people live almost their whole life without even knowing how they do it! They are not aware of it. … So anything at all can happen. … But that is the very first little step towards becoming conscious of oneself in the material world.”

“You have vague thoughts and feelings, don’t you, which develop more or less logically int he being — rather less than more — then you have a faint impression of that; and again, when you get burnt, you realise that something is wrong, when you fall and hurt yourself, you realise that something is wrong: it begins to make you reflect that you must pay attention to this and that, so as not to fall, not to burn yourself, not to cut yourself…. It dawns on you gradually with external experience, external contacts. But otherwise one is a half-conscious mass which moves without even knowing why or how. … This is the very small beginning of the emergence from the primary state of unconsciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter I Emergence from Unconsciousness, pp. 4-5

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 17 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.