Anyone who has taken up the practice of meditation is familiar with the attempt to quiet the mind and not pay attention to thoughts that arise during the process, letting them drift through without being followed or amplified in any way. One quickly realises during the process that we tend to get ‘caught up’ in the thoughts and catch ourselves following them and have to bring ourselves back to the process of the meditation.

On a similar note, when we work to bring peace to the lower vital and subconscient ranges of our being, we find that we easily get involved with, or carried away by, the urges, desires and uprising energies that reside there.

In fact, these subconscious energies are in many cases locked into memory cells either in the physical body, or keyed to a scent, a location or a specific event, such that when we are exposed to a similar trigger, the locked up experience emerges and we are once again caught up.

What causes the irritations, eruption of anger, sexual fantasies, desire for food (beyond the bare needs of the physical body) which are sublimations of our anxiety, fear, or need for some form of comfort which we convert into a drive to eat, lash out or otherwise disperse the built up energy, etc.?

It is difficult to actively provoke these responses through direct prodding of them and not be carried away by their embedded force. Sri Aurobindo therefore proposes that we undertake the process of understanding and changing these drives by first developing the powers of insight and peace, creating a basis, a seat of consciousness from which to effect change without becoming immersed and lost in the drive itself.

Sri Aurobindo writes: ” If you go down into your lower parts or ranges of nature, you must be always careful to keep a vigilant connection with the higher already regenerated levels of the consciousness and to bring down the Light and Purity through them into these nether still unregenerated regions. If there is not this vigilance, one gets absorbed in the unregenerated movement of the inferior layers and there is obscuration and trouble.”

“The safest way is to remain in the higher part of the consciousness and put a pressure from it on the lower to change. It can be done in this way, only you must get the knack and the habit of it. If you achieve the power to do that, it makes the progress much easier, smoother and less painful.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Subconscient, pp. 262-267

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.