We bring to the spiritual quest all kinds of mental ideas, emotional expectations and preconceived notions about what is supposed to happen, how it is supposed to happen and what it signifies. All of these things, however, are based in the mind-life-body complex and act as limiting factors in the development of the spiritual growth of the individual. We want to create the next phase of the evolutionary process in the comforting image of what we already know and experience.

Add to this the impatience of our vital nature and we tend to make demands on the spiritual force to manifest in certain ways and with a certain intensity that satisfies our desire for vital stimulation and for a sense of self-importance. We therefore tend to minimize and disregard the first small shoots of spiritual growth that sprout up as we begin to follow the path. We crave excitement, color, emotional intensity, vital movement and when the spiritual transformation begins with a quiet sense of calm, or a gentle sense of unity with our surroundings, or a quiet inward sense of joy, we do not recognise the breath of the spirit as it changes who we are and how we react to our lives.

When we occasionally have a major, transformative experience, such as the palpable upward force of the rising kundalini energy, or perhaps a near-death experience or out of body experience, the sudden expression of powers of intuition, inspiration, clairvoyance, telepathy or levitation, or when we are overwhelmed by a vision or force of absolute clarity, power and joy, we want to treat these peak experiences as the touchstone of our spiritual progress and we seek repetition of such events, although they do not, in truth, necessarily provide us any true mile-markers along the way. The subtle, daily, almost invisible changes that take place in our ways of thinking, relating to events and people, our moments of outreach and compassion, our vital reactions to circumstances and our ways of responding to habitual actions or desires turn out to be the most significant aspects of our spiritual sadhana.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “What I meant about experiences was simply this that you have created your own ideas about what you want from the yoga and have always been measuring what began to come by that standard and because it was not according to expectations or up to that standard, telling yourself after a moment, ‘It is nothing, it is nothing’. That dissatisfaction laid you open at every step to a reaction or a recoil which prevented any continuous development. The yogin who has experience knows that the small beginnings are of the greatest importance and have to be cherished and allowed with great patience to develop. He knows, for instance, that the neutral quiet so dissatisfying to the vital eagerness of the sadhak is the first step towards the peace that passeth all understanding, the small current or thrill of inner delight the first trickling of the ocean of Ananda, the play of lights or colours the key of the doors of the inner vision and experience, the descent that stiffens the body into a concentrated stillness the first touch of something at the end of which is the presence of the Divine. He is not impatient; he is rather careful not to disturb the evolution that is beginning. Certainly some sadhaks have strong and decisive experiences at the beginning, but these are followed by long labour in which there are many empty periods and periods of struggle.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Patience and Perseverance, pp. 113-115

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com 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.