We understand, through experience, that when we set our minds to addressing a habit we have acquired, we can marshall the focus, force and tools necessary to change that habit. We may call it exercising will power, but in reality, it is a sign of the true relationship between the Purusha and Prakriti, with the Purusha acting as the “giver of the sanction” and thus, through its power of either withdrawing that sanction or changing the nature of the sanction, having the ability to adjust the workings of the physical nature.
Sri Aurobindo observes that this power is not limited to the kind of habits that we normally think about in this regard; rather, the entire realm of activity in the physical nature can be addressed in the same way. Some of these habits are long-ingrained through millennia of repetition, and may be considered to be “instinct”, meaning, for most people, something that is an irrevocable law of nature. But are these “laws of nature” actually irrevocable?
We see instances where people have undertaken actions which would be considered impossible, such as long fasting, deep undisturbed meditation for days (or longer) and reversal of various disease processes through what may be called “faith healing” on occasion, or even, the power of the “placebo effect” which means that when the mind believes something it is able to effectuate change in the physical health of the body in a positive direction.
Sri Aurobindo explains: “It will find that as the giver of the sanction he can withdraw the original fiat from the previous habits of Nature and that eventually the habit will cease or change in the direction indicated by the will of the Purusha; not at once, for the old sanction persists as an obstinate consequence of the past Karma of Nature until that is exhausted, and a good deal also depends on the force of the habit and the idea of fundamental necessity which the mind had previously attached to it; but if it is not one of the fundamental habits Nature has established for the relation of the mind, life and body and if the old sanction is not renewed by the mind or the habit willingly indulged, then eventually the change will come. Even the habit of hunger and thirst can be minimized, inhibited, put away; the habit of disease can be similarly minimized and gradually eliminated and in the meantime the power of the mind to set right the disorders of the body whether by conscious manipulation of vital force or by simple mental fiat will immensely increase. By a similar process the habit by which the bodily nature associates certain forms and degrees of activity with strain, fatigue, incapacity can be rectified and the power, freedom, swiftness, effectiveness of the work whether physical or mental which can be done with this bodily instrument marvelously increased, doubled, tripled, decupled.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 7, The Release From Subjection to the Body, pp. 330-331