When an individual being is under extreme pressure, whether through illness, emotional or mental distress, stress of living in the society or dealing with events and people, the natural reaction at the physical-vital-mental level is to contract, to curl up, to close off, to withdraw into a shell, to try to prevent the power that is active, whether it is due to physical forces, vital or emotional forces or mental forces, from breaking down or destroying the being. This strategy appears to be an important defense mechanism in the lower nature. However, for the time that it is operative, we turn out to be less open and receptive and tend to shut off new opportunities and input.
For the seeker of the integral yoga, with the fixed purpose to aspire towards, receive and integrate a higher force that operates outside the limits of the body-life-mind complex, it is not sufficient to continue the habitual, ingrained habit of the lower nature in this regard. Rather, the seeker must find a way to open, become receptive and remain receptive to the operation of the higher force, and this means essentially the opposite of the narrowing and limiting action of the lower nature under pressure. Widening of the being, becoming ready and prepared to receive new force and being able, through that widening process, to hold that force when it descends, is a key process for the yogic practitioner.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “At last you have the true foundation of the sadhana. This calm, peace and surrender are the right atmosphere for all the rest to come, knowledge, strength, Ananda. Let it become complete. … It does not remain when engaged in work because it is still confined to the mind proper which has only just received the gift of silence. When the new consciousness is fully formed and has taken entire possession of the vital nature and the physical being (the vital as yet is only touched or dominated by the silence, not possessed by it), then this defect will disappear. … The quiet consciousness of peace you now have in the mind must become not only calm but wide. You must feel it everywhere, yourself in it and all in it. This also will help to bring the calm as a basis into the action.”
“The wider your consciousness becomes, the more you will be able to receive from above. The Shakti will be able to descend and bring strength and light as well as peace into the system. What you feel as narrow and limited in you is the physical mind; it can only widen if this wider consciousness and the light come down and possess the nature. … The physical inertia from which you suffer is likely to lessen and disappear only when strength from above descends into the system. … Remain quiet, open yourself and call the divine Shakti to confirm the calm and peace, to widen the consciousness and to bring into it as much light and power as it can at present receive and assimilate. … Take care not to be over-eager, as this may disturb again such quiet and balance as has been already established in the vital nature. … Have confidence in the final result and give time for the Power to do its work.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Wideness, pp. 122-124