When one works to develop the consciousness of the witness, Purusha, observing the Nature, Prakriti the progress comes generally over time with repeated persistent and patient effort. Consider for a moment going through one’s own life observing but not reacting internally. If we observe even a little bit, we see that we are constantly being drawn into response, and even if we refrain from responding outwardly, we still react inwardly. Many believe that non-response means shunning or avoiding answering or addressing outward things, situations and events in life, but this is not actually what is meant, since this implies that we are shutting down the action of the Nature, rather than taking the stance of witness of the Nature.
Sri Krishna responds to a question by Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that sheds light on this issue. Arjuna asks how one can know the enlightened soul from his outward actions. How does he walk, how does he dress, how does he speak? Sri Krishna reminds Arjuna that it is not a matter of the outward appearance, but the inner standpoint. As one begins the practice, it may start with a mental conception, but only can be fulfilled if, in the midst of all action and highly intense responsiveness outwardly, the soul remains calm and poised and unaffected by gain or loss, pleasure or pain, joy or grief, which all come to all living beings through their lifetimes.
What is the witness soul? The Mother observes: “It is the soul entering into a state in which it observes without acting. A witness is one who looks at what is done, but does not act himself. So when the soul is in a state in which it does not participate in the action, does not act through Nature, simply draws back and observes, it becomes the witness soul….”
“When one wants to detach oneself from something, from a certain movement or activity or state of consciousness, this is the most effective method; one steps back a little, watches the thing like that, as one would watch a scene in a play, and one doesn’t intervene. And a moment later, the thing doesn’t concern you any longer, it is something which takes place outside you. Then you become very calm.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Detachment and Rejection, pp. 22-27