The Experience and Difficulty of Drawing Inwards in the Consciousness

Until an individual has an actual experience of what the Mother calls ‘interiorisation’, there is no real way to understand what it is about. Many people believe that if they sit quietly in meditation, or follow an internal train of thought, that they have an inner experience, but this is not what the Mother actually refers to. These things are still functions of the surface being, the external personality, and can be likened to the earth’s thin layer of topsoil. Most of the substance of the earth lies well below the few inches or feet of topsoil, and the deeper layers determine the nature of the earth’s rotation, axis, speed and shape, thus governing, together with the sun and the moon, the earth’s tides, climate, and lands.

When an individual has a true experience of ‘interiorisation’ there is a depth and power that can remove all awareness of the outer personality and being. Most individuals experience an existential fear of dissolution and death when they first taste such a state of awareness, as they feel the dissolving of the ego-shell that holds their personality together. If they react to this, they are quickly drawn back away from this interior state to the outer external being and they are left with the sense and feeling of something deeper, but lose the immediate opportunity to experience something other than their bodily life. Eventually, if the experience returns, they can reach deep states of immersion and can learn about the larger existence of which they are a part. Some experiences of this type are called “samadhi” or “turiya” at various times, describing different levels and types of inward experience.

Many people who have interacted with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have reported having such an experience, sometimes repeatedly, as they absorb the psychic atmosphere by which they are surrounded.

The Mother was asked “But one can become conscious, Sweet Mother, can’t one?”

She replied: “Fully! But for this one must work a little within oneself. One must withdraw from the surface. … Almost totally, everybody lives on the surface, all the time, all the time on the surface. And for them it’s even the only thing which exists — the surface. And when something compels them to draw back from the surface, some people feel that they are falling into a hole. There are people who, if they are drawn back from the surface suddenly feel that they are crumbling down into an abyss, so unconscious are they! … They are conscious only of a kind of small thin crust which is all that they know of themselves and things and the world, and it is so thin a crust! Many! I have experienced, I don’t know how often… I tried to interiorise some people and immediately they felt that they were falling into an abyss, and at times a black abyss. Now this is the absolute inconscience. But a fall, a fall into something which for them is like a non-existence, this happens very often. People are told: ‘Sit down and try to be silent, to be very quiet’; this frightens them terribly. … A fairly long preparation is needed in order to feel an increase of life when one goes out of the outer consciousness. It is already a great progress. And then there is the culmination, that when one is obliged for some reason or other to return to the outer consciousness, it is there that one has the impression of falling into a black hole, at least into a kind of dull, lifeless greyness, a chaotic mixture of disorganised things, with the faintest light, and all this seems so dull, so dim, so dead that one wonders how it is possible to remain in this state — but this of course is the other end — unreal, false, confused, lifeless!”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Becoming More Conscious, pp. 2-5

The Need and Method to Become Conscious and Change the Nature

We identify something about ourselves that we would like to change — it could be a physical transformation we seek, or a way to address an imbalance in our feelings or emotions, or it could be a change to our mind-set to overcome ideas of weakness, failure, incapacity, etc. We then try to find a way to create this change. We may try a new diet, we may take up a new exercise routine. We may change our wardrobe, or take up travel or a course of study and self-development. We may go to therapy to heal our relationships with others. We may try to find satisfaction in earning money or having a career. Or we may take up a cause to try to fix what we see is wrong in the world. At the end of the day we continue to try to apply external prescriptions to our internal sense of dissatisfaction.

If we examine our inner landscape closely, we begin to recognize that there are certain things we seek, in most cases without thought about it, such as happiness, inclusion, fulfillment, and the good will, support and approbation of family, friends, and the society around us. As we grow and mature, we adjust our inner goals to include finding and living out a meaningful and purposeful life that speaks to the deeper aspiration for the reason of our very existence. As our mental awareness engages, we seek for understanding of ourselves, the world we live in, the meaning of our lives and the purpose and nature of existence itself.

The first thing we run into as we undertake this examination is a lot of confusion about things. Why are we unable to effectuate change that we know we want to accomplish? How do we sort out the conflicting motives, drives, desires, emotions, feelings and thoughts that are constantly pushing us and pulling us in all different directions. It is in this area that Sri Aurobindo’s insight about the different parts of the being, their different nature and drives and the manner of their action and interaction becomes valuable, even essential, in bringing clarity to this inner chaotic state. The process of separating oneself from the action of all of these forces, and beginning to observe them, understand where they come from and how they arise, and what power they have in their action, is the meaning of ‘becoming conscious’.

The Mother observes: “To work for your perfection, the first step is to become conscious of yourself, of the different parts of your being and their respective activities. You must learn to distinguish these different parts one from another, so that you may become clearly aware of the origin of the movements that occur in you, the many impulses, reactions and conflicting wills that drive you to action. It is an assiduous study which demands much perseverance and sincerity. For man’s nature, especially his mental nature, has a spontaneous tendency to give a favourable explanation for everything he thinks, feels, says and does. It is only by observing these movements with great care, by bringing them, as it were, before the tribunal of our highest ideal, with a sincere will to submit to its judgment, that we can hope to form in ourselves a discernment that never errs.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Becoming More Conscious, pp. 2-5