When we live on the surface of our being, we are highly reactive and tend to act without reflection, jumping at events or circumstances and responding to the slightest provocations. Even something as frequent as someone driving too slowly or too close triggers anger and in some cases, what is known as ‘road rage’. We have no peace when we live on the surface in our external nature. This surface being is under the control of the three gunas, which are constantly in motion. In order to escape this reactive state, it is necessary to find a place where peace reigns in our being. Just as the surface waves of the ocean are always churning and moving, but in the depths of the ocean there is a great stillness, so the same in our being. Deep within is the psychic being, the divine spark of the soul, and that holds and maintains peace and separates itself from the surface beings and its reactions to people, things and events. The Mother explains this at some length.
The Mother notes: “Most of you live on the surface of your being, exposed to the touch of external influences. You live almost projected, as it were, outside your own body, and when you meet some unpleasant being similarly projected you get upset. The whole trouble arises out of your not being accustomed to stepping back. You must always step back into yourself — learn to go deep within — step back and you will be safe. Do not lend yourself to the superficial forces which move in the outside world. Even if you are in a hurry to do something, step back for a while and you will discover to your surprise how much sooner and with what greater success your work can be done. If someone is angry with you, do not be caught in his vibrations but simply step back and his anger, finding no support or response, will vanish. Always keep your peace, resist all temptation to lose it. Never decide anything without stepping back, never speak a word without stepping back, never throw yourself into action without stepping back. All that belongs to the ordinary world is impermanent and fugitive, so there is nothing in it worth getting upset about. What is lasting, eternal, immortal and infinite — that indeed is worth having, worth conquering, worth possessing. It is Divine Light, Divine Love, Divine Life — it is also Supreme Peace, Perfect Joy and All-Mastery upon earth with the Complete Manifestation as the crowning. When you get the sense of the relativity of things, then whatever happens you can step back and look; you can remain quiet and call on the Divine Force and wait for an answer. Then you will know exactly what to do. Remember, therefore, that you cannot receive the answer before you are very peaceful. Practice that inner peace, make at least a small beginning and go on in your practice until it becomes a habit with you.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Stepping Back, pp. 123-124