We have seen a phenomenal growth of practices that bring attention to our daily actions. Mindfulness training asks us to attend to each movement, each step, each bite of food, and each thought and emotion. Clearly with the amount of distraction we suffer from as a result of our love affair with technology, mobile phones, tablet computers, internet, television, radio and streaming audio and music, there is barely any time in our lives to simply attend to what we are actually doing. We eat while interacting with our mobile phone, texting, or surfing the internet. We play music while we work, and in many cases, television is running constantly day and night as a background to all our activities. Even students in school are constantly distracted with the invasion of technology. Thus, we lose track of the actual functioning and needs of our body, our life-energy and our mind. It is also true that we are not in touch with the actual underlying motive springs of thought, feeling and action that lie in the subconscious levels of our being, or which enter us from the environment and external forces. Awareness training of various types may focus on getting in touch with this level of perception.
Because of the confusion between the idea of personal growth and the idea of inner growth, we believe that mindfulness practices are part of our spiritual growth. Dr. Dalal clarifies that the training in awareness in its various forms is primarily to enhance the action and power of our external being and personality and is not, in and of itself, a spiritual practice, nor does it necessarily lead to spiritual experience or spiritual, inner growth.
Awareness, if focused on developing a relationship to the soul, and its link to the universal creation and the Divine, may of course be part of the spiritual awakening and development. This however is a different form of practice than what is predominantly known as awareness training.
Dr. Dalal notes: “Inner growth needs to be distinguished also from what is commonly called growth of awareness, sought to be fostered by various modern psychological methods and techniques. The term ‘awareness’, as used in modern psychology, has acquired a wide range of meanings and connotations, ranging from the detection of a very weak sensory stimulus, such as a dim light, to the acquisition of insight into the unconscious dynamics which motivate one’s actions. From the viewpoint of yoga psychology, what is called awareness in Gestalt therapy and other similar approaches of psychological growth refers to awareness of the outer or surface being, consisting of physical, vital and mental parts of the human make-up; growth of such awareness lies in becoming more and more aware of one’s body, feelings, emotions and thoughts. Inner growth, on the other hand, pertains to the progressive awakening and awareness of the inner and higher parts of the being.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Introduction, pp.xi-xii