When we reflect on the time we have in our lifetime and how we utilize it, we find that after we calculate time spent in sleeping, eating, bathing, growth in childhood, earning a living, exercising, we have a very limited amount of what may be called “free time” available to us. In a culture and society that wants to keep us ‘occupied’ at all times, this free time is generally allocated to various forms of recreation or dissipation of our focus and energies. Any moment when we do not have a specific task or activity is considered empty and we deal with the feeling of boredom. Our society provides us endless options for filling this time, some spent in building up our skills and experience for success in the outer world of action, and other time in socializing, or even actions of outright dissipation such as use of drugs or alcohol, or used simply as a distraction in various forms of mindless entertainment in which we habitually engage.

The Mother suggests that this very limited ‘free time’ is actually of extraordinary value and can be focused and applied toward spiritual growth, inner development and understanding of the meaning of our lives and actions.

The Mother notes: “How often there is a kind of emptiness in the course of life, an unoccupied moment, a few minutes, sometimes more. And what do you do? Immediately you try to distract yourself, and you invent some foolishness or other to pass your time. That is a common fact. All men, from the youngest to the oldest, spend most of their time in trying not to be bored. Their pet aversion is boredom and the way to escape from boredom is to act foolishly.”

“Well, there is a better way than that — to remember. … When you have a little time, whether it is one hour or a few minutes, tell yourself, ‘At last, I have some time to concentrate, to collect myself, to relive the purpose of my life, to offer myself to the True and the Eternal.’ If you took care to do this each time you are not harassed by outer circumstances, you would find out that you were advancing very quickly on the path. Instead of wasting your time in chattering, in doing useless things, reading things that lower the consciousness — to choose only the best cases, I am not speaking of other imbecilities which are much more serious — instead of trying to make yourself giddy, to make time, that is already so short, still shorter only to realise at the end of your life that you have lost three-quarters of your chance — then you want to put in double time, but that does not work — it is better to be moderate, balanced, patient, quiet, but never to lose an opportunity that is given to you, that is to say, to utilise for the true purpose the unoccupied moment before you.”

“When you have nothing to do, you become restless, you run about, you meet friends, you take a walk, to speak only of the best; I am not referring to things that are obviously not to be done. Instead of that, sit down quietly before the sky, before the sea or under trees, whatever is possible (here you have all of them) and try to realise one of these things — to understand why you live, to learn how you must live, to ponder over what you want to do and what should be done, what is the best way of escaping from the ignorance and falsehood and pain in which you live.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Self-Recollection — Remembering, pp. 157-158

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.