Some years ago, a visitor residing temporarily at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India attempted an experiment. He determined to undertake a period of ‘social’ silence, while remaining active in the community and undertaking various work assigned to him. The rules he set for himself included utilizing speech within the framework of the work assigned to him and his interface with work colleagues in that regard, but maintaining silence in otherwise separate social settings, such as during meals in the Ashram dining hall, where he used a note pad to respond briefly to anyone who wanted to speak with him. This allowed him to observe the impulse to speech as it arose without his becoming involved in the back and forth of actually engaging in speech. The notes were necessarily brief and explanatory of the nature of his experiment and thus, essentially reduced dialogue dramatically for the period chosen for that experiment. He was able to observe all the extraneous thoughts that arise during social intercourse, and was able thereby to begin the process of tracing them back to their underlying sources, as he was engaged in attentive observation more than interactive relationship at that time.

The Mother observes: “There are people who sleep twelve hours a day and say the rest of the time, ‘I am awake’! There are people who sleep twenty hours a day and the rest of the time are but half awake!”

“To be in this state of attentive observation, you must have, so to say, antennae everywhere which are in constant contact with your true centre of consciousness. You register everything, you organise everything and, in this way, you cannot be taken unawares, you cannot be deceived, mistaken, and you cannot say anything other than what you wanted to say. But how many people normally live in this state? It is this I mean, precisely, when I speak of ‘becoming conscious’. If you want to benefit most from the conditions and circumstances in which you find yourself, you must be fully awake: you must not be taken by surprise, you must not do things without knowing why, you must not say things without knowing why. You must be constantly awake.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 4, Becoming Conscious, pp. 117-118

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 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.