If we observe what happens to our inner psychology when we experience physical pain, we will see that we mostly tighten ourselves up, tensing the body, focusing intently on the experience of the bodily pain. By doing so, we actually intensify the pain experience through this focus and it takes over our consciousness.

A similar process occurs when we are faced with vital pressures that seem to threaten our vital integrity or well-being: we become defensive and create walls to protect ourselves. The mind also has a similar habit and tends to reject or find ways to minimize, ridicule or otherwise diminish the impact of ideas that run contrary to our own cherished ways of seeing and thinking.

The Mother’s approach is opposite to what is the normal instinctive way we respond. When one consciously works to widen, relax and open up the being, one comes into contact with a wider existence that spreads and releases the tension and the pain, and opens to forces of healing and strength that are available at those greater levels.

Spiritual seekers, such as the Rishis of the Rig Vedic times, speak of the “vast” consciousness, and it is the intent of these exercises to come into contact with and be permeated by that vast existence.

The Mother observes: “The method of relaxing the contraction may be different in the mind, the vital or the body, but logically it is the same thing. Once you have relaxed the tension, you see first if the disagreeable effect ceases, … but if the pain continues… you must, after having relaxed this contraction, begin trying to widen yourself — you feel you are widening yourself. There are many methods. Some find it very useful to imagine they are floating on water with a plank under their back. Then they widen themselves, widen, until they become the vast liquid mass. Others make an effort to identify themselves with the sky and the stars, so they widen, widen themselves, identifying themselves more and more with the sky. Others again don’t need these pictures; they can become conscious of their consciousness, enlarge their consciousness more and more until it becomes unlimited. One can enlarge it till it becomes vast as the earth and even the universe. When one does that one becomes really receptive. As I have said, it is a question of training. In any case, from an immediate point of view, … the method is just the same, you must act upon the contraction. One can act through thought, by calling the peace, tranquility (the feeling of peace takes away much of the difficulty) like this: ‘Peace, peace, peace… tranquility… calm.’ Many discomforts, even physical, like all these contractions of the solar plexus, which are so unpleasant and give you at times nausea, the sensation of being suffocated, of not being able to breathe again, can disappear thus. It is the nervous centre which is affected, it gets affected very easily. As soon as there is something which affects the solar plexus, you must say, ‘Calm… calm… calm’, become more and more calm until the tension is destroyed.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Widening the Consciousness, pp. 150-155

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.