Inner approach to health
In the bubble
Health and well-being depend upon protection. The more one grows in consciousness, the more evident the need for it becomes. Our resources become subtler but increasingly more effective. This is important, because the scale and range of adversities will often increase. The author shares his experiences.
No one can walk through life without protection. Mankind looks for material solutions when it comes to thwarting impacts from outside. Safeguards like vaccinations and immunisations are used globally against contagious diseases. A variety of devices are applied against accidents. This is often as far as man goes to cushion his passage through life. But there is a closer line of defence, one more subtle, which is widely overlooked, and yet is even more critical to his survival. Arguably, it provides a more solid protection than any material shield.
As soon as one sets foot on a passage of growth, this type of protection comes more into prominence. As trust in the sādhanā grows, its range and power becomes broader and more concrete. As our sensitivity increases, the consciousness starts to pick up on more subtle intrusions. Warning signs are noticed quicker; the ability to detect danger before it manifests becomes more pronounced.
Living in the world is akin to swimming in a sea of thoughts and vibrations; the difference is that one becomes gradually aware of this. In this atmosphere, many formations seek invasion and some are extremely harmful. Some can provoke catastrophe and accident. Some are damaging to our psychological balance, some directly affect our physical health, and others, the most inimical of all, undermine our truest work: to find and live through our true nature. This eventually becomes the most critical reason for all protection. So it is very clear that, as the stakes get higher, one has to go still deeper to find a more resilient shield.
All of us share a form of defence which, if kept intact, will usually save us from the onslaught of illness or accidents. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother referred frequently to this sheath as the nervous envelope or the subtle body. Any illness has to pass through this sheath before consolidating and spreading throughout the gross body:
“To whatever cause an illness may be due, material or mental, external or internal, it must, before it can affect the physical body, touch another layer of the being that surrounds and protects it (1).”
So the first step is to become conscious of this protective envelope. In spite of its subtlety, the Mother describes it as “almost visible” with a density “like the vibrations that you see around a very hot and steaming object ...(2)”. It comes from the body itself and closely covers it. Sometimes I experience the body release a certain density into the atmosphere around its surface. It gives a feeling of insulation and almost warmth.
This layer of protection can be enhanced and “developed methodically by the will (3).” I find that by being present with this subtle body, by staying with it, the vibration will intensify, expand and grow. It spreads outwards by attention and practice. Once we look upon it as a reality and nurture it, it becomes a very helpful shield. We have to be vigilant and look after it. A single moment of unconsciousness can cause an upset which will puncture this protection. If the tiniest fissure appears, it only provides a channel for illnesses and accidents to enter1. Adverse forces may pick up also on any vulnerability. They will wait their time to rush in and create mischief.
When defences are low I have then to work inside. In an atmosphere of invocation and with enquiry, I try to trace those inner elements which are drawing in negativity from around. It is a quite painstaking work. But the practice, time and again, elevates and integrates the entire consciousness. When I start, I try to go beyond superficiality and rely exclusively on the Truth inside. A descending Force is soon perceived; I can feel also a presence from deep within which radiates and responds. Gradually, things become more transparent and a light or knowing is projected onto all that the consciousness surveys.
As soon as the new energy consolidates, an inimitable sense of peace starts to descend. At that juncture, I become aware of a ‘charge’ around the body. It invariably appears. I observe it surround the body and usually look from top to bottom. I observe the same sensation around the head. I particularly look at both legs and feet; they are usually the slowest to respond. I check for any gaps in this vibration. I find the practice helpful in reinforcing this much needed source of protection. The work goes deep because our bodies are comprised with not only material elements but psychological states. Furthermore, our inner equilibrium has a direct influence on the subtle body:
“Peace and equanimity and confidence, faith in health, undisturbed repose and cheerfulness and bright gladness constitute this element in it and give it strength and substance. It is a very sensitive medium with facile and quick reactions; it readily takes in all kinds of suggestions and these can rapidly change and almost remould its condition. A bad suggestion acts very strongly upon it; a good suggestion operates in the contrary sense with the same force. Depression and discouragement have a very adverse effect; they cut out holes in it, as it were, in its very stuff, render it weak and unresisting and open to hostile attacks an easy passage (5).”
It is very clear that this protection is available to all. Anyone with a positive outlook will benefit greatly from it, even if he or she is unaware of it. It is not only the possession gurus and spiritual aspirants. Anyone with a strong vitality will unknowingly rely on it from time to time. However, as long as nature provides the only sustenance, the protection will capriciously appear and disappear from our lives. It is only the imprint of the spirit that can give this protection the necessary stability and permanence. To be conscious of this shield gives it its greatest power.
So as I pass through the day, I find it helpful to make repeated reference to this sheath. I try to stay in touch with it. I have to resist the tugs from outside and become aware of what the physical consciousness is saying to me. I look at this protection as a part of the body and try to look at the physical in its totality. The body is a channel for all movements, inside and out. For me, a chief aim of meaningful practice is to make the body an authentic channel for the spirit. The body itself has its own sharpened sense of self-preservation. A clear discernment hides deep inside and if one stays with it, a kind of intuition will gradually step forward. This is a process of sādhanā. If we learn to trust our body more, a certain protection is established. Its voice is very quiet; it can easily be muffled amidst the din of its more overbearing neighbours. The key is contact.
For instance, I might occasionally notice the body recoil from a food craving of the vital. If I can detach from this impulse and go with the body’s message, it usually saves a degree of harm. When the psychic moves closer to the physical, the body may even install its own alarm system against outside danger. One can observe it with animals. They have less to clutter away this natural gift. The cultivation of the body consciousness is an important facet of the Integral Yoga and it takes a certain refinement to understand its dialogue. This is no more evident than when illness seeks to enter:
“If one is sensitive, very sensitive — one must be very sensitive — the moment they [illnesses] touch the subtle body and try to pass through, one feels it. It is not like something touching the body, it is a sort of feeling. If you are able to perceive it at that moment, you have still the power to say ‘no’, and it goes away (6).”
So staying inside this insulation is not an inert and passive state. One cannot shut oneself off: attention is always required. Consciousness, accompanied with force, is the ultimate protection. It engenders a vigilance which awakens to every intrusion. It is not born of anxiety but from energy given by the Divine. It is a consequence of practice, by keeping our awareness integrally poised over the whole being. It is when our guard is down that risk ensues. If the attention is firmly anchored in a higher consciousness, one can pass through life with a trusting glow. This is the key to our human shield: the divine inhabitant which is found in all of us. If the psychic connection is intact, the subtle body will surely take care of itself.
When a negative influence, like a microbe for instance, seeks entry, it should be thrown out immediately, at the precise time that it arises. In practice this is quite rare, particularly in the early stages of practice, but all is not lost, a further opportunity soon follows:
“If you are not conscious at that moment, the next minute or a few minutes later you get a queer sick feeling inside, a cold in the back, a little uneasiness, the beginning of some disharmony; you feel a maladjustment somewhere, as though the general harmony had been disturbed. Then you must concentrate all the more and with a great strength of will keep the faith that nothing can do you harm, nothing can touch you. This suffices, you can throw off the illness at that moment (7).”
There are further lines of defences (the Mother outlines four in all (8), successively lengthier in their action and response). The ‘second line’ described above also requires a certain amount of refinement and inner progress. If absent, one has to take recourse to the third where the formation has entered and looks to cause havoc inside. I have found myself in this situation on many occasions.
When this happens, I try, through detailed enquiry, to trace the affliction to its source. I enquire into the origin of the distortion. Somewhere, deep down, there must be an affinity which has produced this imbalance2. I need to be very inwardly connected but if the process is followed to completion, it stops the negative formation from developing into full-scale illness.
The fourth defence is very common: the formation has reached culmination and illness has settled. It has already touched what Mother terms the “physical-physical”. We have no alternative. We have to face the consequence of this attack and go through, “what medical science calls ‘the course of the illness’. One can hasten the course with the help of spiritual forces, but all the same the procedure must be followed (9).”
The path of growth offers the prospect of immediate and conclusive protection and cure, but one of the beauties of nature is that there is always a remedy regardless of the stage one finds oneself in.
Ultimately our best safeguard is consciousness. This applies particularly to accidents. Being protected is not a dormant status, we need to be awake and attentive:
“There are days when one feels quite… not exactly uneasy, but as though one were trying to catch something which escapes, one can’t hold together, one is as though half-diluted; these are the days of accidents. You must be attentive…. you must watch all the more attentively, be all the more on your guard, not allow, precisely, this inattentiveness, this slackening of consciousness to come in (11).”
A common symptom to this state, I have found, is often fatigue. The body picks up on a lack of enthusiasm and interest. One feels drained and distracted and concentration wavers. Accidents have visited me this way in the past. When one accident occurs, it seems always to seek ways to repeat itself. It searches through our nature and tries to get embedded in habit. A particular circumstance might trigger it so one needs to break the outer connection with the inner distortion that invites it.
Being in the bubble
The ultimate key to protection is proximity to the Divine. I find the intimacy expands whenever I call the Divine. Some might use japa; there are many ways. The consciousness and intention behind it is more important. Some time back, a friend gave me an insight into her own practice. She said that whenever she is about to perform an action or task, she informs the Mother. “I am going to buy vegetables” or “I’m going to climb the stairs.” It suddenly makes the mundane become so rich and interesting! It probably brings a consciousness to her everyday activities and breaks down the day into truly meaningful tasks. Above all, it invokes the Divine into our very way of living and, as we step through life, the Divine steps with us in this beautiful bubble of protection.
The greatest aim of life is continuous union with the Divine. With this, protection will come naturally. In the learning phase however, there are hiccups which can prove to be quite dangerous. A simple trust will always help. Of course, if one finds oneself distracted or in considerable difficulty, the rhythm will inevitably become more fragmented. So it pays to cement these gaps as soon as they arise. There are times when we have to prove our mettle. Initially, considerable effort is required but I believe that a seamless continuity can eventually emerge into our practice. This stream of all-pervading and all-protecting consciousness needs to be present throughout each and every day. Surely there can be nothing more secure than that. I believe that if the Divine Presence is invoked in this way, the very best will always happen.
Protection can be invoked not just against physical harm. However, the nervous envelope cannot protect against those forces which seek to undermine our spiritual balance and progress. There is a different type of protection which operates in an entirely separate domain (12). There is a psychic protection which ultimately determines and presides over all. It can only come by cultivating a certain atmosphere, which stops adverse influences seeping in. However, the same criteria apply:
“This is the only true defence: a wakeful consciousness, pure and alert, so to say, which does not sleep, does not let things enter without being aware of them (13).”
The vibration of desire, for instance, is quite capable of destroying psychological balance. It is surely a major weapon of the hostile forces. Quite a few years back, I experienced something which proved how powerful these elements can be. One night, when lying in bed half-asleep, manic temple music started playing outside. The incessant beat of the drums was driving the large crowd into a frenzy. Clearly, madness was trying to invade the sanctuary of my room. All of a sudden, something in me, some desire, rose up and resonated with this madness and I felt something malevolent enter my being. Perhaps a tiny strand of awareness was my only safeguard against oblivion. That, and the Grace of the Mother. So the lesson passed harmlessly and the danger quickly dissolved.
The ultimate protection
Sometimes when I find myself in an oppressive and intimidating environment, where fear is present, I try to invoke the vibration of love and clothe myself in its atmosphere. There may be coldness surrounding me but I don’t try to make myself resilient and ‘hard’. I go the other way, melting myself and becoming more porous and soft. It may happen spontaneously and I feel an enormous protection in this unique atmosphere. There is nothing more enduring and resilient than the power of true love. We are so blessed with the love of the Mother. If one identifies with that I believe that the supreme Protection will enter our lives.
As we travel along the highway of growth, the Universe will give us more resources to deal with any catastrophes that shadow us. We rely more on the powers of the Spirit. This becomes very necessary as greater difficulties and challenges will certainly confront us. New criteria emerge and new solutions are needed. I have found that Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga has given me a way of confronting danger and the integral approach shows me a way of responding to every type of eventuality. Whether I succeed always in this task is another matter! Our natural state is one of harmony. I believe that when we surrender sincerely to the Mother, She installs us securely inside this bubble. We just have only to remain sincere enough to stay there. Surely there can be nothing more secure than that.
1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 3, 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, p. 89.
2. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 3, p. 89.
3. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 4. 2003, p. 268.
4. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 4, 2003, p. 272.
5. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 3, p. 89.
6. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 4, 2003, p. 268.
7. Ibid. pp. 268-9.
8. Ibid. p. 269.
11. Ibid., pp. 273-4.
12. Ibid., p. 324.
1“…if the nervous envelope is intact, accidents can be avoided, and even if there is an accident it won’t have any consequences. As soon as there is a scratch or a defect in the nervous envelope of the being and according to the nature of this scratch, if one may say so, its place, its character, there will be an accident which will correspond to the diminution of resistance in the envelope (4).”
2The Mother says that, “...once the thing is lodged there, all will depend not only on the receptivity of the body but still more on the willingness of the part which is the cause of the disorder. You know, when the thing comes from outside it is in affinity with something inside. If it manages to pass through, to enter without one’s being aware of it, it means there is some affinity somewhere, and the part of the being which has responded must be convinced (10).”
James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.
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