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Consciousness and health

Thoughts, Feelings, Perceptions — Wave or Particle?

Dr. Monica Gulati


Some of us may be aware of the wave-particle duality through quantum physics. A sub-atomic particle’s behaviour is rather unpredictable. It can at times behave like a wave, less solid, while at times it can behave like a particle, hence a bit more solid. How it will behave, one cannot predict. Researchers have so far studied that whether it will behave like a particle or wave is influenced very much by who’s looking at them, who’s observing. The same appears quite true at the level of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, sense-perceptions. Whether they appear heavy, sole reality, or solid, depends on who’s looking? If the egoistic sense of self, the separate self is looking, it looks at them as – my life, my respect, my story, my roles. If we take a stance knowingly at a deeper level of consciousness, knowing ourselves as consciousness and looking at these surface movements, they appear more surreal, like a dream, fleeting, ever transient, and more like a wave passing by. The article explores implications of this fact for our human journey.

Locked in the surface phenomenon

It is well known by now, through quantum physics, the mind-boggling behaviour that sub-atomic particles show. Will it behave like a particle? Or will it behave like a wave? Research so far suggests that it depends on who is looking, and is quite unfixed and uncertain until it is measured.

The thoughts in my head, my feelings, my sense perceptions, whether they behave heavy, solid and real, will depend on who’s looking — the egoistic centre of consciousness, the sense of separate self, or consciously knowing oneself as consciousness. When we are too tightly identified with the surface consciousness (our sense-mind), thoughts, feelings, sense-perceptions, we are limited and we suffer; our stories in the head and outer situations feel pretty heavy, solid and real. When we begin to live a little deeply, knowing ourselves as consciousness, then the outer and surface phenomenon like outer situations, thoughts/feelings/sense-perceptions appear more like a wave, like a dream, fleeting, not that solid and heavy, a bit surreal.

We can feel ourselves behaving like a pendulum at times, when attached to the surface sense of me — myself, my life, my story — we are heavy, burdened with the particle character of stories in the head. When we are deeper within, living knowingly as consciousness, then the same phenomenon really appears like a dream, and loses its grip over us, with almost an immediate effect. Knowing ourselves as consciousness appears more concrete and real than the outer drama.

The Mother, in her Prayers and Meditations, repeatedly talks about finding inspiration, peace and serenity by plunging deeper within, detaching from the surface movements and unifying in greater degrees with the true consciousness, the sole Reality. Let us go through some lines which hint at this in her prayers:

November 2, 1912
“…. How many times a day, still, I act without my action being consecrated to Thee; I at once become aware of it by an indefinable uneasiness which is translated in the sensibility of my body by a pang in my heart. I then make my action objective to myself and it seems to me ridiculous, childish or blameworthy; I deplore it, for a moment I am sad, until I dive into Thee and, there losing myself with a child’s confidence, await from Thee the inspiration and strength needed to set right the error in me and around me — two things that are one…(1).”

June 15, 1913
“….To know that a part of our being is perfectly pure, to commune with this purity, to be identified with it, can be useful only if this knowledge is later used to hasten the transfiguration of the earth, to accomplish Thy sublime work…(2)”

August 17, 1913
“…. Nothing is more humiliating and depressing than these thoughts so constantly turned towards the preservation of the body, these preoccupations with health, the means of subsistence, the framework of life…How very insignificant is all this, a thin smoke that a simple breath can disperse, or a single thought turned towards Thee dispel like a vain mirage!
Deliver those who are in bondage, O Lord, even as those who are slaves of passion. On the path that leads to Thee these obstacles are at once terrible and puerile — terrible for those who are yet under their sway, puerile for one who has passed beyond.

How shall I describe that utter relief, that delightful lightness which comes when one is free from all anxiety for oneself, for one’s life and health and satisfaction, and even one’s progress? (3).”

November 29, 1913
“Why all this noise, all this movement, this vain and futile agitation; why this whirlwind carrying men away like a swarm of flies caught in a storm? How sad is the sight of all that wasted energy, all those useless efforts! When will they stop dancing like puppets on a string, pulled they know not by whom or what? When will they find time to sit quietly and go within, to recollect themselves and open that inner door which screens from them Thy priceless treasures, Thy infinite boons (4)?“

It is not difficult to see where these words are pointing. Again and again, the Mother hints at us to not find a resolution in our problems, in our dramas, and no wonder that we are never able to truly connect the dots of complexities in our life. Because what we think is solid, is not that real and solid as it appears to be. The more we focus on our drama and story in our head, the more solid and heavy we make it, and more unpeaceful we become. While true peace is to be always found by plunging deeper within, detaching from the surface consciousness, which appears now as a vain mirage or surreal as a dream, and in our depths, we are always able to access the blue sky of calm, peace, wisdom, love and serenity.

Blue sky of true consciousness and fleeting clouds of thoughts/feelings/perceptions

One very relatable image here is that of an aeroplane taking off. There may be very dark, thick clouds in the city from where it is taking off, it may appear as if there is no blue sky at all. But if it makes an effort to go beyond the thick sheet of clouds, after a bit of wavering and trembling, it is able to pierce through the sheet of clouds, and access the ever-present blue sky, with the sun shining. The sun and clear sky never were absent, but if the focus was only thick clouds, it appeared as if there was no blue sky, while that is not true. It is just that my focus was only on the cloudy stuff, and the blue clear sky was ever-present in the background of clouds. In fact, the presence of the sky, the spaciousness of the sky is the one responsible for allowing the play of clouds in the very first place. But in ignorance, we still keep on missing the spaciousness of the blue sky, when our focus is always on the clouds.

Awakening to a deeper reality

When we realise that, I am the one, the observer, who is responsible for altering the so-called reality, I see through my sense-mind, then I get the opportunity to turn my attention not to the object of my senses, but towards — who is looking at all of that. A turn within. When I am looking through the lens of my sense-mind, the egoistic consciousness, I project my own coloured versions of reality in the outer world, and hence my looking is not clear, but tainted with my perceptions, dogmas, beliefs, notions, of which I am not even conscious of.

But when I see this play of egoistic consciousness, and how it colours everything I see, I can hold my own ideas, thoughts, beliefs a bit loosely, not take them too seriously, and give them a breathing-space. Here, I have the possibility to alter my world, irrespective of outer situations, to connect to a clear sky of wisdom and intelligence within me, which is not separatist and divisive like the sense-mind.

“Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or a new being, a new self, a new nature (5).”

In the Hollywood movie, Groundhog Day (1993), the main character of the story goes around repeating his way of looking at the world and having the same season throughout the year, the same pothole in which he falls every time, until one day, when he becomes conscious that he has a choice, and he steps aside from the pothole, the seasons change, the day changes, and everything around also changes.

If I shift my consciousness within, disengage from the surface movements, people and circumstances are also altered in some way. We are all interconnected. As the Mother says, “All difficulties lie within us”; so we can make first the shift in consciousness within, as we become more convinced that trying to shift outer people and circumstances without shifting our consciousness, is like banging our head on the wall, in which a lot of wounding and unnecessary suffering is caused.

When I shift my attention to the breath or become aware of the breath, which is there with me 24/7, and knowingly stay with the breath, the mind comes back home, to the body, rather than being dispersed in the forest of thoughts. Now, the thought-forms appear more like fleeting clouds, like more of a wave character. While if my attention is always glued to the surface consciousness, ever-changing thoughts, feelings, sense-perceptions, I have no respite and I give them a particle reality, they become my sole reality, which is falsehood and hence makes me suffer.

Reversal of consciousness or a new birth

The Mother gives a very clear hint towards this shift of consciousness:

“….And when one is born into the spirit, it becomes something much more concrete, much more living, much more real, much more tangible than the whole material world. And this is what makes the essential difference between beings. When that becomes spontaneously real - the true, concrete existence, the atmosphere one can freely breathe, then one knows one has crossed over to the other side. But so long as it is something rather vague and hazy — you have heard about it, you know that it exists, but it has no concrete reality — well, this means that the new birth has not yet taken place. As long as you tell yourself, “Yes, this I can see, this I can touch, the pain I suffer from, the hunger that torments me, the sleep that makes me feel heavy, this is real, this is concrete..” (Mother laughs), that means that you have not yet crossed over to the other side, you are not born into the spirit (6).”

“….There is a moment — because it is a question which becomes more and more intense and more and more acute — when you have even the feeling, precisely, that things are strange, that is, they are not real; a moment comes when this sensation that you have of yourself, of being yourself, becomes strange, a kind of sense of unreality. And the question continues coming up: “But then what is myself?” Well, there is a moment when it comes up with so much intensity of concentration suddenly there occurs a reversal, and then instead of being on this side you are on that side, and when you are on that side everything is very simple; you understand, you know, you are, you live, and then you see clearly the unreality of the rest, and this is enough.

You see, one may have to wait for days, months, years, centuries, lives, before this moment comes. But if one intensifies his aspiration, there is a moment when the pressure is so great and the intensity of the question so strong that something turns over in the consciousness, and then this is absolutely what one feels: instead of seeing from outside and seeking to see within, one is inside; and the minute one is within, absolutely everything changes, completely, and all that seemed to him true, natural, normal, real, tangible, all that immediately, — yes it seems to him very grotesque, very queer, very unreal, quite absurd; but one has touched something which is supremely true and eternally beautiful, and this one never loses again.

Once the reversal has taken place, you can glide into an external consciousness, not lose the ordinary contact with the things of life, but that remains and it never moves. You may, in your dealings with others, fall back a little into their ignorance and blindness, but there is always something there, living, standing up within, which does not move anymore, until it manages to penetrate everything, to the point where it is over, where the blindness disappears for ever. And this is an absolutely tangible experience, something more concrete than a blow on your head, something more real than anything whatever (7).”

So, all that is needed of us is a humility to look at the one who is looking. Rather than taking the sense-objects and perceptions to be the sole reality, to turn within and get to know the sole Reality. Without that, we may keep looking in darkness for God’s particle, and yet miss the God’s Light, which in the very first place is making us able to ‘look.’ There is something more concrete and real than the particles that we look at. Let’s look at who’s looking.


1. The Mother. The Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 1. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust: 2003, pp. 1-2.

2. Ibid., p. 20.

3. Ibid., p. 30

4. Ibid., p.38.

5. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 19. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 857.

6. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 9; 2003, p. 430.

7. The Mother. Collected Works , Volume 7; 2003, p. 194.

Monica Gulati, a learner and a seeker, is based in Gurgaon, India and an editor of NAMAH.

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