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Taking charge

James Anderson


Having order and control in our lives is a human necessity but humanity resorts to ego for the solution. The ego provides a very superficial answer and is ultimately a major cause of failure and dissatisfaction. The path of growth offers greater challenges but much richer rewards. It is about knowing ourselves in entirety and the key is consciousness. The author shares some experiences.


There comes a time when all of us feel the need to take charge of our lives. The demand is there, always in the background, from early infancy. It starts with the urge to take charge of external circumstances. Eventually however, we come to realise that the only way to do this is by taking charge of one’s self. But when faced by this question, our knee-jerk reaction is to resort to ego. This may appear to work for a while, but soon the solution becomes part of an even bigger problem. The only way to truly take charge of our lives is by taking charge of our nature, but which is so riddled with ego that we have to resort to something totally independent from it. A disinterested attitude truly helps: if your aim is motivated by true progress and not ego, one is bound to move forward much quicker. So faced with this impasse, the human being is forced to look deeper. This is where his true journey begins and he looks for a means of more authentic control. He needs to find the true source of individual power. The irony is, once he takes charge and finally accesses a means of self-mastery, he has to give it all up and allow an even higher power to take up his being. It is a divine process and with this surrender, his power becomes magnified into the Infinite. The charge is taken out of our hands and the perception of individuality becomes an irrelevance.


There is a time when the ego helps us. Most people however, it has to be said, rely upon it almost exclusively throughout the course of their lives. It might even be their only point of reference. The child from an early age relies upon it in order to get its demands met. The adult depends upon it to climb the social ladder. And so it goes on. The ego shapes and moulds every aspect of human existence. Through this minuscule power a thousand and one things need to be controlled. The task is too demanding and one may find one’s life soon spiralling out of control. The ego is simply not capable of juggling so many balls in the air. This is a godsend because eventually the performance has to end and when it does, the individual looks finally for something deeper in his or her being.

In truth though, with virtually everyone, the ego is never totally relinquished. For many, the necessity is never recognised, while for some an uneasy arrangement between ego and soul is drawn which has to be continuously readjusted throughout every lifetime. There are different levels of adjustment varying with each one’s progress and evolution. Vanquishing the ego is a long-term process. If the balance goes awry and tilts towards ego, there is a sense of greyness and dullness, a feeling of depletion and dissatisfaction. The degree of control is very flimsy when one finds oneself in this condition. Most people seem to meander through their lives in this sterile state; they never truly address the question.In truth, the necessity will never be faced when the soul is not ready.

“Almost totally, everybody lives on the surface, all the time, all the time on the surface. And for them it’s even the only thing which exists — the surface (1).”

Meanwhile other souls are ripening and so a jolt might come. It is a wake-up call and should be interpreted as a sign of being ‘called’. The individual has then to rise up to a higher life or forfeit his or her destiny. Sometimes the necessity for change may dawn through a growing awareness. In others, the urge may be prompted by a crisis or misfortune. Indeed, the catalyst for me was illness although the realisation took many years to sink in. I guess that everyone is different. So this article is directed at those whose time has come.

Becoming conscious

The first step in this process is to become conscious. “But for this one must work a little within oneself. One must withdraw from the surface (2).” One has to know oneself. This means reversing the entire orientation of one’s consciousness. This reversal is invariably a gradual process because a whole legacy of habit has to be reversed too. It is a time of herculean effort. Here, in many respects, one might feel oneself even less ’in charge’ than ever before as one finds oneself oscillating uncertainly between a duality of extremes. A foundation needs to be built and a start must be made. It was only self-giving that saved me from oblivion when I embarked on this stage. Sometimes I felt that a single gust of wind might have been enough to destroy these tiny beginnings but thankfully there was a strand of faith that told me that self-giving was the best way forward and protection. Nevertheless I found myself rotating frequently between the different poises of tapasyā and surrender from the beginning, although I had fixed on surrender as the basis of all my future practice.

The sign that a decisive shift has been achieved comes when we find ourselves pulled out into the outer consciousness for one reason or another. These interruptions are very frequent and can extend over long stretches. Without our awareness, all the lights go out. One “has the impression of falling into a black hole….(3).” These two states of consciousness, outer and inner, are indeed dimensions apart. They are different worlds. The outer poise gives such a feeling of suffocation. Sometimes, when I come out and emerge into my true station within, I briefly look back and wonder how I was able to crawl through life in such a condition!

By making this shift, every inner movement needs to move within the light of this consciousness. We need to become conscious of all the patterns and shifts of our nature and the only sure means of doing this is by becoming more and more conscious of our inner truth. Once we know it, it becomes our infallible guide. It is the only way of attaining true knowledge of the nature. “And to know oneself is not enough: this knowledge must bring a conscious control. To know oneself perfectly is to control oneself perfectly (4).” The shift from knowledge to control can be simultaneous. The will must be applied and when one aspires for change knowledge spontaneously becomes an action. With this aspiration, the two come together automatically so that Consciousness becomes Force.

The first step of taking charge involves familiarising oneself with one’s consciousness. With this familiarity comes the knowledge that this consciousness can be moved around and ‘localised’ in the different parts of our being (5). This way of movement becomes an essential tool in mastering our nature.

“You put the consciousness in these things, so you become conscious of your body, conscious of your vital, conscious of your mind, conscious of all your activities through your will for identification; but... first your consciousness must not be completely entangled, mingled, joined, so to say, with all these things; it must not take them for itself, must not be deceived (6).”

It is by distinguishing its different parts that some authentic control emerges. By moving it around, we get to understand what our consciousness is. From experience, I felt compelled at these early stages to strive to reach out to my true centre. It seemed to me to be the only way; it became my only means of separating the truth from the dross. It has helped me detach from the different sides of my nature and identify with a deeper truth inside, “And so, by progressive eliminations one succeeds in entering into contact with something, something which gives you the impression of being — ‘Yes, that’s ‘myself’ (7).”


Once this impression dawns, the consciousness will gradually start unifying with this inner truth.This Divine Person inside is our individual truth and the merger is the summit of the process. It can be a very long journey because so much debris needs to be cleared out first. But the portals for change and transformation gradually open. Initially there are glimpses, moments of an inimitable sweetness and clarity. These moments have to be prolonged, not retarded by the resistances of our ego nature. They must become our central poise and our unique and individual station in life. The unification must become so complete that the consciousness, when it moves around between mind, life and body and even when it is somehow summoned down the lowest depths of our being, is embraced still by the central truth of the psychic being. If this is achieved, I believe that true transformation is not only possible but inevitable.

This consciousness offers us the only remedy for the division of our being. Frequently we might find one part of our being readily progressing, while another might completely stand still. So often we drop our baggage and it pulls us back. The consciousness offers us the means of picking it up again and taking it along the way (8). We come to realise that human nature is but a fragmented assortment of competing entities and only the consciousness has the way of making them into a homogenous whole. When our nature becomes one, something greater can truly take charge of it.

So how is it to be done?

The best way is to go directly to that side of our nature that is standing still. One has only to move one’s consciousness to the psychological knot and address it directly, whether it is mental, emotional or physical. The Mother speaks aptly of the need to “look yourself straight in the face, straight in the face, not try to sugar-coat the bitter pill (9).”

Very often though, one needs to go deeper. One needs to find the complete cause to discover a true solution. The distortion needs to be plucked out by its very roots. It is a more integral approach. For this work in detail I use the medium of the body. For me, the body is the perfect transcript for everything happening inside. So many habits, memories and associations lie buried within our nature and the only way they can articulate is through the body itself. If they are left unattended they will only rot and produce disease. They have to surface somewhere and there is nothing more visible than our physical consciousness. The body also seems to me to resonate much better than the mind or vital to the psychic influence at work. So when I have a problem with the mind or the vital, I invariably unearth it through the medium of the body itself.

The further one progresses, the deeper this consciousness has to go. But the paradox of this work is that, ultimately, everything is contained in the body. With consciousness, everything rises eventually to the surface. The body can be used as a gateway to going very deep inside our being. Through the tiniest cell we can expand into the vastness of the universe. Involved in matter is the Truth Consciousness, the golden future of mankind itself. Everything is involved there. It is also like a blueprint of our entire existence. With the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the chalice of transformation has been handed over to the body.

True connection is the foundation of all inner work. We must not lose touch of the divine thread. By observing the body from top to bottom, I stop wherever I might sense unease or pain. The poise is one of enquiry. We come to find that there are locations in the body which correspond to different levels or states of our psychology. What is negative will appear as a distortion and what is distorted will usually manifest in pain.

I look always at the energy flow of Force going down to the feet. Where there is a break in it, I hold my gaze and enquire into the cause. Usually, simply by ‘being there’, the knot unravels and normalcy returns. Sometimes a question needs to be asked, knowledge comes and needs to be verbalised back. I look at ‘normalcy’ as being a state of divine felicity. It is a human birthright and the practice simply returns me to my source, which is forever divine: it is not ‘me’. I find that the work always leaves an imprint of immutable and dynamic peace.

Round-the-clock practice

So the work is based on concentrated practice but needs to overspill into everyday life. Consciousness never rests and it is up to us to keep it as attuned and as aligned as possible at all times.The body gets so many mixed messages in everyday life. As yet I find it impossible to get the same degree of clarity that I get in detailed sittings. Those two bedfellows, the mind and the vital, are rarely quiescent. But to be alert and attentive must be the biggest gift we can give ourselves.“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 (10).”

This necessity compels me also to stay grounded, which is something not so natural to me, because really, the work has to be undertaken with a round-the-clock consciousness. It is not really something that one can switch on or off.Whenever an anomaly rises in the surface nature it can be immediately effaced by holding a mirror up against ourselves. Ideally, it must always be held up and when the mirror reflects back to our psychic being, all will be well and good.

This in a nutshell is how I have endeavoured to take charge of my life. It is only work in progress and I have far from reached the summit. There is still a balancing act between soul and ego. Ultimately though, the sādhanā is out of my hands and I find this deeply humbling and gratifying. Sincerity will be the key to the next step because once the peak has been conquered, it will only remain for me to give it all back, prostrate myself, to fly away on the Mother’s wings.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, p. 278.

2. Ibid., p. 278.

3. Ibid., p. 279.

4. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 4. Pondicherry: 2003, p. 34.

5. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 250.

6. Ibid., p. 251.

7. Ibid., p. 250.

8. Ibid., p. 195.

9. Ibid., p. 196.

10. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 4, p. 35.

James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.

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