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Inner approach to health

The sources of energy

James Anderson


The author traces the sources of physical and non-physical energy and relates them back to personal experience. He concludes that new conditions intervene when one seeks to rise in consciousness.


Energy forms the basis of life and by living energetically, we exhibit well-being and health. As we expand and grow in consciousness, we necessarily have more energy at our disposal. But the matter is not always as simple as that. Growing is rarely a straight-line ascent. Man is made of many parts: some parts willingly move forward while often others will tend to hang back. He is rarely able to progress as a unified whole. So, in spite of everything, a certain amount of depletion of energy can sometimes arise. I have felt this depletion quite perplexing and it prompted me to make the issue of energy a subject for individual research. Energy is a precious resource and I have found its expenditure considerably higher here than amid the more convenient lifestyle of the West. Having certain health issues to contend with has made life at times uncomfortable to say the least. I have experienced certain dips and hollows along the way. On other occasions, however, I might feel that absolutely anything can be achieved. At such times, the whole system is brimful with dynamic force.

I find the subject deeply interesting and it has led me to ask from where tendencies arise that hinder or help our integration of this essential resource on our upward journey. It is not surprising that in the early stages one’s experiences will fluctuate. The consent of the whole being is necessary if optimum energy is to be attained but that takes time. So for quite a while the results I have experienced have been rather mixed. The way forward though for me is very clear; the implementation is the difficult part. In this article, I shall relate largely from a personal perspective and hope that my experience might shed some light for those undertaking a similar path.

Three sources

According to the Mother, there are three sources from which man can derive energy: below, around and above. First of all, the body draws sustenance from the food we eat; the vital “most easily accessible to it comes from below, from the physical energies through the sensations (1).”, All of us draw at least some energy this way; there may be a few exceptions, but it is largely unavoidable. Man is a creature of the soil as well as the heavens. The Mother comments:

“In the immese majority of people all their vital force comes to them from below, from the earth, from food, from all the sensations. From food... they draw vital energy out of food, and they, it is by seeing, hearing, touching, feeling that they contact the energies contained in matter. They draw them in this way. This is their customary food (2).”

When growing in consciousness, one gradually begins to trace a kind of correlation between one’s energy and what is absorbed from below. Take food for instance, one becomes aware of varying degrees of heaviness induced by what we eat. The overall effect is unavoidable, after all, as one is digesting the fruits of inconscience. It is really a matter of degrees. We tangibly observe how the nature of the food we absorb and the consciousness with which it is prepared have a considerable influence on our energy.

When one develops in consciousness, one starts to outgrow past patterns. Likewise, we often notice our dietary requirements change. This has been the case for me. As the vibration around me changes, my diet has generally changed too. In the distant past, it was probably appropriate I ate meat in the competitive clamour of city life. When that episode was over, the diet changed too and it was left behind tacitly and without fuss. One finds one’s dietary requirements gradually subtilising as different requirements present themselves in the life of yoga. The only necessity becomes a more balanced, sattwic diet. The new energy depends on harmony and equilibrium and food has some influence in that.

Over time, we find also that the action of eating no longer gets taken for granted. We notice that our mental state while eating produces a marked effect on our energy. Like everything else, this action becomes a part of our saadhanaa as this too moves inside the arc of a wider vision. The increase of awareness has a positive effect on our resources but we will probably also find our sensitivity to impacts increasing which means that the occasional sense of ‘lack’ will be more acutely experienced. One is moving into a matrix of greater extremes.

The body however, does not always adapt easily to change, particularly in its complex interplay with the rest of our nature. Mine, from childhood, had been reared on high levels of protein and I eventually became convinced that the new diet at Pondicherry was not giving me enough energy. Perhaps this was just a misconception produced in the blur of transition but as soon as the vital and mind become convinced of something the notion quickly sets in stone and the damage is done1. Because of this, I decided to make certain adjustments and address this perceived imbalance.

However I have found certain patterns of the past harmful and, in such cases, it necessitates a more authentic knowledge to realise this. Our nature does not readily accept any interruption of habits. Whenever I need an answer to a perplexing question, I find it better to call upon a source that is free from all bias and vested interest. I find this knowledge arises through inner enquiry and the process gives me an answer from a source much deeper than the mind. It works from an entirely higher determinism. In my view, this comes from the domain of the soul. This is where the Mother resides and I consider it to be the fount of true wisdom. The point is, though, I find it works for all levels of human life, including the most material.

Here, the problem I was facing was that my energy was dropping alarmingly. I knew the cause was only partially the climate. After all, this was the twelfth successive summer that I had been through. I had a feeling of what was truly behind it, but the context and picture were vague. Whenever faced with this kind of dilemma, I take this process of inner enquiry.

Working inside

I gather myself into a more centred state. I call the Mother for help, quieten the mind and look squarely at the body. Eventually a guiding light appears which draws me closer to the true cause of the affliction. The connection inside is the only essential condition. Soon I can feel a dull ache and heaviness in the abdomen so I go inside this vibration and gently and disinterestedly ask, “Tell me why I am losing energy.” The answer came back clearly and I even expressed it out loud. A simple word, spoken truly, can have a magical effect. The affirmation was conclusive: I felt an immediate descent of Force penetrate the body and it flowed right down to the feet.

The emphatic quality of the response quite took me by surprise. I had expected it to be also of a psychological nature. I had got accustomed to more subtle solutions to my well-being but here I was provided an explanation which was quite material and gross in character. The answer was definitive and, when faced with such clarity, my best response is to follow its lesson entirely. Clearly, the main reason for the lack of energy at this time was quite material so the priority was to correct the physical imbalance itself.

The main problem was eating habits that went right back to childhood. The body had been fed a diet rich in dairy products and it could no longer survive on such intake. They were clogging the physical system. The conditions of life here were only deepening the difficulty. I readily admit that each body has its own particular requirements. I can only speak from experience and the truth that I received through this body. The answer itself is perhaps not as significant as the process by which it came. I had to find a diet which worked for me and the answers I got were conclusive and certain. Modern science can confound us with its experiments and statistics. I have heard nutritionists preach against dairy produce but I had to find a way that was true for my body and its well-being. The response I get when I follow this process is empirical and subjective but when it comes, it always arrives with a stamp of proof. The instructions I received required action. This was the remedy. It necessitated some fasting and then a major but gradual overhauling of the diet itself.

This change took place about eight months ago and I can say the effect has been helpful. But as soon as I pass through one domain, I invariably become aware of other hindrances presented by other parts of the nature. There are other regions to conquer. That is the process of the Integral Yoga; really, nothing is achieved until everything is resolved. So the work is ongoing and in truth, it never stops. This is the way it will always be until the whole nature is transformed. This example covers only the first base but it is essential that it is put in order if one is ever to reach higher levels of energy. As I walk further, I have found that it is the whole that must be addressed. If any part gets left behind, depletion will only ensue. The whole being must move together in unison and harmony. On this path of growth, it is the only way to rise up to more energy.

Horizontal connection

The second category, drawn from contact with the universal vital forces, is a more horizontal connection. It is less gross and can harness enormous force if the vital consciousness is “sufficiently vast and receptive (4).” A strong vital can be such a boon but even then I find its nature can be quite fickle. It can be vast in one corner of the world and quite flat in another! For instance, I have found it very difficult to draw energy this way whilst living here in Pondicherry. The quality of the atmosphere has a different nature from that of the West. It is probably no more than a matter of conditioning but that is what our nature is largely comprised of. For a long time in my native country, I had fed on this energy, particularly in the working environment which was so competitive and highly charged. Adrenalin became my sustenance. It was a highly dangerous means of support because the prospect of a crash always loomed.

So our conditioning and upbringing can have an enormous influence and every place has its own atmosphere. Even here in India I have experienced distinct variations. In some places, I have experienced it as quite flat and dry. I suspect that the vital force was sometimes viewed almost as a dangerous enemy and might arise to an equally dangerous attempt to throttle it out of existence. At another extreme, in a couple of other locations, the atmosphere was charged with such force as to be of the same quality as in the West. In one place, there was even a strong drag toward a life of hedonistic chaos. At Pondicherry, there is a greater balance. I find the vital force here to be altogether more subtle and refined, even to the extent of being covert. When I first came, I must admit I found the atmosphere bereft of vital nourishment. But I could feel something greater here and an inner voice convinced me not to jump at appearances. So I stayed.

I find the vital nature needs to be channelled and refined in a truer way if it is to thrive in this particular environment. The whole momentum is one of progress; the orientation is always projecting inside. Whenever the vital revolts or gets consumed in passion, the energy at my disposal will very soon go to waste. The criteria for well-being are more demanding.

Even after almost fifteen years, a natural affinity seems still somewhat missing. The vital force surrounding me still doesn’t provide the answer. My nature has yet to fully embrace the conditions. The differences from my birthplace still seem too violent; the cultural patterns of past and present often mark themselves into two separate camps. It is only fairly recently that I have noticed new shoots of resonance beginning to emerge. It pays to persist. Whenever I went back to the West, I used to always feel my system receive an enormous boost. Now, each time, the sense of salvation seems to wane.

Some people seem to have a spontaneous attraction to the vastness of the universal life-force. They simply vibrate it. They “have a very developed vital which they have subjected to a discipline — and they have a sense of immensity and are in contact with the world and the movements of world-forces. And so they can receive… if they aspire and call… they can receive the universal vital forces which enter them and renew the amount of energy they need (5).”

By putting themselves in touch with the world around they draw energies which are “obscure and half unconscious; they encourage animality in man, but at the same time, they establish a kind of harmonious relationship between the human being and material Nature (6).”

Children also exhibit this quality in abundance: when they have energy, they spend it. When they exhaust it, they simply rest and recharge. It is entirely a spontaneous connection. They don’t think about it. With the passing of years, calculation intervenes and “this faculty is blunted by the worries of life, as a result of the predominant place which mental activities come to occupy in the consciousness (7).”

Ever since I came to Pondicherry, I don’t think I have ever been called to open in that direction. Deep down, I don’t think I regard the vital to be the all-sustaining source of energy. I look upon it as a useful, though not entirely reliable, ally: one that needs to be elevated and not suppressed. It cannot be coerced; it should never be alienated. I have found that the answer only truly arrives from another source. If I had found myself in the splendour of the mountains, however, perhaps a different story may have emerged.

Energy inexhaustible

According to the Mother, high above the universal domains, there are regions which offer an ‘inexhaustible energy’ “that can be described as spiritual, and is received no longer from below, from the inconscient depths, but from above, from the supreme origin of the universe and man, from the all-powerful and eternal splendours of the superconscient. It is there, all around us, permeating everything; and to enter into contact with it and to receive it, it is enough to aspire sincerely for it, to open oneself to it in faith and trust, to widen one’s consciousness and identify it with the Universal Consciousness (8).”

Accessing these energies at first may seem impossible but most of us at some time in our life have had a glimpse of these forces “as if lifted up beyond themselves, filled with an unexpected and uncommon force which, for a time, has made them capable of doing anything whatever; at such moments nothing seems too difficult and the word ‘impossible’ loses its meaning (9).” The demands are much greater in opening to this source. Our whole nature often stands against it. But the times when I feel lifted encourage me to carry on.

The connection starts with brief experiences but the secret is to learn to sustain the contact with these forces above. This is a part of yogic discipline and is indeed an important aspect of the work of transformation. One needs a clear vessel to draw these energies. The knots and recesses of the nature need to be cleared away first. The whole being needs to be aligned. It is an assiduous process and a persistent approach is essential.

I believe that all of us possess one lever which can assist this process. There is a part of our nature around which our entire truth is built. It is a source of energy and strength. So the method is “something individual and unique for each one, which starts from where he stands, adapting itself to his personal needs and helping him to take one more step forward (10).”

When I live in the heart, the alchemy starts to unwind. The heart sits in front of the psychic being, the true vehicle of transformation. The heart is the catalyst for all my progress and when it sings, the descent takes place. I am totally dependent on this Force; it is all that sustains me. Whenever I look for alternatives, the energy narrows and wanes. I cannot will or summon this energy; it can only step forward through conscious connection of heart, body and soul.

Once the Force begins to descend, I watch the creases of my nature spontaneously unfold. Working from the heart, I pass through pain and depletion; the Light and Force remove any blocks that stand in the way. They substitute the truth of knowledge for the falsity of distortion. This truth is love.

The radiance that comes from inside greets and fuses with the steady downpour from above. The work nears completion when it goes down to the feet. Whenever a part of the body opens to the Force, energy automatically follows. Once there is an uninterrupted flow from top to bottom, I widen the consciousness to allow this new energy to radiate in and beyond the being. The energy is always new; its vibration is first absorbed and then it widens.

In the Integral Yoga, we submit ourselves to the Force of the Mother. She is the source of inexhaustible energy. As soon as we learn to open and surrender, She moves us. She walks our steps. She gives us everything we truly need. She is surely doing that already although we may not be aware of it. At any moment, if I find my being shrinking, it is enough to remember her, to open and call. The present moment has to be seized. She sits at the Truth of our being and once we step into this Truth the riddle of limitless energy is solved.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 12. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2002, p. 55.

2. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 6. 2003, p. 82.

3. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 15. 2004, p. 144.

4. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 12. p. 55.

5. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 6. p. 82.

6. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 12. p. 261.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., p. 262.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

1 This calls to mind the Mother’s statement: “In the effect of food on the body 90% belongs to the power of thought (3).”

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

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Vital force


The Mother