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Namah Journal


Working Through Toxicity

James Anderson


Everywhere we see a reflection of ourselves. When we see toxicity, it is also a mirror into our inner world. To annul toxicity, we must work through it. We have to learn to purify our atmosphere by attentive and committed practice.

We look upon the world and see ourselves. What we see and experience is but a reflection of our inner state, the state of our consciousness. We witness what is contained inside. We are creatures of duality and our being veers between light and shadow. Our noblest part gazes at a picture of the Mother in adoration and seeks identity with what it sees. Our darkest caverns see only toxicity.

We can choose to live in blissful surrender or become victims of our own nightmares. However, our being is invariably a ‘mixture’, therefore it receives a mixed image. There is rarely a simple a black and white image but one with an overriding cloudiness in between. However, even in our most obscure shadows reigns the supernal Light.

Everyone we come across is a mirror into our inner world. Notice what you think is wrong about a particular person and you can be sure that a similar defect lies buried unnoticed within you.

“We find in others what is in us. If we always find mud around us, it proves that there is mud somewhere in us (1).”

There is a law of resonance. Like attracts like and our circumstances and our life-course eventually embody who we are. Our friends and partners do not crop up by chance. Our mind (even our subconscious) puts out a general invitation and sooner or later this person will come along We need to use our intention wisely. What we are invites like forces to enter.


When we look through the warped vision of our shadow, a sense of murky dissatisfaction will always intrude. Although we try to pin the cause of dissatisfaction onto the outside, it is sourced from deep within us. We always have to go back to the true origin, to the very root, to expose the origin of the entire dissatisfaction. We need to observe ourselves inside and enquire with our deepest consciousness. We can try to ‘catch’ the trigger as soon as it comes to our attention. Catch it with the Light and see what happens! Once we unearth the true cause, our work reaches a magnificent conclusion. The Knowledge resolves, leaving its seal of dynamic peace. It is an unmistakable feeling.

This is inner work and, as the practice develops progressively, nothing will escape its gaze. The true consciousness can look at the fragment without losing sight of the whole. We may have to work through many layers to get down to the root of all our ignorance and the source of all our afflictions. Once we start we cannot stop. Nothing is done until everything is done. In Integral Yoga, we start with the tiniest detail but in the end, you realise, perhaps many years later, everything has to be re-addressed and transformed and all will have to be corrected and re-corrected many times over and over. Even that detail may have to be corrected many times over. We heal one aspect at a time until one day we can transform the origin of all our malaise. It is a painstaking process but if aspiration is present, one gets swept away by the joy and momentum for inner progress. The Mother’s image of hewing a trail through a virgin forest comes to mind. There are no shortcuts with the integral approach.

“All that was found must again be sought,
Each enemy slain revives,
Each battle for ever is fought and refought
Through vistas of fruitless lives (2).”

Inviting toxicity

Truly, we secretly invite toxicity into our lives. We may not do it consciously; indeed, it is usually done very unconsciously. We are largely driven by the caprices of our nature and not many of us are aware of what really orients and propels our life. Most of our motivators are concealed. Any hidden blemish of our nature can open the door for more gravitational energies to intervene and, at worst, take complete control. So, there is invariably a hidden part of our nature which will draw in this darkness.

We have to learn and strive to become totally transparent, to lay ourselves bare to the Mother in order to completely wipe our slate clean. At times, we might invite people who pose a threat to our inner sanctity and space, into our vicinity. Through blind desire and attachment, we might tangle ourselves in a pernicious web. If that is the way we have made our bed, sometimes we feel that we have no choice but to sleep in it. What we fear becomes a reality and what we aspire for will manifest in our lives. This is why we have to live in aspiration and not fear. What we secretly invite we shall eventually experience. When we call and invoke the Divine into our lives, we move towards a state of alignment and ecstasy. We feel harmonious and free, living in the Divine. There are no complications. Our life becomes a consecration and an upward ascent.

If we look upon every situation and encounter we cross as a facet of our sādhanā, we can rise above toxicity. Ultimately though, we have to work through it. Rising above leaves the state dormant and untouched; working through toxicity converts and ultimately transforms. We don’t invite it to appear, but we are poised when it comes. We shouldn’t strive to tackle it head-on: just work quietly inside to install and preserve a sacred atmosphere around ourselves. The ultimate safeguard it to see yourself in a cocoon of Mother’s white Light.

This Work is not easy but if we have been summoned, we have no choice, we just have to become warriors for change and change always starts first inside. It is possible to achieve clarity amid the madness around us. It is a matter of always maintaining the correct poise. A vigilant detachment is required.

We have to remember that not only toxicity is contagious, a spiritual atmosphere can be too. Offer it as a contagious force for harmony! As the atmosphere develops, a sublime immunity will step forward and outside disturbances will rebound off the inner wall that has been erected. It is not about ‘us against ‘them’; the divine contact only matters.

Developing a spiritual atmosphere

So, when disturbing company comes, try to draw back and smile. Be always ready for this. Do not recoil and harden yourself into dryness. Gather yourself quietly and repeat your mantra or whatever helps to align the consciousness inside. A deep connection is your base. Try to make it a continuous process. This is not a superficial or mechanical movement. See it as a test of your sincerity. This is how a spiritual atmosphere develops, something so conscious that no toxic vibration can find home inside.

When the mud engulfs you, and it will happen, just remember that there is always something solid to clasp to wrench yourself out. This Truth that is inside us is so much more durable than those vibrations that keep rising and falling from the surface. The more powerful the wave that cascades against us, the stronger and more aligned our will has to be.

This is not an ordeal many would choose but perhaps there is a chink in our destiny which needs to be experienced and resolved. Behind everything, there is always a purpose and a plan. To compound it all, we are not doing this practice only for our meagre individuality and personal salvation. This work in miniature may only be a miniscule aspect of the world-play but it must be fulfilled for the Divine Work to be complete.

Our aspiration is seldom single-pointed. It is invariably entangled and tainted with desires, whims and cravings. This is where practice comes in. The work of purification and integration is so necessary if one wants to progress. This is truly what we are here for.

“You stop short at the perfection that others should realise and you are seldom conscious of the goal you should be pursuing yourself. If you are conscious of it, well then, begin with the work which is given to you, that is to say, realise what you have to do and do not concern yourself with what others do, because, after all, it is not your business. And the best way to the true attitude is simply to say, ‘All those around me, all the circumstances of my life, all the people near me, are a mirror held up to me by the Divine Consciousness to show me the progress I must make. Everything that shocks me in others means a work I have to do in myself (3).‘”


1. The Mother. The Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 14. Cent ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1980, p. 295.

2. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 5. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1971, p. 100.

3. The Mother. Collected Works, Volume 10; 1977, p. 23.

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

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Spiritual atmosphere


The Mother