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Namah Journal

Consciousness and health

Your atmosphere is contagious

James Anderson


Whatever we harbour inside will always exude outside. It is our responsibility to develop a progressive atmosphere. The vibrations we hold are contagious and have a profound bearing on the surrounding social health. We have to work inside if we intend to purify our atmosphere outside.

Whatever we cling to inside will always seek expression. Man was not just created to absorb and contain, ultimately he must manifest. Humans are essentially social beings. When one tries to put a lid over and suppress anything toxic inside, it will always seep out like poison. Everything we harbour within is inevitably carried around in our atmosphere. No matter how much we try to sanitise our personality and veneer, the truth will always rise to the surface. There can ultimately be no pretence. The more one attempts to suppress, the more anguished one’s atmosphere will become. If we try to sit on any negative vibrations it only distorts the air around us.

The atmosphere we carry is significant. It has a dynamic effect on the surrounding world. It can harm or heal. The choice is ours and it is entirely within our control.We choose our atmosphere. Everyone and everything is interconnected in this world-play. If the contents are toxic inside, we will only contaminate the surrounding environment. It will never stop at one individual. We have to learn to purify ourselves. The atmosphere we emit has important ramifications for social health.

A friend told me that he had just returned from conducting collective virtual sessions with villagers (primarily fishermen) from near Kanyakumari. Since June 2019, over one year, almost 2,500 of the village’s 12,000 population had been decimated by suicide. Such is the contagion of depression! The sense of abandonment and isolation was intensified by Covid-19 and the atmosphere must have beggared belief. The whole community was frozen into a habit of helpless inaction. For youths, the only solution to this enforced inertia was to resort to alcohol and drug abuse. Their peers, the elders facing the prospect of crippling debt and zero income, had no choice but to engage in smuggling and venting their suppressed outrage in domestic violence.

The point is, when an atmosphere is so hopeless, there is never any legitimate solution in sight. One reaches a dead-end zone and there seems no prospect of ever coming out. In this particular situation, some light was there and the community, deep down, were open to solutions and consequently responded to these online sessions so dramatically that suddenly the community has immediately starting building a constructive future once again.

I was told that about 20 people took part in these innovative and immensely skilful sessions. Meditation and games formed an important part of the programme content. The organisers stipulated that no distinction or caste would be recognised in this programme. Like a true community, they all had to sit together through these marathon sessions. Once their light of hope was truly ignited, there was no holding them back. The atmosphere was immediately lifted so that this positive contagion could be brought back to the entire village.

As can be observed then, the atmosphere we all carry is truly contagious. Its quality and characteristics are shaped by the consciousness that is carried inside and it is valid for individuals and entire communities. Each community naturally carries a consciousness entirely of its own and the atmosphere it exhibits is a decisive social determinant. Circumstances act as a catalyst and will only heighten tendencies that lie inside. It is always the consciousness that proves decisive.

In the same way, every interchange is a factor of the consciousness that we hold inside and reveal outside. If we are rife with lust and desire, these vibrations will seek to spread among everyone in our vicinity. Quite apart from anything else, it will undermine our own well-being. The Mother had noticed this. She once commented on how certain people in her midst were plagued with sexual desire and were constantly exasperated by this haze of toxic vibrations, which She compared to swarms of small fleas!

The character of a particular culture and society
is made up of a proclivity of contagious vibrations. Whole communities carry a predominant vibration and each of its people will tend to approximately determine and reflect it. Entire countries can be swept away by such vibrations if they are powerful enough and gain sufficient momentum. The vibration may start from a very small nucleus. It will then seek a suitable dwelling-place to catch hold and join up with similar vibrations. The driving-force may sometimes deviate and get countered by divergent vibrations and so lose energy and eventually peter away with relatively harmless results. Like a tired cyclone it may dwindle and settle down to a gentle breeze. In a few nations however, such as Germany in the last century, where the vibration fanned and caught fire almost instantaneously; it united in a single direction and moved into a collision course with anything that stood in its course.

It is noticeable how certain societies also exhibit strong currents of passion and desire. Each culture exudes its own particular characteristics. Whatever noxious characteristics are generated in us (because everything ultimately surfaces), be they anger, jealousy or gloom, they will try to generate a like-reaction in those around. Conversely, where there is refinement, lightness and joy, the positive influence will seek to spread as long as some affinity is residing in those open to it. There must be some resonance; an essential spark must be present to be ignited by the torch of its sender. This kind of positive influence initiates a contagion which has a profound influence on the environment. One person’s calm can douse the terror of a crowd and prevent calamity, if it is resolute enough.

The mass however will always somehow create a mirror for our inner states. All societies amount only to a sum of individual vibrations, all acting and working upon one another. Where the vibrations are dictated by vital passions, they will endlessly rub against each other and social disorder will result. These states work in cycles, and where we are born dictates much of the person we are conditioned to become. Naturally, the effect is even stronger on a micro level. The atmosphere of the parents as much as the overt upbringing has a decisive influence on the raising of a child. The vibrations will get carbon-copied. The spectre of depression can get handed down through successive generations. It takes a seismic shift for anyone afflicted to step out of this rut. Our immediate society will mould and determine our individual consciousness unless we are very awake. Our conditioning plays a massive part in generating our atmosphere because it is so ingrained. As soon as it sinks down to subconscious levels, it will take a lifelong practice to achieve any sense of liberation.

We find that as we orient ourselves more inside, the atmosphere around us subtly changes. We attract more positive circumstances, not necessarily those desired for or invited, but ones conducive to our progress and growth. If we surrender and rest in the hands of the Divine we can be sure of this. As we progress, we move into a realm of greater synchronicity. We will attract similar vibrations around us like a magnet. We attract people with similar defined characteristics. Those rampant with perpetual anger or desire will tend to peel away. This instils a feeling of belonging and greater ease and this is how positive and creative communities enhance and develop. It explains the concept of the ashram or spiritual community.

Many such communities tend to try to physically ring-fence themselves against those adverse contagions that congregate outside. Individuals have to initially do this. Otherwise the mixture and stew might stimulate polarities which can be dangerously counter-productive. One needs to be very present and centred to stand apart from all this. In Integral Yoga, there is a different emphasis: one has to integrate within and evoke and emit that light and clarity to the outside. It is more a psychological poise; it is a station within that is sought. It is not the intention to cut ourselves off from the world. It is the way of transformation because the yoga has cosmic implications and transcends mere personal liberation.

Once the poise is stabilised we may find that the two sides won’t clash because there will be no attraction between dissimilar states. Like only attracts like, so the different levels of consciousness will repel one another in an almost unnoticed fashion. However, when they are pushed together, much anguish and friction can result.

We all sit at the receiving-end of these widespread contagions and everything depends upon the affinity that is stored within. The affinity always determines the response. It is not a superficial phenomenon but an inner reality, a factor of the level and content of our consciousness. Everything depends upon this. One has to be very connected and conscious to remain separate and distinct from any surrounding vibrations. But it is possible though, as Sri Aurobindo extolled the virtue of being able to meditate on the battlefield. It will only come through an assiduous inner orientation and yoga.

Imagine yourself surrounded by a cocoon of white Light so that nothing harmful can enter! The Mother offers this in Agenda(1) and faith makes it real. It just has to be embraced. We must learn to wrap a filter around ourselves, an instantaneous means of discernment which can envelop us twenty-four hours a day. The true safeguard is our psychic connection. Initially, as we walk this path, we need to be wary of contagion, because quite venomous ones may be clothed in a glittering or appealing disguise.

Vigilance and attention is very necessary because certain atmospheres we encounter can be insidious in a very subtle yet harmful way. We must not be deceived. Everything comes through practice, not so much formal sittings, but rather being in a state of everlasting beingness. When we are present within ourselves we can observe what is happening inside. An automatic unease develops to any negativity that tickles us from around. Ultimately, if we are able to seal ourselves and open only to the divine influence, our atmosphere will surely remain radiant and intact. But a beginning has to be made and it is better to be cautious and maintain one’s balance.

Practice always starts from inside. We need to align our consciousness very firmly within. Practice implies effort, particularly in the early stages. We need to cling to Truth. This Truth is our psychic being, our evolving soul, which is the determinant of all meaningful change. The inner connection is what counts. As we observe our inner movements repeatedly, we become more confident and adept in making the right responses to what comes from around. It is the capacity of our consciousness which will always prove decisive. It needs to be kept untainted and nurtured by constantly referring it to our psychic centre.

Whatever is happening around us, it is always possible to create a positive atmosphere. Conducive surroundings will certainly help but if one can manage this when everything around is soiled or blazing, then one marks oneself down as a true warrior:

“A spiritual atmosphere is more important than outer conditions; if one can get that and also create one’s own spiritual air to breathe in and live in it, that is the true condition of progress (2).”

It is the orientation of our consciousness which determines this air that we breathe and “precisely by inner discipline; you can control your thoughts, turning them exclusively towards the sadhana, controlling your actions, turning them exclusively towards the sadhana, abolishing all desires and all useless external activities, living a more intense inner life, and separating yourself from ordinary things, ordinary thoughts, ordinary reactions, ordinary actions; then you create a kind of atmosphere around you.

“For example, instead of reading any odd thing and chatting and doing anything whatever, if you read only what helps you to follow the path, if you act only in conformity with what can lead you to the divine realisation, if you abolish all desires and impulses turned towards external things, if you calm your mental being, appease your vital being, if you shut yourself against suggestions coming from outside and become immune to the action of people surrounding you, you create such a spiritual atmosphere that nothing can touch it, and it no longer depends at all on circumstances or on whom you live with or on the conditions you live in, because you are enclosed in your own spiritual atmosphere. And that is how one obtains it: by turning one’s attention solely to the spiritual life, by reading only what can help in the spiritual life, by doing only what leads you to the spiritual life, and so on. Then you create your own atmosphere But naturally, if you open all the doors, listen to what people tell you, follow the advice of this one and the inspirations of that one, and are full of desires for outside things, you cannot create a spiritual atmosphere for yourself. You will have an ordinary atmosphere like everyone else (3).”

The conditions for creating this atmosphere in today’s world are more challenging than ever. Environmental emissions are pressing on us continuously. Through social media and digital communication, the influences never cease and at times there seems to be no escape. But in a very real sense we are architects of our own destiny. The state of consciousness we dwell in will refine or poison this air and its surroundings. It is the within that will shape us and influence everything we touch. Ultimately it is the psychic influence which determines our atmosphere, if we open ourselves to it, we become torchbearers for humanity. There can be no greater service to Her than that.


1. The Mother. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 6. Paris: Institut des Recherches Évolutives; (English translation, 1993, p. 172).

2. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 23. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram; 1970, p. 651.

3. The Mother. The Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 6. 2nd ed. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2003, pp. 356-7.

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

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Aligning within