If a red film is put on a flashlight, the light emerging from it changes from white to red and makes everything seem reddish. If we are too caught up in looking for things with the flashlight, we may not even notice the change in the color.
Just as the flashlight radiates light, the soul radiates consciousness. In our present conditioned stage, the soul is covered by the material mind, just like a flashlight covered by a film.
The mind gets affected by various typical patterns of feelings that Gita wisdom calls the modes. So when the consciousness coming from the soul contacts the mind, it gets changed according to the modes affecting the mind. If we are too caught up in worldly things, we don’t even notice this change. We unthinkingly misidentify with the mind and so mistake the feelings induced by the modes to be our own feelings. Impelled by these feelings, we act in spiritually unworthy ways and then wonder: why did I do that?
To avoid such mistakes, the Bhagavad-gita (14.23) urges us to become consciousness-conscious, to observe the modes affecting the mind from a detached perspective. This essentially means training ourselves to become conscious of how our consciousness is affected by the mind.
By such introspectiveness, we can reject the feelings that the modes thrust upon us. We can then choose thoughts and actions that induce alternative, spiritually worthy feelings. For example, by trying to think of Krishna internally and by chanting his holy names externally, we can induce devotional feelings in our heart. This changes the coloring of the film-like mind from red (material) to white (spiritual) so that our emerging consciousness retains its original purity.
Thus, by becoming consciousness-conscious, we can stay steady in our spiritual journey.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O son of Pandu, he who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present or long for them when they disappear; who is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental, knowing that the modes alone are active; who is situated in the self and regards alike happiness and distress; who looks upon a lump of earth, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable; who is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honor and dishonor; who treats alike both friend and enemy; and who has renounced all material activities – such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature.”