I don’t want people to think they can attain realization simply by listening to others or by reading books. They must practice what they read and hear. — Patamahansa Yogananda
You must know the difference between imagination, theoretical knowledge, and true realization. Could you nourish yourself by only listening to a talk on food? To know food only theoretically is to always remain hungry. You must eat to satisfy hunger. So he who seeks new doctrines continuously but does not put them into practice in his life is in continual spiritual starvation. — Patamahansa Yogananda
Apply the Learning
This is where Nike got their slogan, “Just Do It.” You must apply what you learn. Push your boundaries. You can listen to exceptional teachers, but these are only showing what we can do if you put the knowledge into action.
If you own a library full of books about higher states of consciousness, this will help you prepare. You can listen to podcasts, books on tape, and even attend lectures. These resources will give you knowledge and theory. But, if you don’t apply the learning, your knowledge is of no benefit. If you don’t practice, you won’t open the doors to expanding awareness. You certainly won’t open the doors to other states of consciousness unless you practice techniques to do so. The hard part is figuring out how to apply what you learn.
Think Small Steps
You need not practice for 8 hours. Quick exercises may be better, anyway. Your nervous system is a rather delicate instrument. It needs time to normalize shifts in awareness. Use any of the proven methods that affect awareness. Most of these tools you can use in short timeframes.
So, small is good. Learn and practice seated and moving mindfulness meditation techniques. They take as little as 1 minute, apply the learning. Even a few moments of silence and rest will enable you to return to activity more focused. Try it.
Pick one type of spiritual practice from the eightfold path. If you don’t know what these are, follow the link. The important thing is to start. You know it’s important to apply what you learn to obtain excellent results.
Avoid Spiritual Fast Food
This is the actual problem behind spiritual stagnation. If the information you study is absent any methods that affect awareness and consciousness, then there is no way to apply the learning.
The doctrine and dogma are the fast food of spirituality. It tastes good but does not provide nourishment. That’s why you need to make sure you are using practices that produce results.
How a Follower Differs from a Spiritual Explorer
A follower needs constant programming to maintain equilibrium. Most go every week. Some need to go more often. It’s repeating and memorizing doctrine and dogma to overcome the facts that threaten their worldview.
Being a follower is about theology and philosophy. It centers on, around stories of Sages and Avatars. They learn about those who experienced some great awakening and transformation. But, these stories are absent from any processes that can transform consciousness. Philosophies, doctrine, and dogma are distractions from meaningful self-discovery.
Western organized religion is glorified salesmanship designed to have you believe something mystical will happen… after you die. Afterlife rewards get you nowhere while you are living. This isn’t practicing, it’s accepting a substitute to keep you from facing the driving forces behind your spiritual desires.
So, you must keep going back because there’s no spiritual nourishment. Religion is the fast food of true spirituality. It tastes like food but it’s only a food-like substitute. But, they can’t sell you if you go out walking your path and develop your practice. Do your own research. Do your consciousness research.
A spiritual explorer is someone who seeks tools and practices that produce results. Then, they apply the learning. These are the people who develop and attain realization.
Methods that Affect Consciousness
Everyone has their way of awakening. And, each of us has spiritual gifts to aid in this quest. These gifts are sleeping in our DNA. So, waking these gifts is the key. You must apply what you learn to set your spiritual walk into motion. It opens our minds to new potentials.
Accessing these gifts was the central goal of many ancient cultures. And so, we benefit from generations of research. The results are a set of powerful tools anyone can use. We call these tools spiritual technologies. These are sound methods for expanding awareness and exploring consciousness.
Above all these tools stand up to the test of science. They are repeatable experiential phenomena. And, higher states of awareness also have unique measurable physiological signatures. They differ from the basic states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, and dreaming). These processes do not require belief in a religion. All you need to do is follow the process. For the most part, these tools come from Eastern traditions. This probably because their focus is on developing human potential.
Other schools of thought have a similarly eclectic approach. For example, Gurdjieff’s approach was to adopt methods that others prove effective. He researched a variety of different practices. He experimented to see what works. After all, human physiology hasn’t changed in thousands of years. So, the work of the ancient pioneers stands the test of time.
Producing Results ― Spiritual Technologies
Spiritual technologies are tools for exploring consciousness. They result from generations of research by cultures around the world. These processes stand up to the test of science. They are repeatable and measurable. They do not require belief in religious doctrine.
So, everyone who can follow a process can use them. We call the practice of these processes spiritual exploration. All methods that affect awareness are designed so you can apply what you learn.
How To Apply What you Learn
The first step from the researcher to spiritual explorer is often the hardest. We don’t want to make a mistake. So, the best way to avoid big mistakes is to use practices that produce results from the list of recommended spiritual technologies.
Use your smartphone. Set a reminder to do something. It can be as simple as 1 minute of mindfulness meditation. Or, perhaps something more active like one yoga pose. Make this a good habit.
How To Attain Realization
Realization often shows up in incremental growth. We are looking for the giant leaps, and so miss the small steps. The spiritual journal mentioned above is one of the best tools to help you keep on track. It will also help you spot incremental growth, the small steps of realization.
Walking the path requires finding methods that affect awareness and consciousness. You can gain a lot of knowledge from studying, reading, and listening. But all this knowledge will go to waste. You must apply what you learn. So, find a resource or teacher that can give you one or more of the spiritual technologies listed above. Your focus must be on practices that produce results. This is the only way to attain realization. Don’t get stuck in theory. Don’t be afraid to start. Just do it.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda, by Paramahansa Yogananda 1980