The fundamental aim of spiritual study is to get facts and principles into the Heart's fertile ground. Ideas must get through habitual and familiar filters; otherwise, the information is diverted from having its full power. It's not how much you read or hear that counts, but how much you take in and make your own.
How can you receive knowledge deep in your core so the principles work for you in far higher ways? Here are eight proven methods that work wonders:
1. Write your own book of development. Gather pearls of wisdom as you read, listen to audio programs or attend talks. More importantly, when you have an insight, get it down! You'll find as years go by that the notebook you've created is filled with wisdom that has special resonance for YOU.
2. Contemplate. Picture yourself flying a glider. The tow plane lifts you. Now it's your time to soar. You pull the connection and you're on your own. The winds lift you higher and higher.
The glider is a perfect parallel to the art of contemplation. Focus on a single word, sentence, illustration or experience that matters to you. Put the spotlight of your attention on it. What's in this idea that is not previously seen? What does the experience REALLY mean?
Then, let go of the thought. Soar in the silence. It is the silence following the focus that reveals the core. The silence takes you beyond what you already understand. Transcend the word, concept or experience and move from theory to revelation. Soar to a higher level of deep and rich understanding.
3. Read aloud. Read enthusiastically and with conviction. You may even wish to stand and stare freely. You can imagine that you are addressing a large and attentive audience, like your own thoughts that now wish to change. Reading silently exercises your intellect, while reading aloud cocktails both your intellect and your power of speech.
4. Read with repetition. Take four or five pages from a good book, and read these same pages every day for a week before going on to the next four or five pages. Read them more than once, if you have the time, but at least once a day. Just before going to sleep at night is an ideal time. Something wonderful happens when you do this. Information seeps through old patterns.
I first learned of this method from Og Mandino in his classic book, "The Greatest Salesman in the World." The benefits are awful.
5. Be a metaphor hunter. This is wonderful fun. Simply be alert to daily life experiences, historical examples or encounters with nature that have a resemblance or connection to a spiritual principle. For example, let's say you're on a hike. You observe an old tree that has fallen into a stream. The tree is lodged but the flowing water gradually breaks it away and takes it downstream. You think with delight how the flow of Truth clears away old thinking that no longer serves your Heart.
Again, it all comes down to what you plant in your heart. The same experience happens to two people. One seizes the experience and plants the lesson deep within, the other let's it just bounce off the old and familiar mental patterns.
6. Express the knowledge you gather. See yourself as a conduit of information, like a lake that stays pure by taking in fresh water on one side and releasing it on the other. Refuse to be a stagnant pond! Find ways in harmony with your talents and interests to live and express what you learn, even though you may sometimes be criticized. Write, speak, paint, dance, start businesses, raise healthy children. These are all ways to express spiritual knowledge in action.
7. Transform your automobile into a rolling cosmic university. So much good information is now available on audio CD. Drive time on the less crowded open roads is a great place to absorb these treasures. It does not all have to be spiritually focused material. Helpful ideas can be found in programs on efficiency and vocabulary, for example. In all your listening, however, do not forget the enlightening value of a quiet drive as well.
8. Make the most of group meeting opportunities. A group where sincere men and women meet to delve deeply into life's great questions can be a powerful venue for collecting more knowledge. Just be aware that not all spiritual and wisdom groups are true and healthy, and some take dreadful wrong turns. More than a few foster dependency to support the endless insecurities of the "leaders." For example, unhealthy groups pry into people's affairs. Never forget that your privacy is your sacred right and must never be sacrificed. Just because you participate in a group activity does not mean that you owe them any explanations concerning your private affairs. This prying is a sure sign of a false group.
With self-reliance, what is best and true for you has an amazing way of finding you. Groups are temporary vehicles that can be valuable, but only if there is genuine value in the group.
Use these eight methods and watch your secret garden bloom in your Heart. You'll feel joy and cheerfulness reach you at unexpected moments, and more frequently.