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Pre-requisites for Spiritual work
Before getting serious about spiritual work, quite a number of pre-requisites are necessary. This is why is many religious schools have introductory or preparatory steps. The neophyte stage (a term still used for new entrants to Freemasonry). Actually, this process can take quite a long time if you are to be properly prepared.
Our physical, emotional and mental bodies must be in a healthy state if we are to realise our spiritual potential. Many people seek the help of religious or spiritual organisations when they are suffering (physically, emotionally, or mentally). This may be a good course of action for making contact with good caring people, but organisations promoting spiritual growth are not hospitals. If a person is in a state of stress, undertaking spiritual practices is the last thing they should be doing. Many spiritual practices are burdensome and stressful – they will take you out of your comfort zone. Only when you are in a good state of body and mind should you undertake serious spiritual work on oneself. The trouble is, when times are good few people feel like “making hay when the sun shines“! They seek out meditation when times are bad, and when they are feeling better they stop! We should do the opposite. Undertake our spiritual exercises when we are happy and well, and the investment will pay off when we are going through bad times.
You need to have established a routine in your life where you are taking care of your physical, emotional and mental needs and have time left over for further endeavours. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it needs to be more than a simple routine. You need to be constantly enthusiastic about it – you need a positive feedback loop that resonates with your natural being so that you will have the energy to keep going. It needs to be strong enough to counteract the natural body negative feedback toward homeostasis.
As we have noted earlier, most of us spend very little time on what could be considered spiritual activities. We get good at what we practice doing. If we don’t practice something, we won’t develop our abilities doing it. The necessities of life will require us to spend at least half our time looking after our physical body, and our emotional and mental bodies also require maintenance. If we could spend about 5% of our time, an hour a day, on predominantly spiritual activities that would be a great start. A greater investment will be required if you are aiming for full realisation, but if we are all devoting 5% of our time each day to spiritual activities it would make a massive difference in the lives of most people.
Methods for spiritual growth
As we have noted earlier, there is no tried and proven formula for attaining “enlightenment“. Many spiritual teachers have tried a range of different techniques and methods for instructing their keen disciples, and unfortunately most have a very poor track record of success. The masters have found a method that resonates with their being, but what works for them is rarely as effective for anyone else. One could question whether it is indeed possible, or whether some people are just born that way.
We have defined the characteristics of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies (in presenting our machinery), and by exercising and working on each of these bodies we can definitely improve our abilities in each area. Athletes and gymnasts and sportspeople work on their physical bodies, and whilst some are more gifted than others, in general the more work they put, in the better they get. Similarly, by spending our time caring for people and working with teams and socialising, we can improve our emotional quotient (EQ). Some people are more mentally gifted than others, but again by study and practice we can develop our mental qualities – memory recall, ability to solve problems, ability to focus attention, etc. So it stands to reason that we can develop and improve a spiritual qualities by investing time and effort exercising and refining our higher brain executive functions of the prefrontal cortex which we have said are the basis for our spiritual faculties.
That may sound easy; but it isn’t. Not only do we have to determine what sort of exercises we need to do, but we have to find time to do it whilst also keeping our physical, emotional and lower mental bodies in good shape. Let us review some of the traditional methods of spiritual training.
Now for some the methods: