There are no concepts or theories that can ever compare to actual experience. Experience is the truest and deepest teacher because it allows feeling and sensation to penetrate our being to the core and allow us to realize true meaning and power. Perhaps just as importantly experience is the difference between dissecting what works and what is fantasy.
When so much in the spiritual and personal development arena is puffed up by words and promises the only thing that will directly cut to the core is experience. Experience, actually feeling and living the reality of a theory or concept will immediately clear the table of all that is not real. What is left is solid and tangible. The opportunity that this provides us is two-fold. On the one hand it provides us with a foundation upon which to build further skill and on the other it presents our intellectual and doubting mind with results. From these results we sow the seeds of confidence and this confidence in turn fuels and sustains our practice. This is the cycle that ultimately brings us to our goals.
The first fundamental of all practice and therefore experience will always be focus. Without focus our energies and mind are scattered. We may have direction, we may have ideas and knowledge, but without focus all these are rendered impotent. Focus is the energy and mind state that allows us to integrate our other skills and knowledge. After focus we must realize awareness. Awareness is the art of listening and it is the only way we have of understanding the “canvas” upon which we are creating. Without awareness or listening it is like having a conversation and not knowing what the other is saying. The communication becomes ineffective. Where ever we are on the path these two fundamentals must be entrained into us. Our mind and body must be guided to experience the feeling of focus and the feeling of awareness. It is only through this experience that our consciousness can receive the knowledge at the deepest levels of mind and body. Without this integration we will always lack focus and awareness and without these developing other skills is a relative waste of time. They will have no foundation to stand on and no way of assessing their potency.
When the foundation is built and by this I mean experienced solidly then there are many paths or branches available. There is the path of Enlightenment, Realization and Alchemy. There is the Hermetic path, the path of Magic and Metaphysics, the Astral path or the path of Yoga. All these paths require their principles to be internalized through experience to truly be understood. Otherwise they are merely metaphors, stories, concepts and theories. Without experience it is easy to argue about the differences of these paths for they surely do seem very different. Through even the most rudimentary of experiences and actual practice it is easy to understand the one true source that underlies them all. This unifying essence is the mind which through all these practices is being moved, stretched and shaped. It is learning forms and formlessness. It is experiencing the finite and the infinite, yin and yang and the Tao. Through experience whole books of lore can be proven to be dead ends or a single phrase can show the way. Eventually all the texts and teachings will give way to the experience of the inner-tuition that is true and alive knowledge and wisdom.
The journey to the top of our mountain is achieved when we stop to reflect on the way we are going. Reflection is listening. Listening is observing the effects of our experience. Through honest and open reflection we are able to navigate our path. Is it likely that we will progress in this direction? Do we require the development of other skills? These are the questions that come from honest reflection and the answers provide us with the opportunity to go further.
Sitting at the bottom of the mountain it can be easy to dream about the peak and perhaps not as exciting to think about picking up the rucksack and taking those first steps. Even less exciting can be the prospect of sore muscles and aching breath, but it is only in experiencing the mountain that we can develop mastery of the mind and body. Sitting at the bottom we merely develop mastery of dreaming. Furthermore it is only through taking the climb that we may discover that we are able to not only climb the mountain but perhaps fly from its peaks. Potential is only realized when we stretch who we are and experience all that we could be. All of this lies in the province of practice and practice is experience.