There are many things we learn from books, lectures and our interactions with others, but in the spiritual realm we must learn to have our own inner direct experiences.  Reading something in a book is not sufficient for the shifts in consciousness that are necessary for our spiritual evolution.  Books can certainly help, but spiritual transformation is a process that takes place within.  What we experience in this way is different in quality and effect from what we accumulate outwardly from reading, watching or listening.

This can be illustrated with a more modern mystical story of a sage living in a modern city, but who was also living a deeply spiritual life.  One day he went to a bank to cash a check and the teller says that in order for the bank to cash the check each person must provide 2 different forms of identification.  The sage reached into his wallet and showed the teller a driver’s license, which the was accepted as valid identification, but then when the teller asked for a second identification the sage pulled out a mirror and looked carefully into it and said, “Yes, it is me.”

Besides being amusing this story represents two different types of knowledge.  When we depend on indirect information about ourselves it is like relying on the mystic’s driver’s license to define him.  The information may be valid, but it certainly doesn’t show who we really are.  Our spiritual practices are like the mirror which allow us to examine ourselves and discover who we are.  They provide first-hand experiential knowledge and realizations that reveal ever deepening insights into our nature and truth.

We discover who we really are through inner attunement in meditative states which takes us beyond the realm of the thinking mind or reacting emotional triggers. This is a process rather than a single event and we call that journey self-discovery.  Self-discovery leads to self-realization which leads to a life that expresses in way that are significantly different from the way most people live day to day. 

To walk the path of that journey without a teacher and guide can be quite frustrating and lead to many disappointments, but a good teacher can make the journey much easier and more enjoyable.  Do yourself a favor and find someone you value and trust to be your spiritual mentor and guide.  You do not need to travel alone, and why would you want to make the journey more difficult than it need be?