Seekers go through two stages in their spiritual journey: exploring and applying. During the exploration phase, they engage in various activities like reading quotes from multiple sources, attending in-depth retreats, finding resonant teachers, reading books and scriptures, making connections between teachings and ideas, and more. The practical application phase, however, is all about putting what they have learned into action; it’s about doing.
Asking the Right Question Can Make All the Difference
Throughout life, you can find yourself either practicing without exploration or exploring without application. Let me give a personal example of the latter because it is more common.
I am well-versed in yoga philosophy, integral theory, interfaith relations, interspiritual exploration, metaphysics and much more—as this publication hopefully demonstrates—but when I was faced with personal difficulties earlier this year, only a handful of ideas and practices seemed to help.
My cup was overflowing, but I was still thirsty (quite the oxymoron).
As I scoured my spiritual vault, I remembered a simple question that used to be at the center of my personal practice: “Will it help?” Merely asking that question quickly drew the most important practical practices to the forefront. My problems were stress-related, so I promptly refocused on surrender, meditation, presence and other similar methods.
How Variations of This Question Helped Me in the Past
“Will it help?” is a root question that quickly focuses the mind. I’ve used variations of it to help me all throughout life. Here are three examples.
- I originally got into spirituality in my late teens and early twenties because life had kicked my butt. I had problems with alcohol and couldn’t sustain romantic or friend relationships. As I put my life back together, my primary question became, “Will it help me recover and forgive?”
- I underwent tremendous healing in my late twenties and throughout my thirties. Everything seemed to go my way. During that time of relative success, the question changed to “Will it help me be better?”
- My forties were harder. A steady stream of stress-inducing events caused me to ask, “Will it help me heal and accept?”
As I asked these questions, I found practical methods and applications that aided me in many ways, especially when I got away from applied spirituality and got lost in theory. I am not knocking theory or intellectual pursuits. Instead, I am highlighting that we need to strike a balance between seeking and doing.
More Variations of the Central Question
Here are several versions of “Will it help?” that you can use to move your acquired wisdom from the theoretical to the practical realm.
- Will it help me accept?
- Will it help me restrict my worst instincts?
- Will it help me hope?
- Will it help me love?
- Will it help me help others?
- Will it help me accept death?
- Will it help me practice peace?
- Will it help me make sense of the world?
- Will it help me find purpose and meaning?
- Will it help me feel better?
- Will it help me forgive?
As you can see, each of these questions will cause you to seek answers differently. Seeking ways to love and accept death may lead you to different sources, and the applications will differ.
Using the Questions to Your Benefit
In this process, it’s important to remember that the answers to one question can vary depending on the situation. In another example, you could read the same spiritual book multiple times, each time with a new question in mind, and gain valuable perspectives each time.
Why not try it? Find a question that resonates with you, look through your treasure chest and find practical applications. What are you willing to do to live out your spiritual values? How will that benefit you and others?
Note: Asking and answering these questions is precisely what I will be doing with a small group of people at the Embodied Wisdom Retreat in November, which I am facilitating alongside Charles MacInerney, a longtime friend. Click here for more information. Enter code GUDJON to get a 15% discount.
What are the Benefits?
As I have demonstrated briefly, my needs change with age and circumstances. “Will it help?” is the root question, but the variations guide my attention.
When you delve into your store of knowledge, whether it’s a single book, an entire library, or acquired wisdom, I urge you to focus on its practical application and determine how it can benefit your life.
Adopted wisdom is like a seed that has the potential to grow into something great, but it requires sowing, nurturing, and weeding to mature into something that can truly make a difference.
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Relevant books by GB:
- Monk of All Faiths: Inspired by The Prophet (fiction)
- Spiritual in My Own Way (memoir)
- Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides (nonfiction)
- Experifaith: At the Heart of Every Religion (nonfiction)
- Premature Holiness: Five Weeks at the Ashram (novel)
- The Meditating Psychiatrist Who Tried to Kill Himself (novel)