Rows of spiritual, wellness, and religious books sat collecting dust on my bookshelf for years. I would neatly pack them up in boxes every time I moved into a new apartment, only to again unpack and display them on my bookcase in a new home. My books would sit untouched until the next time I moved. It wasn’t until I bought my own place that I began to explore what exactly I had been holding on to all these years. I couldn’t believe that I had waited so long to read these books! They contained such wisdom, insight, and guidance. Why had I waited THIS many years to read something that was in front of me all along?!!
Spiritual books are the universe’s gift to us. They help us see beyond ourselves- our mundane thoughts and selfish needs, as well as our current perceptions. They give us a fresh way in which to view our experiences. They instill in us courage and hope. They help us connect to expanded consciousness. They give us both the philosophy and means to realizing real happiness and true peace of mind.
Below is a 4-step method to help us realize the purpose and goal of any spiritual book- to get us closer to our true divine nature.
1| Read it slowly.
Make notes in the margins. Underline sentences. Circle words. Look up definitions to unfamiliar words. Research any concepts that seem hazy or convoluted. Unlike fiction, where there are storylines and plots, spiritual books are not for mere entertainment. Rather, they exist to create in us enthusiasm for self-development. These suggestions mean very little if we are hurriedly trying to get through reading it. In order for anything to stick in our minds, we have to first understand it on an intellectual level. Approaching any spiritual book with a sense of reverence and by taking the time to understand it to the best of our abilities are the first steps to creating internal change. [Related: What Is Dharma & How It Determines Your Happiness]
2| Reflect & ponder on what you have read.
Genuinely think about if and how what you have read applies to your life. What resonates with you? In what ways has what you just read made you think of things differently? Is there anything that jumps out and excites you, like a quote, phrase, or mantra? Has what you read made an impression on you? Why? Sometimes we read just the right piece of advice, guidance, support, or answer to a question we have been seeking at the exact time we need it. These are all telling of where we are in our inner journey and what more internal work we need to do to find real peace. [Related: My Biggest Transformation After 5 Years of Meditating Every Day]
3| Go back & read it.
The first time we read a particular spiritual book, it may be our first introduction to the topic. We are still trying to understand the concept of what we are reading. What is this saying to us? The next time we read it, we move beyond knowing it in an abstract way to trying to understand its personal application.
I guarantee you that the second time you read a sentence, paragraph, or chapter from any spiritual book that it will be understood in a different way. Perhaps you missed something the first time around. Perhaps you were in a certain mood that affected your interpretation of what you read. Perhaps you were in a particular phase of life and seeking support in which to interpret your circumstances. Maybe by the time you read it again, you have also read some other literature that helps you synthesize this material in a different way. It could even be that you read the same sentence a couple of minutes later, but this time you derive a deeper meaning from it.
As we continue experiencing life, our mindset shifts and how we interpret the past shifts with each series of events. This lends itself to various levels of understandings of ourselves and our lives. It is impossible to detach our subjective selves from what we are reading, so it is always a good idea to go back and read. The beauty of spiritual books is that they keep giving. We could pick up the same book years later and get something totally different from it than the first time we read it.
4| Experiment, practice & implement until it becomes habit.
This is the most important step. There is no use in reading any spiritual book, unless you are going to incorporate its teachings in some way into your life. Knowledge only turns into wisdom when applied. Usually, it is practice that clears up initial misunderstandings and confusion. Over time one begins to realize what they have read through personal experience. This will involve constant reflection, change in thinking, and behavior modification, all of which do not happen quickly or easily! We cannot evolve without being aware of our tendencies and what we need to do to remove our mental conditionings. As long as we continue to be sincere and intentional in our practice, change will naturally happen over time, until old habits get replaced with higher thinking and living. [Related: The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Meditators]