One of the most common statements you will see in the world of inner work, and in particular, spirituality is:
“I understand this on an intellectual level, but I don’t really experience it.”
You may have said this yourself. Multiple times.
Interestingly, it is often in the form of a somewhat self-judgmental statement.
Instead of a question in the form of: “this thing that you are talking about, can you give me a practical step on how to experience it? A reasonable timeframe or way of self assessing this?”
People tend to say the ‘I get it intellectually…’ with an expectation that they SHOULD be able to do whatever it is, already.
Unfortunately, in the often ‘mystical’ world of spirituality and the way some approach emotional work, this is almost encouraged.
Topics are presented as though they are ‘self-obvious’ or “it’s natural for you to do this, it’s your natural state!”
- You naturally released emotions when you were a baby! (maybe, but through screaming, crying, while also indiscriminately absorbing everything around you)
- You were carefree as a child! (no you weren’t)
- Spiritually, you already are that, so just be that!
… and so on.
The idea that this is all so simple and natural reinforces the sense that intellectual understanding should be enough.
You will notice though, that this does not hold up in any other area of life.
Not even close.
I have an intellectual understanding of how to play tennis.
I know that I should run over there and hit the ball across the net.
That’s step one, or maybe step zero of a process that is going to take thousands of hours of repetition and years of practice.
We understand intuitively that tennis is a SKILL.
With many things in the inner world, we do not think of them as such.
They are often not talked about as such.
I believe it is more useful, in most cases, to relate to your inner, emotional tools AND spiritual practice as skills.
From what I have observed in terms of those who make concrete shifts in their emotional experiences and outer lives, there is a certain respect for the consistency, curiosity, and willingness to follow some ‘steps’ or framework.
Where I tend to see a lot of frustration and confusion, whether in personal development or spirituality, it’s when there is a lack of how to, a lot of mixed messaging, and a big emphasis on listening to videos and teachings over building skills and resources.
SKILLS take some time, integration, consistency, repetition, and more.
Skills like learning a language or an instrument can be years of consistency before they have any semblence of being second-nature.
Please experiment with shifting your mind frame this way, especially if you ever beat yourself up for “getting it intellectually, but not living it.”
The three questions I present in the video below to help with this are:
1. HOW am I thinking about this?
Are you thinking about it like a skill, or something you are supposed to just intuitively grasp or be, because you can understand it?
2. Do I have a clear framework, clear how-to steps?
3. Am I doing those steps?
With enough consistency and time that one should reasonably expect it to have gone from an intellectual understanding to part of their being.
It’s OK if you don’t get it yet. The odds are that you haven’t been given a clear road map, haven’t had enough time or training with it yet, or both!
Like anything else, it is a process, and wherever you are with it is OK. You can improve, if you choose to 🙂