There is a curious paradox in spiritual practice.
On the one hand, awakening and progress in consciousness happens through grace, through the hand of the Divine. Awakening isn’t an experience or something a person does or has – it’s an awakening from the person. There is nothing we can do directly to make it happen.
And yet, we are not separate from the Divine. The Divine moves though us to prepare the way and organize circumstances that allow grace to happen. This shows up as the opportunity for good practices, teachers, books, and so forth.
As the renowned sage Vasishtha said, all arises from self-effort.
Effort doesn’t mean force or aggression here. It means focus and application. Simple habits like establishing a regular meditation practice, for example.
Your results are a direct reflection of your application. To get results we have to act. Skillful action leads to good results. Good techniques lead to good progress. This is a very simple principle from the field of life.
Just consider music awards. The “best new musician” has been practicing and playing for years.
Another related principle is called tapas. This means warming, actions that warm things up to create more flow and opening. We act towards a goal, for example. Nature can support us more easily if we are moving towards. We energize cooperation.
From this we can understand that practices don’t create enlightenment. But good practices warm the ground on which awakening happens. They make grace more prone to arise.