There is a great metaphor for spiritual development: the planting and harvesting of crop. A field is tilled and cleared of weeds, seeds are planted, water and warmth spark germination, and sunshine grows the seedling into a mature plant.
We begin as seeds, having the potential to become only what is within our nature to become. A grape seed grows only into a grape vine, though the exact shape of the vine varies from plant to plant. Likewise, we grow only into what is in accordance with our destiny, what has been within us since conception as unmanifest potential, but freewill uniquely shapes the path we take in manifesting this potential.
The field represents our field of consciousness, and the soil represents our soul. Just as the uncultivated soil is overgrown with weeds, so is the uncultivated soul overrun by social programming and biological/mechanical impulses. For the soul to flower, these programs and impulses must be put under control. Unfortunately many seekers on the path get stuck at this point, forever pulling weeds and never planting seeds, puzzled as to why the field remains barren.
Only within the soil can a seed germinate. Likewise, only when we recognized something within us that is of potentially greater value than anything outside us do we set foot on the path to awakening. Some people grasp for external means to enlightenment and never internalize the ideas they superficially consume, ideas much like seeds roasted and eaten by the bagful instead of planted with patience until they bear perennial fruit.
Truth waters the soul. Positive emotions warm the soul. Together, awareness and positivity provide the catalyst and energy for the soul to blossom. People who hang on to bitterness, negativity, hatred, depression, contempt, arrogance, and vengeance breathe iced air into their souls. Even if one waters the soil with truth, without a positive attitude the soil will become hardened with ice, the seeds froze dormant. When the season turns and the light of recognition warms the soil, then progress resumes.
Once the seed breaks ground, it reaches for the sun and grows tall; the seedling yearns to achieve its matured form. The stronger we yearn to emulate our perfected state, the more perfect our path toward perfection, the more complete our path toward completion, and the more fulfilling our path toward fulfillment.
To summarize, spiritual growth requires that we: