Understanding is all. But this is not an intellectual understanding. The intellect doesn't go deep enough. The understanding has to be experienced at gut level. It's a primal experience.
If you've every had an experience of ecstasy, a mystical unitive experience, you know the authority with which it comes. That's the kind of understanding that is spoken of here. It's beyond the intellect, prior to intellect, not in it.
But understanding isn't ecstatic, day in and day out. It's just understanding. Bernadette Roberts reports how when one has profound ecstatic experiences, the resulting changes become one's normal day to day experience. They loose their feeling of uniqueness, of differentness. In fact, a change, such as peace, may become so normal that only other people notice it.
Understanding is profound and does affect one's life, but the change is incorporated and is not felt as something special.
It does no good to try and not be the doer. It does no good to try and stop thinking. These are results, not a prescription. When there is understanding, then thinking quiets down. It results from understanding, not trying to stop thinking. It does no good to try and stop being the doer of actions. The very trying itself, is the doer.
However, there is a place for trying, for striving, because as long as there is a seeker, there will be effort. Effort will be there as long as there is a perceived, sensed, separate "I." For just as long as you feel choice, free will, and know yourself as a separate person, you will not escape effort. Until that "I' drops, or slides into the background as a phantom, effort remains.
What is being pointed to, is that many of the spiritual methods are teaching results, which are effects, which are not the path.
Since the seeker can't stop trying, the seeker at least deserves to know what might have the possibility of being the most productive towards understanding.
Understanding is more likely to come from Awareness, which is prior to consciousness. Consciousness consists of the objects, thoughts, perceptions, one is aware of. So anything one thinks, judges, conceives of, appears in Awareness. So, try and step behind consciousness of this and that, to the field in which they appear, Awareness.
Contemplation is a great and natural process that can be harnessed. Hawkins states that any valid spiritual truth can be used as a tool. For example, a single sharp knife can cut a watermelon, shape a Buddha, cut your bread and spread your butter.
Your effort will be rewarded by your intent and your earnestness. This one was never a meditator. This one was a contemplative. The advantage of contemplation is that it can be done all day, while at work or at play. It doesn't require a quiet place, a certain posture, a particular practice.
We all contemplate, but we do it unconsciously. We contemplate the neighbor's wife, the boss's poor hygiene, or how well we're doing in our political positioning within our company. Just change what you contemplate! As James Allen said, "Think on These Things," spiritual truths. Pick one and stay conscious of it.
You can't think about two things at once, so if you choose to contemplate on the higher things, rather than lower things, you won't have to fight the lower, they just won't have room.
If you can't understand how all is One, contemplate that. If you can't understand that "The observer is the observed," contemplate that. If you can't "Love your neighbor as yourself," contemplate that.
Stay aware of every position you take. Stay aware of every feeling of judgment you have. Stay aware of every time you feel defensive. Ask yourself, "Who am I defending?"
This is simple, and with earnestness of intent, will produce results. Then you can ponder, "Where did my thinking go," Where did my stress go?" Then you will be in understanding.