St. Teresa of Avila one of the greatest mystics in the Catholic Church left us a profound treasure of spiritual heritage regarding the ways to grow in the spiritual life. For those whom Teresa considered beginners she always warned them about the necessity to grow in prayer and self-knowledge. St. Teresa likens the prayer life to tending a garden. The garden represents the heart, planted by the Lord but tended by us. Service for the Master is a great honour and delight. He walks there often and delights in the flowers which symbolize our developing virtues. Developing our prayer life is not easy, and Teresa acknowledges that the beginning stages require some hard labour, which she likens to watering a garden by drawing buckets from a well. We need to train ourselves in the ways of prayer but, just as in any discipline, rewards are sure to follow as we build upon sound instruction. With growth the required labour progressively lessens until, in the highest form of prayer, God pours out blessings as the rain falls from heaven, requiring no effort at all from the gardener.
Regarding self-knowledge she speaks about the need for humility in the First Mansion of the Interior Castle, Chapter 2, she says "(First Mansion, Chapter 2): "I do not know whether I have put this clearly; self-knowledge is of such consequence that I would not have you careless of it, though you may be lifted to heaven in prayer, because while on earth nothing is more needful than humility. Therefore, I repeat, not only a good way, but the best of all ways, is to endeavour to enter first by the room where humility is practised, which is far better than at once rushing on to the others. This is the right road;—if we know how easy and safe it is to walk by it, why ask for wings with which to fly? Let us rather try to learn how to advance quickly. I believe we shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavouring to know God, for, beholding His greatness we are struck by our own baseness, His purity shows our foulness, and by meditating on His humility we find how very far we are from being humble."