In present times people go by rituals unmindful of the fact that spirituality can never be indulged in an institution even if it is an ashram. To learn anything spiritually indulgence in contemplation (chintan) is an absolute must. There is no other shortcut method of indulging in spirituality to reach state of self realization.
Contemplation (chintan) is definitely difficult in practice, prime reason why in the last about 150 years amongst 7 billion people existing world over only Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Maharshi Ramana successfully indulged in contemplation (chintan) to reach state of self realization, god realization. Bookish knowledge also played no role in path of spirituality.
No matter how many times we go to an ashram or how many years we lived there, nothing in field of spirituality can be learnt that way. If we are serious about spirituality, self realization then we must definitely master delicate art of contemplation at the earliest.
I just do not know how but at six years of age I had absolute mastery on path of contemplation. Maybe everything flowed from last manifestation. So much so that I could distinctly hear promptings of Lord Krishna coming from within my heart all the time! Allegorically Lord Krishna is the soul atman, spirit (also called Prana) existing in our heart.
Initially contemplation seems difficult but practicing patience, persistence and perseverance of the highest order one can slowly master art of contemplation.
Contemplation is necessitated to indulge in scriptures. The sacred text contained in scriptures cannot be understood literally. To reach the hidden underlying meaning one has to indulge in jnana yoga (path of absolute wisdom). Darkness of ignorance can be demolished only by indulgence in jnana yoga. And practice of jnana yoga demands indulgence in contemplation.
Remaining wherever we were, without going to an ashram we can indulge in spirituality to reach state of self realization. If spiritual teachers, so-called preachers of present times preached otherwise then it is for gullible public to distinguish right from wrong, false from truth! Exercising free will, power of discrimination we can easily follow path of truth and only truth all the time.