Step 1: Acquire Some Faith
Our sense of hearing is called “faith,” because if we wish to accept what we hear as true, we must believe what we have heard. Eyesight is called “knowledge,” for we do not have to take anything on trust, but can see for ourselves. However, until we have received altruistic qualities from Above, we are unable to see, since whatever we see, we perceive with our egoistic senses.
This makes it all the more difficult for us to break away from egoism. Therefore, at first we must walk blindly, while conquering what our egos tell us to do. Then, having acquired faith, we will start acquiring higher knowledge.
In order to replace our egoism with altruism, and our reason with faith, we must truly appreciate the greatness and grandeur of the spiritual, as compared to our pitiful, material, temporary existence. We must realize how insignificant it is to serve ourselves compared to serving the Creator.
Step 2: Build Your Spiritual Foundation
There are four aspects of a desire to receive: inanimate, organic, animate and speaking.
The aspect of inanimate nature represents completeness. The sense of perfection originates in the Surrounding Light coming from afar, and this distant Light shines on those of our world, even though the qualities of this world are opposite to those of the Creator.
In the same way, one who is spiritually inanimate maintains one’s existence as is. This individual has the same desires as others who are similar. This person is incapable and unwilling to make any spiritual effort of his own.
Just as the organic world is built upon the foundation of inanimate nature, the spiritual world also requires a prior inanimate base. A person has no other choice but to begin with the inanimate level.
However, those who wish to ascend from the spiritually inanimate level must find a new reason to replace what previously motivated them to commit their actions: force of habit, upbringing, and environment.
A person who wants to grow further, to come alive spiritually, to make spiritual strides independently, refuses to blindly follow others, but moves forward irrespective of the opinion of others, or the habits or education of society.
Step 3: Rise Above Self-Gratification
This decision to stop performing mechanical acts gives rise to the root of a new, organic spiritual state. Just as a seed must first decompose in the soil in order to grow, so, too, must a person cease to feel any spiritual life among the inanimate masses. Instead, an inanimate life should be perceived as death. This sensation will in itself constitute a prayer for change.
In order to become organic and capable of individual spiritual growth, we must perform several kinds of work on ourselves, starting with “tilling” the inanimate soil. Spiritual progress can be made only by counteracting our desires for self-gratification.
Therefore, if we aspire to advance toward the Creator, we must regularly check our own desires and decide which pleasures we can accept. Since the Creator wishes to please His creations, we must accept certain pleasures.
However, we must exclude all pleasures that are not for the sake of the Creator. In the language of Kabbalah, this can be described in the following way: Our willpower, a screen located in the mind (Peh de Rosh), calculates the amount of pleasure that we can experience in order to bring joy to the Creator, and in accordance with our exact amount of love for Him. We can experience precisely this amount. However, any other amount of pleasure we experience that is not meant for the sake of the Creator is not out of fear of upsetting the Creator.
Step 4: Aim a Sincere Prayer
A prayer is not what our lips say mechanically, but what the whole body and reason desire.
Thus it is said that “a prayer is the work of the heart,” meaning that the heart is in absolute agreement with what the lips are saying.
Only if we work with the entire body will we receive a response from it, signifying that not a single organ desires to rid itself of egoism or to ask the Creator for help in this endeavor. Only then will we be able to direct a sincere prayer to the Creator, asking for redemption from our spiritual exile.
We must strive to make the reason for an act correspond to the actual mechanical act of carrying out the Creator’s Will. Just as the body acts as a robot, carrying out the Creator’s Will without understanding the reason for it, or without seeing any immediate benefit from it, so must the reason for observing His Will be “because such is the Will of the Creator.”
There is an easy way to check the motivation behind an individual’s act. If it is “for the sake of the Creator,” then a person’s body is incapable of making even the slightest movement. Yet, if it is for one’s own benefit in this or the world to come, then the more one thinks of one’s reward, the more energy is expended for taking action.
All the above makes it clear that it is our motivation (kavana) that determines the quality of our acts. An increase in the number of our acts does not necessarily improve their quality. All that happens occurs under the influence of upper spiritual forces. And we, down here in our world, have been observing the cause-and-effect relationship of spiritual forces for centuries.