There are 3 things you need to make spiritual progress in this world...
1. A Teacher
The study of Kabbalah does not just include work in the books. Physical actions for the benefit of the group, organizing lectures and Kabbalah study groups are more beneficial than the study itself. Serving the teacher is also more beneficial than studying with him. In his "Speech for the Completion of The Zohar," Rav Yehuda Ashlag quotes the following saying of ancient Kabbalist sages: "Make for yourself a rav and buy yourself a friend."
In other words, choose a person whom you think is important and make that person your teacher. Then, try to please him or her. Your teacher is very important to you. By pleasing your teacher, you'll get used to doing for others, and by the force of habit you'll be able to do the same for the Creator. By being spiritually close to your teacher, you'll receive the degree by which the teacher appreciates the Creator. That will give you a chance to do at least something for the Creator, and enter the spiritual world this way. At the same time, you will acquire the sensation of the greatness of the Creator and you'll be able to advance to complete adhesion with Him.
Observing your teacher's requests with the aim to fulfill them allows you to attain spiritual resemblance with them. You'll be able to receive their thoughts and knowledge, and above all, attain their love and attraction for the Creator, which would give you the ability to develop and progress spiritually. However, studying with your teacher is always motivated by the desire to attain personal knowledge for yourself. As a result, the study does not bring with it spiritual nearness to the Creator. In other words, by doing things for the teacher, you attain their thoughts and by studying you will attain only their words.
You can only attain their thoughts if the motivation to serve the teacher stems from the desire to please the teacher, and not yourself. In the opposite situation, when our motivation is our desire to serve for self-gratification, studying is the goal and becomes more important than serving the teacher.
2. A Group Environment
If the environment around us does not praise the glory of the Creator, i.e. the exaltedness of the quality of love and bestowal, we will never be able to attain a spiritual degree. Therefore, it is always recommended that we as students regard ourselves as the lowest (spiritually) compared to our group. This enables the student to adopt the state of mind of the collective. Our environment is necessary to attain the purpose of creation, which is why you should "buy yourself a friend."
Why do we study in a group? This enables us to utilize a very special means in Kabbalah. Studying the material with others of the same intent bonds us to the group's desire. This bonding allows us to humble ourselves with respect, creating an entirely different kind of acceleration. A person who studies within a group can actually reach spiritual levels after only a few hours, while it might have taken them years of study on their own.
So we actually have two ways to accelerate the attainment of our goal. First is the study of Kabbalah, which moves our efforts towards our goal from a subconscious process to a conscious process. Then, we have the group, which dramatically accelerates the conscious process. Using such a combined technique, we can spiritually advance literally thou- sands of times faster than we could by taking the unconscious route.
When we study to attain spirituality, time is of crucial importance, as we must first grow accustomed to spiritual concepts and definitions, and then live in them. By "time," we mean that changes occur in us consistently and at a great speed. We don't feel them; in fact, we may feel as though nothing is happening. Only afterwards do we suddenly and very profoundly realize all the changes that have occurred.
This is a result of those little inner changes that we do not feel. Our sensitivity threshold is very high and only from a certain degree onward do we begin to feel those changes. Everything that goes through us leaves its mark on our souls, and after some time the change suddenly appears. Therefore, the most important thing to do is to read, all the time, no matter how much of the text we absorb.
There are texts that must be read and reread according to the general curriculum, and there are texts that one should read only when in the mood. Such are letters or articles about the feeling of the spiritual. It is said that when we ascend, when we feel close to the material, it is good to read just the things that touch our feelings; i.e., where understanding will come through our hearts. The problem in attaining the spiritual is that we do not have the correct senses to do so. The spiritual can be acquired slowly and gradually when the heart allows it. Thus, there is a time to use the brain, and there is a time to use the heart.
Sometimes when we simply hold a book of Kabbalah, we immediately get all sorts of disturbances that "crawl" into our minds, until we just want to drop our studies. But as soon as we are sent pain from above, we should take a Kabbalah book in our hand and then we will have no problem focusing on its words.
If we use these three basic tools, the teacher, the group and the authentic books according to our maximal ability, we will safely remain on the path and advance spiritually as fast as possible.
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