A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth
The sages explain that whenever the Torah requires us to "enter" something new–whether it be a new land or a higher level of perception–we must do so with our entire being. Leaving one foot out the door is not really entering. Even if our body is physically in the new realm, as long as our mind-set remains outside, we haven’t fully entered into a new state of consciousness.
So it is with growth and change. We can seem to experience the excitement of initiation, being inspired to change our life to accommodate new truths and insights. We can even proceed to make adjustments in our lifestyle and personality which may seem to be major, but which in fact are quite superficial. Then comes the rude awakening–we are shocked to find that we have not really been initiated and have not fully entered our newly-envisioned way of being. When this happens, the underlying problem is our lack of commitment.
For example, a mother could read a new book on parenting, and be inspired by a new strategy for teaching her children without threatening or raising her voice. She tries it a few times and it actually seems to work. Yet at the point that something doesn’t go quite right, she gets frustrated, loses control, and ends up right back where she started. This reflects the ambivalence at the levels of self which were not touched by the initiation and do not share a common cause with its goals. These levels of self remain unmoved and unmotivated, identifying with the old, familiar, and habitual ways of dealing with the situation. In other words, the initiation was not complete, and therefore the subsequent attempt at integration was unsuccessful.
The process of entering new levels of awareness and visions of change demands the shedding of all previous assumptions, expectations, and habits of behavior (*1). This clearing out of the old is always a prerequisite to entering a new level of being. The imaginary security of wanting to remain who we are now is a barrier to who we could be.
(*1) This is really a form of teshuvah (or “return to God”). The parallel between teshuvah and entering the Land of Israel is further supported by the fact that teshuvah, from the root word meaning “return,” occurs in the Bible most frequently in relation to the Jewish peoples’ return to the Land of Israel. This teaches that entering the Land of Israel (aliyah) in its deepest sense is the ultimate manifestation of return to God (teshuvah), it being the physical and spiritual entry into an entirely new state of being.