Rabbi David Aaron is recognized worldwide as an expert on the Kabbalah and is the best-selling author of: Seeing God: Ten Life Changing Lessons of the Kabbalah; Endless Light : The Ancient Path of Kabbalah and The Secret Life of God: Discovering the Divine within You
Common sense tells us that if you are going to become anything – say you want to become a lawyer – there is a right way of going about that and a wrong way. If you don’t first decide that this is what you want to be, and set it as your goal, and then have a plan – taking certain courses in college, applying to law school, etc. — the end result will never happen.
It is not a willy-nilly process. There is a definite structure to growth and accomplishment. There is a structure to any act of metamorphosis or creation. And the structure we are going to examine here, they even teach in business school, but I got it from the Kabbalah.
Before we get to the fine points, let’s examine how painters paint. Of course, there is a structure to the act of painting. The first thing that is causing it to happen is the will of the painters – they want to do this. And the will drives the entire process. Everything takes will – to lift up one’s hand, to put paint on canvas, etc. The last part of the whole process is the actual activity. But in between the will to do and the actual act of doing, there are layers of process.
Painters have to have a goal – a certain image, a certain vision, they want to express. For example, they may want to express love, but how? That brings us to their plan — they will express love by painting a mother cuddling a child. And then, painters must abide by certain rules of methodology – so they have a method of painting. And then, and only then, the last layer of the process is the particular activity itself.
So, the Kabbalah tells us that this is the process of all growth as well. First, you must have the will to move forward on the road to improvement; second, you must have a goal in mind; third, you must have a plan; fourth, the plan determines the appropriate method or principles of organization; and finally, there is the particular activity. That is the structure of our lives. That’s the structure of a dynamic life of growth.
In your life, first you must get in touch with your will, which is the most powerful part of yourself. If you lose your will (or give up your will to another), then everything falls apart, because it is your root energy, your driving current. Our entire life process is powered by our will. In fact, the Kabbalah says your will is really a spark of God’s will. It is our life force. The will for life is life itself, and what you want determines the quality of your life.
Therefore, the next step is to know what you want out of life. Many people want something, but they don’t know what that something is. So, you have to answer the question: What is my goal? My ideal life? Happiness? Freedom? Security?
Once you have your goal – say, it’s security – knowing that certainly won’t be enough, because then you’ll have to have a much more particular image of that goal. Some people may say their image of security is a happy and stable marriage; others may say it’s money; and even others will say it’s a teddy bear (and, hopefully, that person is 5 years old). If your goal is security, you need to decide how to achieve that security, and that becomes your formula, your plan for achieving security.
Now you have the plan that reflects that goal, which, as I said earlier, fulfills your will. But once you have the will, the goal and the plan, then you need a method for achieving your goal – certain guidelines, rules or principles.
For example, take supervisors in a factory, whose job is to get the work done. Supervisors have to guide their workers. With one worker, the best approach might be to be really tough: “Hey, get a move on, what’s with you.” And with another worker, supervisors might have to be sweet and nice. So, an appropriate method or principles of organization are necessary. And the principles guide the ultimate activity.
You have to make sure that your activity is coordinated with your principles, because there are times when we do things that are not aligned with our inner principles, and thereby we feel very fragmented. We lose a lot of energy; we lose a lot of direction; we become very frustrated. And it’s all because what we are doing is in no way coordinated with our principles.
A happy life is all about integration. It takes making sure that your particular activity is coordinated with your principles. If you innately think that one of the fundamental principles of life is kindness and you do something cruel, then you are betraying yourself, you are fragmenting yourself, and you are ultimately destroying yourself. You will not be happy – that’s guaranteed.
If, in fact, what is going on in a given situation is that the principle that should be guiding your actions is justice, but you go ahead and behave unjustly, then you are fragmenting yourself. Again, you will not be happy. So therefore, the principles should be guiding and directing all your activities, and your activities should be synchronized to your principles. But that’s not enough – because your principles must be coordinated with your plan.
If your principles are inappropriate to what you’re really trying to accomplish, it won’t work, either. For example, you may be dedicated to justice, but if you’re trying to have a warm relationship with your son, then dispensing justice or being judgmental may not be helping you to achieve that warm relationship. It’s the wrong principle to apply for this situation.
If you can get it together – if your particular activity is coordinated and synchronized with your principles, and your principles are in sync with your plan, which reflects your goal, which fulfills your will – you win the game of life.
But it’s not that easy. Why? Because maybe within yourself, you are integrated — because we have defined what it means to live with integrity – but what if your individual life is not in coordination with the community?
In other words, maybe this is working for you as an individual — and your behavior is, in fact, completely coordinated with your principles. Your principle is “Thou shalt murder,” and you do murder, and you feel good about that, because you are being true to yourself, and your goal is to control the world, and so you are moving right along. But, in the communal sense, your particular system is not in harmony with the communal principles of life, the communal plan, the communal goal, the communal will.
But let’s say you live in Nazi Germany in 1939, and you are in sync with your community and your community is really happy, because its principle is “Thou Shalt Murder and Take Over the World” and it is, in fact, doing its best to make that happen. But your community might be out of sync with the world, and if the world were to be happy with that, it is out of sync with the universal context of us all – God.
Therein lies the path of happiness – figuring out how my particular activity synchronizes with my principles, my principles with the plan, the plan with the goal, the goal with my will – but also how my life jives with God’s principles, plan, goal and will. Happiness is attuning my life to God’s purpose.