The dualistic self is not a pleasant experience. While the higher self, the Nefesh Elokit, strives to grow, improve and adopt compassion as its norm, the ego self, Nefesh Behamit, seeks self-indulgent behaviour and pleasurable titillation. This is the challenge of "right knowing" and "right feeling" — the processes of sechel and middot as Kabbalah explains.

All of us need to set aside time, protected and expansive, to train our consciousness to flow through our higher self. Such personal retreats are a sine qua non for the spiritual "mover" - the person who dismisses self-satisfaction and smugness and prefers spiritual motion. Some people retreat formally each year or even twice a year. Others set aside a monthly half-day in their homes, but removed from phone, computer, people and "busy-ness"

The Jewish spiritual pathway of Chassidism demands even more. It asks each of us to designate time each and every morning to engage in this process. That time is poorly defined as "prayer". The word "prayer" is an antiquated English term, a Shakespearean-like request or entreaty. The Hebrew word, teffilah, has quite a different connotation. The word is an amalgam of introspection and ego-abnegation. The time set aside for this activity is sacred and elevated, because this is the time when the inner duality seeks reconciliation. The higher-self asserts itself while the lower-self is "broken in", like a wild horse, becoming a valuable servant of higher consciousness. A physical body that is pure of intention and emotionally wise can well serve the spiritual world of ideals, aspirations, and mastery.

That is why the daily period of teffilah is referred to by the masters as the time for "waging war". The truer and higher self, Nefesh Elokit, literally wages war against the Nefesh Behamit — our temptations and poor habits. To fight this inner battle successfully the spiritual aspirant has to be fully aware of his/her shortcomings. This requires a clear and courageous scanning of the communication and behaviour patters. In the process it has to subdue and convert the strong pulls and tugs of mundane pleasure and self-seeking reverie. The "monkey-mind", forever restless and antic-ridden, has to strive for focus. The emotions' infatuation with the experiential have to be redirected into energetic expressions of wisdom and other-centeredness.

This is a tall order for a daily regime. Yet this is what Chassidic teachings prescribe. Waging this daily war is therefore much enhanced by strategy. One day a person could work on eradicating or enhancing a particular thought pattern. Another day the effort could be directed to neutralising the emotion of fear through faith development exercises, and so on.

The purpose of this inner battle is not to conquer and eliminate the "enemy" — the lower-self. It is to tame and use it in the service of our higher attributes. It is not a matter of creating states of non-thinking and non-feeling. Strong emotions are desirable and fulfilling, but the "horse" has to be taught to respond to the directions of its master. Passion is dualistic and can either hurt and injure self and other, or become the very drive needed to overcome challenge and create inner unity.

Daily effort of this kind, through teffilah, need not be extensive or time consuming. The important factor is daily continuity and re-enforcement. Winning small daily battles over a year achieves far more than waging periodic battles, but losing the war.


MASTERY: Take one week to experiment with teffilah. Prepare daily for five minutes by reviewing one of the prayers, but creatively finding personal relevance in some phrase or theme. Use that theme as a "surf-board" to negotiate the waves of introspection during the prayer period. Allow it to become a focus and thereby give a flavour to the time you spend with yourself daily.

MEDITATION: Read audibly one of the Teffila paragraphs to yourself. Select a phrase or word that resonates with you. Allow it focus your heart and mind for a few minutes or longer in a state of quiet and relaxation. Allow it to grow and become a beacon for your sou, allowing to assume a personal meaning to you. Then re-read the Teffila, this time allowing it to soak up the spiritual ambience created through the focus on your word or phrase. Give yourself some time to allow the result to flow through you embedding change and progress..

Follow-up resources: Talking to G‑d (audio); Activating Your Higher Self (audio); available at Rabbi Wolf's Website (see link below)