The Paradox Of Imagination And Reaching The Powerful Trance State – A Primer On Kavanot

One of the big questions I had when I started learning Kabbalah was “Am I imagining things or am I really affecting the spiritual worlds”?

In his introduction to Sha’ar HaKavanot, Rav Chaim Vital explains that one who is mekaven is effectively causing these Tikkunim in the Spiritual Worlds. How so?

A Jew is connected to the 4 Spiritual Worlds through his Nefesh (Assiyah), Ruach (Yetzirah), Neshama (Beriyah) and Chaya (Atzilut). When he has the proper intention, the part of his soul that is associated with that specific World is moved to bring about the desired effect.

It’s important to keep in mind that the soul is essentially one’s consciousness. This cannot be emphasized enough.

And this is one of the teachings that most changed my perception because it brings tangibility to an often undefined concept, the soul. More than that, knowing this effectively opens our minds to understand where we stand, a yardstick. How is your soul? On a simple level, that’s your Nefesh, during normal states of consciousness.

We can then see how prophets, Tannaim and Amoraim were great meditators and reached their exalted spiritual level through meditating and expanding their minds. Ruach HaKodesh is then a very elevated state of consciousness that can be opened and achieved with proper training. And this is achieved through the so-called “trance state”. More on this in another post.

But a question then arises: how can I know whether I’m really causing the rectifications that I will, or whether I’m simply imagining things?

Chaim mystical forest with the sun shining in the clouds magica 4fae3bf6 3b18 4e1f 9539 490997ce8a24

There are two modes of thinking called “Machshava” and “Da’at”

The word that’s the hype all over the world is “mindfulness”, as opposed to “monkey mind”. With “mindfulness”, which is actually using one’s “da’at” (consciousness), is an active mode of the mind where actual, conscious effort is exerted.

On the other hand, Machshava is the incessant flow of thoughts that seem to bombard us and have no line of reason. Again, this is called “monkey mind”, which could be considered a state of “unconsciousness”.

So the question, which is crucial to understanding meditation should be better reframed: are you passively imagining or actively imagining?

Because actively imagining and using your da’at is real kavanah.

On the other hand, passively letting your mind dictate your thoughts is not.

I believe this distinction is made by Rav Mordechai Sharabi, but I need to verify it.

This is the basis for all Kavanot and Yichudim. It’s also the basis for powerful prayer, when you are conscious of what you are doing. Da’at/mindfulness is probably the single most important Middah to be acquired. The capacity to properly use one’s mind is absolutely crucial for going through life’s challenges and coming out well.

There’s a lot more to discuss about Da’at, mindfulness and Kavanot.

Here are a few exercises to train your da’at / mindfulness

In all these exercises, sit comfortably on a chair with the arms resting properly and the head straight. You shouldn’t stress the muscles, but try to find a good position where you can relax. Then take a few minutes to clear (or try to clear) your mind. This can be difficult if you haven’t trained before.

  1. Try to keep your mind clear of any thoughts for as long as you can
  2. If this is too difficult, you can meditate by gazing at a candle or paying attention to your breath.
  3. You can even count from 30 to 1 (as I often do) in order to keep a grasp of your da’at and not lose it. This is a great technique to fall asleep if you have insomnia and helps me a lot.

The important part is to keep it free of all foreign thoughts. Since you are actively using your imagination to count or perceive color or scents, it’s not considered a foreign thought. Try not to tense your head or body when doing so.

This might sound silly and easy but I assure you: it’s not. With proper training, you can reach the so-called “trance state” in which your mind is fused and you feel much more grounded.

Trance state.

There’s a powerful feeling of trance achieved when you can keep your mind in control for long enough. The body relaxes and some experts posit that there’s an increased neural connection between the left analytical side of the brain and the right creative side. Not surprisingly, Da’at rests between Chokhmah (the creative part) and Binah (the analytical) part in the Tree of Life diagram. When this happens a person can feel energized and a plethora of health benefits can be received.

Again, this might take time until it becomes natural (as everything in life), but it’s well worth it.

Powerful minds, along with many other aspects, make powerful prayers. A mind that is calm, joyous, centered, energized can do a lot more in the spiritual worlds than one that’s full of junk thoughts, tired, sad, and weak.

A strong mind will also enable you to understand the Talmud (as it did for me), and can help us live much better lives. This is, after all, what all Tzadikim did throughout the ages.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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