There are certain things, though, that are sure to block abstinence, and they mainly come down to your surroundings and circle of friends.
It’s simply a fact that “you’ll never succeed at being pious and abstinent” Ramchal says “if you’re close to people in power … (and to those) pursuing fame” and fortune, who “contribute to the emptiness” all around us. Since “it’s impossible to be around riches and elegance, and not … long for it” yourself. You’re very likely to succumb to the myriad of subtle pressures you’d face.
“Even if your yetzer harah doesn’t get the better of you” under those sorts of circumstances, “you’d still find yourself in the midst of a great battle” within, Ramchal warns, with one part pulling you one way and the other pulling the other way, “and you’d wind up in danger” as you flounder about in a sea of indecision.
“The best thing to do” Ramchal counsels, “is to practice seclusion” to avoid the possible threats. It could be a little too extreme to be sure (which Ramchal will address below in part), but the fact remains that “by removing worldly things from your eyes (that way) you’ll remove the lust for them from your heart”.
In fact some great and holy individuals in the past set out to do just that. Though he was a king and very much needed to be of-the-world, David nevertheless said wistfully, “If only I could be given the wings of a dove! I would just fly away and dwell somewhere else. I would go far away; I would lodge in the desert” (Psalms 55:7-8). And we’re told in fact that the prophets Elijah and Elisha “set aside places in the mountains to be alone in”, as did others of their ilk, since “they all found solitude to be the most propitious means to acquire wholeness and abstinence”.
Addressing the issue of possibly going too far and too quickly in this, Ramchal warns that “you’d have to be careful … not to leap to the opposite extreme” and becoming less worldly “in one fell swoop”. Do this slowly he warns, “settling into one aspect of it today, and another tomorrow until you accustom yourself to it”. In fact, that’s true whether it comes to doing without extra food or comforts, or all the other things we’d touched upon in this work!