The first steps are not ones we typically think of; therefore, they can only be understood from a perspective of the deepest understanding of human nature. Having nothing to do with being nice, being compassionate, doing good works or feeding the poor, they involve something more subtle; which is transcending our common reactions to life.
This first steps are not easy ones; otherwise, we would all be saints! What makes them challenging is that they must be taken to heart because they do not merely involve intellectual or academic understanding. One must not merely read about the sun or look at pictures of the sun, but actually feel its heat. The discovery must be made in that place deep inside where all things good and bad come together. This place, this heart place, is where transformations take place. The heart is different from the brain in that it contains the fruit of what we have been in the past, not just the files. The heart is a seedbed for what we sow now; a place of reckoning, and where we reap the truth of what we are.
Working from this center, the soon-to-be saint inclines away from darkness and toward the brightness of his or her heart, a brightness that involves truth, which is the opposite of delusion. So the prospective saint works toward that which is true. What is true has no counterpart; it is either true or not true. To be true, something has to be unchanging. Whatever changes cannot be true. If something changes once we point our finger at it and proclaim that it is true, then we were incorrect when we proclaimed it as truth.
The first step is achieved when the saint looks at himself or herself and cannot find a permanent entity there; they cannot find a permanent self. Therefore, when they look at another, there is no longer a sense of themselves present, only the plight of other is felt as separation dissolves. This results in compassion, and is the first sign of a developing saint - no self - or no belief in a permanent personality.
The second step is an intuitive understanding of commandments and religious guidelines. Saints do not follow commandments and religious guidelines consciously as we do, those of us who have no desire to become saints do and choose to remain within the confines and influences of the world. Those choosing to remain in the world must trip and fall over pesky commandments endlessly as they get in our way while we make our way through our personal gauntlets of illusion.
When the commandments and guidelines aren't naturally flowing from one's center, which is the heart place, then the commandments are merely followed by the brain center. This means that either the brain center will follow them or not, as it wishes, and as it fulfills its prime obligation to the illusions of the world. Then there is no truth, no surety regarding how purely the precepts will be followed. On the other hand, when the commandments come from the saint's heart center, there is never a question - their actions follow the commandments intuitively, unerringly.
The third step is that she or he will have absolutely no doubt about turning their back on the world and giving themselves to something greater. Their life is set; there is no going back or having second thoughts; the die has been cast. And the developing saint knows that it has been cast, completely, in his or her heart.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com - His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com