What is the ikar kavanah that one should have when making a bracha?
The answer is “Atah Hashem.” That’s number one. You’re not just saying a bracha. You’re talking to somebody. The Mesillas Yisharim says that it’s not easy to gain that attitude and to impress on your mind that somebody is actually listening. But when you put effort into it – when you keep on trying – after a while it’s possible to gain that attitude that Hashem is right in front of you and is listening. “Ki atah shomei’ah” – You are listening to “amchah Yisroel, bi’rachamim.” Yes, you are listening. You are really listening. The truth is that He is listening – no question about it – but you have to work on gaining that true attitude. Don’t wait for it to come by itself. And therefore, that’s the first and most important attitude required for making a bracha. Not the peirush hamilos, but the true attitude of “Atah Hashem” – “You Hashem”. He is listening. I am talking to You, Hashem.
And the second important kavanah is to thank Hashem. I am thanking you Hashem. Not just to know what you are saying but to actually feel a debt of gratitude to Hashem. Thank Hashem for the favors that He has bestowed on you. Let’s say you’re saying “poi’kei’ach ivrim.” You open the eyes of the blind. Oh, what a favor that is! Suppose Hashem didn’t give you the ability to see. What a tragedy, chalilah, that would be. To live a life in total darkness. What a pity! What a pity that would be. So you are filled with happiness that you can see and you feel a debt of gratitude to Hashem.
And therefore once more: The first thing that you must work on is gaining the attitude that you are speaking directly to Hashem and that He is listening. And the second thing is to actually feel that you are thanking Him and to appreciate what you are thanking Him for.
Don’t make a bracha just to be yoitzei. It’s better than nothing. But not much better.