Meditations II

Clearing the Mind Meditations
Every meditation should include some method of mind clearing. Almost all of the benefits of meditation can obtained from just clearing the mind. Most of the time our mental attention is directed outwards, to other people, to the outside world—to planning or thinking or judging. Our thoughts can take over our lives. Some thoughts may indeed last a lifetime, as we spend years being obsessed by the same strong desire, or beating ourselves endlessly with the same seemingly “unmanageable” fears. Clearing the mind teaches us to focus our attention on a single object without wavering.

Breath Counting Meditation
Set aside three minutes and make yourself comfortable in a quiet place. Simply count the the exhale of each breath, mentally: Inhale…on the exhale count one, Inhale…on the exhale count two, Inhale…on the exhale count three, Inhale…on the exhale count four. Then begin again, Inhale…on the exhale count one, etc.
Try to feel the physical sensation of each breath, both the inhale and the exhale, as it passes through your nose and mouth. If you find yourself thinking of anything except the feel of your breath, return your focus on the sensation of breathing.

Mindfulness is simply observing the contents of your mind—thoughts, feelings and sensations. It is so simple, yet one of the most powerful meditations you can do. Once you can find some spare time, sit quietly, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Follow the pattern of your breathing for three minutes and if your attention strays from your breath, note what is happening. Just place a label on the content of what you’re experiencing. For example, if it’s a thought, take note that it’s only a thought and watch it drift away like a cloud in the sky, leaving your mind perfectly clear.

Simple chanting
Simple chanting or “mantra” is probably the world’s most widely used meditation. Focus your attention, for three minutes, on a simple one or two syllable word like “shalom”, peace. Begin by whispering the word “shalom” to yourself. In silence, see if you can hear the sound of “shalom” in your mind. After a short while try to see in your mind the letters spelled in Hebrew or in English. However you can best do it, keep your attention focused on “shalom”. If your attention wavers, gently bring your mind back to your chant.

Spiritual Meditations
Jewish tradition offers many meditations for spiritual development. Most important are those that assist us in developing faith, the overriding principle in Judaism. It is accomplished by developing a closer relationship with God. Such faith is the backbone of all Jewish practice, without it all prayer fails to serve its purpose.

The Flame
In a darkened room about ten to fifteen inches from a lit candle, stare intently at the flame for two to three minutes. If your attention wanders bring your attention gently back to the flame. Try not to think about the candle, this exercise,  current events or personal problems. Just focus your awareness on the flame.

Focusing on the Tetragrammaton
The ineffable name of God, which may not be verbalized, can be symbolized by it’s four letters: yod, hay, vav, hay.
Together they form a picture of the wholeness of the universe, and by focusing on the four letters, otherwise known as the Tetragrammaton, in Hebrew  vuvh or in English (YHVH) we develop a closer link to the Holy One, Blessed is His Name. It’s easy to set aside three minutes to visualize the Tetragrammaton, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Cheshbon HaNefesh—Accounting of the Soul
The accounting of the soul is a technique developed by the early Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak .Just before going to bed, take three minutes, to review the events of that day. Think of where you went, with whom you spoke, what you did. Review each event to determine who hurt you and whom did you possibly hurt. To those who you may have hurt, request forgiveness from God; to those who hurt you forgive them. When your three minutes are up, check in to see if you feel differently then go to bed peacefully.

Bittul HaYesh—A meditation on Nothingness
In the next two minutes, with your eyes closed, imagine what it would be like living without the sense of sight. Then visualize your sense of  hearing, taste and smell disappearing also. Finally try to imagine what it would be like without physical sensations and the ability to think. Spend one minute trying to experience what would be left of your existence. With every bit of your life capabilities gone, you would then start to understand “Nothingness”. Each time you experience this “Nothingness”, you will enter another gate on your journey to the Divine.

Becoming grateful
Take three minutes out of your day, everyday, and think of one thing in your life for which you are truly grateful, perhaps your child, your home, your spouse, etc. Picture your object of gratification? How does it feel to you? Imagine all of the details of your object of gratitude. Concentrate on the actual feeling you have for your object, and silently declare your heartfelt thanks to God.

Healing Meditations  
Healing is based on balancing blockages that cause havoc in the mind/body continuum. Meditation plays an integral role of permitting healing to take place naturally. The body, the emotion and the mind are constantly seeking to find balance in its quest for healing. Healing is an innate response to the pressures that surround us daily.  To listen intently to all the symptoms that afflict us, in so many ways, enables healing to progress smoothly.

Experiencing Anger
In just three minutes, bring something or someone clearly into your mind that “usually makes you angry”.
What does it feel like to have an angry thought in your mind? Does your breathing feel different—faster or shallower? Do certain parts of your body get tense? Are you able to watch the angry thought rather than getting caught up with it? Simply note all the sensations, thoughts and feelings as they arise.

Relaxation Buttons
We all know how our buttons can be pushed by other people to create stress. Well, we can create a relaxation button to counteract the stress. Spend three minutes as relaxed as possible while taking slow, deep breaths. Do this exercise as often as you can and each time label it the “Relaxation Button”. The next time a stressful situation arises, press your relaxation button and go right into
the relaxed mode. Under stress, you may at first forget to press your relaxation button, but in time and with practice, you’ll get there.

Becoming compassionate
Probably the most important meditation we can do is just to spend time with ourselves in a state of compassion and forgiveness. Until we can forgive and find compassion for ourselves, we truly cannot offer it to anyone else. It sounds easy and even simplistic, but by spending three minutes a day with ourselves, feeling compassion for all of our failings and misdeeds teaches us not to be so judgmental and hard on ourselves.

Meditations with Mitzvot   
God’s commandments were handed down to us, for a variety of reasons, but one was as meditations in motion, to keep our attention fixed on God at all times. This constant vigilance on God opens us to receive His blessings. Mitzvot (plural of Mitzvah) are not, as commonly believed, good deeds as in the sense of opening a door for a handicapped person; they are moments of ordinary time to be elevated by directing our attention to God.

Hand Washing
It is a commandment to recite the appropriate blessing upon washing your hands: Boruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melch ha’olam,asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi’vanu al netilat yadaim.  Judaism has a clear concern about ritual purity which manifests itself into spiritual purity. After reciting the blessing take a couple of minutes paying attention to the sensations of the slipperiness, wetness, rinsing, and drying. Instead of devoting those few minutes to planning, worrying or daydreaming, turn the Mitzvah into a meditation.

Lighting Shabbat Candles
Every Friday night when you kindle the Shabbat candles, close your eyes and recite the blessing for kindling the Shabbat lights. Afterwards keep your eyes closed and send out love and  blessings to those at your Shabbat table. Stay focused during the three minutes of lighting and send out blessings to friends and family who are not present at the table, then send out love to all the people throughout the universe. When you have finished say “Amen”.

Loving your Neighbor
Take three minutes out of your daily activities and give your full attention to the Mitzvah “to love your neighbor as yourself “ from Leviticus 19:17. Give some quiet contemplative thought to whom you consider as neighbors. Could you expand your vision of who else could be neighbors? Think of ways you can bring each one of those people into your heart with love.

Make a blessing
Each time you sit down for a meal, take a few moments to contemplate the food before you and recite the appropriate blessing. If you don’t know the right one, try this generic blessing: Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam she’hakol niyeh bidvaro. Blessed are You, Lord our God who brings forth various kinds of food.

Meditations on the Torah         
The Rabbinic sages had always advocated contemplative study on verses of the Torah, but it had become standard practice by many of the Jewish mystics to study single, meaningful verses and meditate for extended periods of time on its meanings. They were hopeful that the hidden meaning of the verse will be revealed to them. Torah verses have very specific meanings for all who study them; they will for you too.

Meaningful verses
Check out this month’s Torah readings by clicking here which will take you the Learning page. Select this week’s Torah portion. Choose one of the key verses shown in the that parasha (weekly portion). Pick out one question in the verse you chose, and focus your attention on it completely. Let your mind concentrate on the question and when your three minutes are over, see if you can find some special meaning in the verse, just for you.

Meditations on Everyday Activities
Judaism takes place more in the everyday world, rather then in the synagogue. Ours is not a religion of asceticism, reclusivity or retreats. Jews find spirituality in everyday experiences—bathing the children, driving to work or going grocery shopping are all examples of the many faceted activities in our daily lives. It is here where we see the workings of God most clearly, in everything we see hear, taste and smell. Meditation makes us more sensitive to the wonders of God’s existence.

Conscious eating
Allow yourself three minutes before a meal to find a quiet space in your mind and gaze at the food before you. Notice its fragrance and aroma. Note what thoughts and feelings arise in the presence of the food on your plate. Quietly recite an appropriate blessing before partaking of this meal. If you don’t know the prescribed blessing, here is a generic benediction that would fit most all foods—Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings forth various kinds of food.
As you savor the first morsel, notice its taste and texture. Become aware of the physical sensations of chewing and swallowing. Be aware of the source of this food and how you can utilize its energy for the highest good.

Conscious driving
Driving is one of the most hazardous things we do each day. Yet often, when we drive our minds are lost in the past or the future, not totally paying attention to the perils of the road. We do lots of other distracting thinks like eat, talk and listen to the radio. In conscious driving, we focus our attention solely on the elements important to road safety—the road in front of us, the position of other cars, our speed, driving and road conditions. Should our thoughts wander away from safe driving, we just notice them and bring our attention back to driving.

Walking in nature
Take a walk in a park, in a wooded area or down a shady lane where you can bask in nature for a short while. Allow your self to experience whatever is going on around around you. Take note of the color of the leaves and flowers you encounter. Look up to the sky and see the earth below your feet. Pay attention to your body. Check out how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Compare how those sensations changed from the time you started the walk to until you completed it. See yourself in harmony with the natural wonders around you and understand that you are “one” with it all.

Meditation on a green apple
Place a Green shiny apple on a table in front of you. Take three deep breaths and exhale slowly, begin to gaze at the apple, exploring its shape, and roundness, its color and shininess, notice any marks or dark patches on it, notice if it has a stalk, and perhaps a bit of dried leaf attached to it, notice and explore the entire apple, even the sharp fresh smell that it has, and spend about three minutes doing this.
Now close your eyes to recall the image of the green apple, look at its shape and all of the details that you saw, if you cannot bring the image to your inner mind screen, open your eyes and again gaze at the apple. Repeat this as many times as necessary to get a clear image of the apple. You can change the object of meditation from a green apple to anything you wish, a flower, a vase, anything.

Meditations with Prayer  
The Jewish prayer book offers many opportunities for meditation. The object of any one is to develop a closer relationship with God. The nearer one gets to the Divine, the less obstacles are in the way that block you from satisfying your personal needs. These three minute prayers from the morning prayer is an abbreviated version, that should be recited with deep focus and intention. It’s a great way to get your day started.

From the morning prayers
I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion—abundant is Your faithfulness!
Modeh ani l’fanecha, melech chai v’kayam. She’hechezarta bi nishmati b’chemla—raba emunatecha

Prayer for the body
Blessed are You, our Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, who has made our bodies in wisdom, creating openings, arteries, glands, and organs marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be difficult to stand before You. Wondrous Fashioner and Sustainer of life, Source of our health and our strength, we give you thanks and praise.

Prayer for the soul
My God, the soul which You have placed within me is pure. You have created it, You will one day take it from me and restore it to me in time to come. So long as my soul is within me, I make acknowledgment before You, my God and God of all generations. Blessed are you, God who restores my soul each day that I may once again awaken.

The Amidah
The Amidah was composed by highly advanced spiritual Rabbis as to enable the maximum relationship with God. This is particularly true of the first verse, which is recited for every service including Shabbat. Rather than thinking about the words intellectually, try to feel as if the words are conveying a nonverbal message. When the text says, “God is great”, try to experience a sense of greatness. When you come across words like “mighty” or “awesome”, see if there are ways to internalize those meanings.

The Shema
When the congregation reaches the Shema, the proclamation of our faith, focus your attention on the words, “Let these matters which I command you today”. Visualize yourself being commanded by God. What do you think these “matters” are that God is talking about? Let your intuition guide you to answer the question, what does God really want of you? You should find just the right amount of time for this meditation during the silent recitation of the Shema.

Beginning Prayer

For a while, especially for beginners, try praying without a prayer book. Close your eyes for a while, listening to the music of the hazzan and the voices of the congregation. You can add body movement by gently swaying from side to side. Notice what feelings are being generated by the sound of the prayer. See if you can find something special that your silent prayer is relating to you.

Body Relaxation Meditations     
Your body is always talking to you. It says things like, “I’m tense”, “I’m tired” in a loud clear voice. Tension is always building up until one day our bodies can’t take it any more and illness results. Healing is more effective, meditation produces better results when our bodies are calm and relaxed. Daily meditations tune you into to the voice of your body and makes suggestions of how you can release the tension.

Meditation during exercise
Regardless of what kind of activity you do for exercise—aerobics, stretching, weight training—take three minutes during your workout to tune in to the sensations of your body. Become aware of what your body is feeling during the exercise period. Workouts can get monotonous, so you could probably devote at least three minutes or more, if you can, to check out each major muscle group that’s being worked on and pay careful attention to what it feels like.

Deep breathing
In order to improve your breathing you need to become aware of your breathing patterns. Proper breathing is essential to good meditation. This three minute exercise will show you how your belly and chest should move when you inhale. The breath is the interface between the physical body and the spiritual world; it is both conscious and unconscious as the same time.

Make sure you’re in a comfortable place, sitting or standing. Scan your body for tension. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest.

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen to push up your hand as much as feels comfortable. Your chest should move only a little and only with your abdomen.

Once you get into the rhythm, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, making a quiet, relaxing, whooshing sound like the wind as you blow gently out. Your mouth, tongue and jaw will be relaxed. Take long, slow deep breaths that raise and lower your abdomen. Focus on the sound and feeling of breathing, as you become more and more relaxed.

Taking a bath
While you’re relaxed in the shower or tub, out loud or to yourself, state your intention, what you have in mind to be accomplished. You can declare your overall, lifetime intention or one just for the day. An examples of overall intentions are: “My intention is to live my life totally in love, joy, peace, health.”  A day’s intention might be, “I intend to be patient in all situations, every moment of this day.” or “ I state my intention to easily recognize the good in each person with whom I interact today.” Your one sentence announces to your body, mind, spirit and the universe what it is you truly desire.

Thank you,

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