Meditation – Art or Science?

posted in: BasicPhilosophy | 0

We all know that the human mind has incredible potential that we’re not tapping into. Yet so few people use the obvious tools available to stretch the mind’s abilities. Meditation is one of those tools. Although many of you reading this may have just conjured up an image in your mind of an Indian guru in a lotus position, mind control in a variety of forms has always been a part of the Jewish tradition. Its benefits for relaxation, rejuvenation, mental control, and spiritual elevation have been enjoyed by down-to-earth individuals for thousands of years.

An indication that one need not be a mystic to meditate is a passage from the Code of Jewish Law regarding the daily prayer, called the “amidah,” which is recited three times a day. “This is the way the pious prayed, they would meditate and focus their minds on the prayers until they reached a state when physicality was nullified, and the intellect was strengthened until they reached a state close to rophecy“. Code Orech Chaim 98:1 The code is encouraging everyone to aspire to this ability. Meditation is and was an activity for the masses but the mystics take it to a deeper level. There are many mystical writings that describe intricately detailed meditations on letter combinations, and also names of G-d. Names of G-d are extremely powerful. They are the TNT of the spiritual realm, and we have access to them. Deep meditations such as these opened up the mystic to insights about spirituality, and sometimes direct contact with the spiritual realm. They can also be quite dangerous for the meditator and often the books come with strong warnings in the introduction.

But meditation on G-d’s name needn’t be such an intense experience of seclusion and concentration. Anyone has the ability to place G-d’s name in his/her mind’s eye at all times. If you stare at the four-letter Hebrew name of G-d and then look away, you should easily be able to keep that name in your mind’s eye for a little while. With practice you can keep it there for longer periods of time until you’re able to call it up at will and keep it there while you’re going about your day. Then it’s a constant meditation, as King David said in Psalms 16:8, “I place G-d before me always.” The name then becomes a constant reminder of G-d’s existence and also His presence. To keep G-d’s existence and presence in front of you at all times is not just ideal, it is the first of the Ten Commandments. This meditation is merely a tool for fulfilling that obligation. We all have this ability to have more than one mental activity going on at once.

To get an idea of what it’s like to develop the ability to activate two brain activities, imagine someone learning how to drive. The new driver is very distracted by conversation or listening to the radio. Once someone becomes accustomed to and comfortable with the concentration it takes to drive, they can then drive, talk, and listen to the radio all at the same time. We can learn to use many parts of our brain at the same time.

From this you can see that meditation isn’t necessarily an activity for a fixed period of time in a certain place. It can be a mental focus that you do anywhere for an hour, a day, or a minute. A traditional blessing said before performing a commandment, or before enjoying one of life’s pleasures is meant to be a mini meditation. If it isn’t used this way it has the potential to become a habit that is said without thinking.

Also the three paragraph excerpt from the Bible known as the “shma” has been used as a meditation on the meaning of life. Many verses from Psalms have been used in a mantra-like meditation at night being recited over and over, often with a melody. One of my more memorable experiences was many years ago accidentally stumbling into a gathering of students in a study house in Jerusalem. The group apparently did this every Friday evening after the Sabbath meal, as they sat with the lights out and sang verses over and over in very moving melodies. Other groups have a custom to do this late Thursday evening.

As evidenced by the book “Path of the Just” by the kabbalist Luzzatto, the Psalms are a tremendous tool for the type of spiritual elevation that leads to prophecy. Although our generation isn’t worthy of true prophecy, divine inspiration is possible to attain.

The Al-mighty has given us many wonderful tools to connect with Him, and the mind is an incredibly powerful one of these tools. G-d is pointing the way, but we need to put in the effort.

Meditate on that.