2133 Meditation on Dwelling in Presence


The Rabbis taught: "A person should always consider that one's rewardable acts and one's punishable acts are equally balanced, so that any single rewardable act will tip the scales to one's favor, while any punishable act will tip the scales the other way, [Thus making every single act crucial.]" Babylonian Talmud: Kiddushin 40b 

One of the bestknown forms of Jewish meditative prayer is called hitbodedut. It comes from the Hebrew root bodad (to be isolated), and it means to seclude oneself-in essence, to be alone with God. It is a very simple technique that is also quite effective. One merely speaks out whatever happens to be on one's mind.

It is important to be alone so that you can use your voice without worrying about others listening in. You can do the meditation at home, if you feel comfortable there, but it is often recommended that one be in nature when doing hitbodedut. The most famous hassidic leader who used and taught this method-Rabbi Nachman of Breslov-suggested that people should go into the woods, especially at night, to do this practice.

Many people shy away from speaking directly to God; they often feel embarrassed, unworthy, or unbelieving. The important aspect of this method is that anything becomes grist for the mill. An integral part of the hitbodedut practice is to speak out loud-do not merely think the thought. In kabbalistic terms, actually speaking the words carries much more emotional content than thinking the words. In Jewish mysticism, prayer needs to be articulated; the combination of sounds will reverberate throughout the universe and have more impact than thought waves.

When you feel like communing directly with the Divine, hitbodedut is an excellent method. Although it is often done standing or walking, you can also sit quietly to enhance the inner power of the meditation. If you are at home, please try to find a place where you will not be interrupted and where you cannot be heard by others in the house.

1. Begin with the basic sitting technique: relaxed, eyes closed. Try to sit fairly straight without effort. Breathe normally. Notice the rising and falling of the chest with the breath.

2. Now, find your own words to express one of the following ideas:

Whatever is at the center of creation, whatever you call yourself, if there is any way that you can do this, please help me believe that I can really communicate with you.

God, Presence, I am not really sure who or what you are; please help me feel your presence.

3. If you are unable to experience anything at all, you can either continue asking for help, or you can literally pretend, use your imagination, and imagine being cradled or hugged by a warm, loving entity of some type. Imagine that you are in the arms of pure love. In essence, pretend that you are talking to a loving source, speaking your heart's deepest secrets, asking for whatever you need to get an inner healing. Being held like this, close, secure, loved, let yourself speak out in your own words-let your heart flow with whatever is in it.You will discover along the way that although this process may begin as an exercise in pretending, it will ultimately become an experience of great healing-it really works! Try it.

  4. When you are ready, please finish with a request, something like the following:

a) Oh, I want to be free-please help me be free.

b) I need to feel better-please help me feel better.

c) If only I could have peace-please help me find peace.

Once you have completed this exercise, even though it may feel strange at first, simply notice brief memories that may arise of the experience over the next few days. Try to do this hitbodedut meditation at least once a week for a few months, and in between the practice sessions, keep noticing how the mind occasionally turns to the memories. Eventually barriers will begin to fall and you will most likely find greater comfort in the practice. Slowly it will bring you closer to connecting with something mysterious, which will lead to a letting go of some boundaries so that you will be able to have a sense of greater peace. This is a major practice for ultimately attaining devekut, merging with the Divine, and is highly recommended.