Sunday, October 26, 2014

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Meditation vs. Contemplation



Meditation vs. Contemplation

 

Question from L.A.

     Our community Rabbi wants me to start a Jewish guided meditation group. So my question for you is, what meditation can I do with these people? Where do I start? I know how to do one on one; if this one wants or needs something; health, marital solutions, kids, work, friends, even where to live, it doesn't matter. This would be a group of 7-9 people. How do I do a guided meditation for a group? I hope you have an opinion which you will be willing to share with me.

 

Gutman's response:

     "Guided Meditation" is really contemplation, i.e. pleasant story-telling about nice scenes. It is relaxing, and can be quite enjoyable, but it is not meditation. Whereas "guided meditation" takes the listeners on a journey, actual meditation focuses the mind on a single subject, and then, as the mind moves off that subject, the meditator returns his or her focus back onto that subject again and again. The subject might be meaningless, such as a flame, or it might have deep content, such as a Torah concept.

     For a simple meditation exercise, you might introduce them to the practice of "watching their breath". They sit quietly and comfortably and simply feel the air moving in and out of their noses. Not pulling in their breath forcefully, nor exhaling deeply, but simply trying to be aware of the sensation of the air moving in and out of their noses as they breathe normally. If they are even the least bit successful, they will become very relaxed, both physically and mentally, within just one or two minutes.

     Then, after they are able to maintain their attention on that sensation for at least a few cycles of air moving in and out, have them silently remember the line from the Torah's story of creation; that Hashem breathes the breath of life into man. Just like did Hashem breathe the first breath into Adam, the first man, so does He breathe our breath in and out of our bodies all day long.

     This practice not only allows the meditator the great benefits of the completely passive 'watching of the breath,' but it also grounds them by reminding them of Hashem's ongoing Presence in their lives.

     If one would practice only the passive 'watching of the breath,' there is a danger that they might enjoy it so much that they would do it for hours a day, as do many Eastern meditators on mountain tops and in caves. Their hope is to use meditation as a tool to detach, while the Jewish goal in meditation is to learn the proper spiritual perspective so we can attach properly. They seek to "leave the world," while we seek to elevate the world.  

 See this short video;

Jewish vs. Buddhist Meditation 

    

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