Wednesday, August 08, 2012

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003A Reader Asked:

     I have a question about meditation. I have noticed that when I do the dishes I get completely absorbed into the task and it turns out that empty or bad memories of deeds, or social accidents, come into mind. Is this a form of meditation?

Gutman’s Answer:

      When we sleep, the mind is somewhat in a freefall state. This means that the conscious intellect is not guarding the thoughts, so any thought can surface from the subconscious and float into the awareness. As long as the relaxed viewer (you) is at all interested in those thoughts (for good or for bad), they will come again and again.

     When sleeping the intellect does not control which thoughts it is willing to entertain, but instead it relaxes, and the “importance” of the thoughts determines which thoughts come to the mind. “Importance” is determined solely by what engages the viewer for good or for bad.

     If such disturbing thoughts would come while awake you would simply “change the subject,” i.e. think about other things. But when washing the dishes or doing any “mindless,” repetitive action, the mind (the intellect) “lets go” and you often end up in a state very similar to sleep.

     The thoughts that you enjoy the most, or that are the most disturbing are the ones that keep your attention, and this makes them return. If you would find those thoughts boring, resolved, or such, then other more interesting thoughts would replace them.

     Another solution, easier than resolving everything that disturbs you, is instead of letting your mind freefall when you do those tasks, is to think about certain positive subjects that interest you.

     Yes, washing dishes or such can be a form of meditation. One of the steps in meditation is to return your awareness back onto the chosen subject again and again. This is how washing dishes is similar. The subject is the dish, and the mind comes back to the dish over and over again. Since you are not really engaging your mind onto the nature of the dishes, but just “gazing” at them, the mind becomes passive and the “free flowing” of your thoughts occurs.

     There is a very positive aspect to allowing the mind to be passive. A calm, open consciousness allows you to become aware of subtle things that are always present, but are almost always hidden. 

     However, proper meditation should do more than merely free-flow the mind. Maintaining a passive mental state will cause you to withdraw from worldly activities, which is not the goal of Judaism. We are commanded to improve the world, not to forsake it.

     To benefit from a passive mental state and still not withdraw, we introduce a spiritual concept. This prevents complete emptiness or wandering. When the mind is open (from the passive experience) and you think even briefly about a mystical concept, such as G-d being everywhere (Omnipresence), you will be taking this holy subject to heart. Instead of the subject being merely an intellectual concept, you will internalize it and begin to experience its reality. The more you take it to heart, the more it becomes your spiritual perspective. 


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