middot humility meditation focus already

focus already

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-shvitiThe pious ones of earlier generations spent an hour in contemplation before the beginning of their prayers, and one hour after. --Tractate Berachot, 30b

The phone rings.  The phone buzzes.  The doorbell chimes.  Email comes in.  Someone texts you.  Someone needs something, forget what you are doing.  Even if you tried to remember what you are doing, so many distractions are prevalent, it is hard to know where you left off.

It's no wonder we all don't lose our minds. And it's no wonder that the middah of concentration made it on our list. 

The Hebrew word for concentration is rechuz.  It can be difficult to engage in meaningful thought when we are constantly bombarded wtih information, stimulus, and noise.  While many people thrive on this, sometimes it is best to remove oneself from all this constant distraction in order to hone the mind and engage higher levels of thinking and focus.  Concentration is vital if we hope to be able to reach higher levels in our spirituality and our daily lives.

(For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)

Find a comfortable seat in a safe, quiet place.  Breathing in slowly, allow your stomach to completely inflate which in turn helps your lungs to competely inflate.  As you exhale, gently pull your stomach in, squeezing all the air out of your lungs. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed and feel little or no distractions.  Let the noises around you, no matter how small, filter out. Focus on your breath.

The focus of this meditation will be upon the psalm verse below.  Using a well-known phrase for meditation in Judaism, choose whether you will say the Hebrew or the English. Both are provided below:

:שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד

(Shiviti Adonai L'negdi Tamid)

I have set Hashem before me always.  --Psalms 16:8


The image included in this article is an example of Shiviti, which is used in some communities for contemplation over Hashem's name.  The Name, or Tetragrammaton, is never said— however, this part of the psalm above as transliterated is used.  Quietly speaking this phrase, or meditating upon it without words in your mind,  let the concept of Hashem, His Name, and His being before you consume your thoughts.  As you repeat this phrase over and over, you will find that the idea will change, be absorbed and affect you in a completely new way. Don't try to control it— let Hashem work in you.  Don't try and meditate on the concept of righteousness—the repetition of this verse is the focus.

True righteousness will only come from having Hashem before you at all times - like lenses, to help you to see the world, your actions and your duties in the proper way.

Meditate on this phrase for at least 10 minutes without interruption.  As you slowly and gently end your meditation by opening your eyes,  try to maintain a sense of quietness for a time after  - allow the experience to flow through you and feel its effect. By meditating on the Divine, you will feel less inclined to pursue your idea of righteousness, but rather that of the Eternal.

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