route of mussar daily practice

daily practice

3 Stages of Practice

Rav Yisrael Salanter identified 3 stages in the practice of Mussar.  It is through these internal changes that self-transformation can become evident and the work of Mussar can be said to be active.

Sensitivity become sensitive to the soul traits inside you.  Heighten your awareness.  It means being aware of the seed of a thought, word, feeling or deed as early as possible in its cycle of germination and birth.  As you go through each day, recognize when your middah is being challenged and how you respond to the situation.

Self-RestraintBe aware of your behavioral patterns and reign in potentially damaging behavior.  Lust? ->look the other way    Lie? -> Learn silence

Transformation Rework problematic soul traits to the root so that it is not a barrier to the soul.  “Turn from evil…” (Tehillim 34:15)

External motions instigate internal motions.”  Rav Chaim Luzzatto

Revealing the Unconscious and Getting to Work

Below are the ways in which one gets to work practicing Mussar:

meditation (hitbonenut)

  • this is best performed in the morning before the days' duties
  • find a quiet spot to sit in where you will be undisturbed for at least 10 minutes
  • allocate the time to meditate as a necessity, like you would to eat breakfast or shower
  • find a comfortable space on the floor and breathe in and out  - and notice your breath
  • when your breath becomes uncalculated and a natural rhythm, you are ready to proceed
  • say, think or feel shlema (wholeness) – focus and block out external noises and mind noise
  • don’t wander, come back if necessary in your meditation
  • at the end of the day write what distracts you during your meditation in your journal as it will illuminate what middot are your working points in your morning mantra

silence and retreat (hitbodedut)

  • Before you begin each day, remind yourself of the soul trait that you are working on by viewing the daily reminder phrase (one that flashes throughthe rivertonmussar.org website, card beside bed, on mirror..whatever works)…..read it aloud and repeat it several times to get it into your head
  • Three methods to help achieve the practice of Mussar:  visualizations, contemplations, impassioned chanting (hitpa’alut). These practices are done in retreat from the world.  They leave their mark at a deep level, not intellectual'

diary practices (cheshbon hanefesh)

  • keep a cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul diary) and write in it nightly before you retire
  • at bedtime pull out diary and record incidents, thoughts, experiences that relate to the soul quality being worked on
  • all kabbalot (exercises, acts) will be recorded or listed as not recorded or done
  • record any role played in an event related to the middah (soul trait)
  • no beat-ups or praise – just the facts
  • no prose, just enough to bring you to introspection regarding the middah in question
  • mental accounting will not do; it is extremely important to write it down as it provides a tangible practice
  • no recording on Shabbat, just Motzei Shabbat (after Havdalah)
  • don’t miss nights….be diligent as this is important to have a thorough accounting of your progress
  • record something in the last 24 hours that tells you something about one of your traits
  • bechirah(choice) points are places where choice is alive and there is a mini battle…identify these bechirah points and realize your work

communal

  • integrate text study and working with a chevrutah (partner) in study once a week - this is vital in having accountability with another trusted sould and maintaining a diligent walk in Mussar practice

exercises (kabbalot)

  • perform acts that support the middah that is being focused on for the week - for in this you will strengthen yourself and your resolve to grow and hone the character trait

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