8 Powerful Jewish Meditations

Jewish meditation is a subject usually neglected in Jewish education settings. While some students in religious schools are encouraged to fulfil their obligation of “service of God” (avodat Hashem), and though they do seek guidance in this service, meditation. These meditations are adapted from Aryeh Kaplan’s Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Shocken Books, 1985). Meditations 1-7 are adapted from chapter 3, titled “Techniques,” and meditation 8 is adapted from chapter 12, titled “Relating to God.”

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Meditation #1 – Organize Your Life

Step 1: Choose a relaxing location. For example, take a walk around the block, sit on a comfortable chair, a relaxing bath. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Choose the topic. It can address fundamental questions like “what do I ultimately want out of life?” or “what gives my life meaning?” Or, you may take a detailed approach choosing topics like improving one of your personal relationships (e.g. with your spouse, child, etc.).

Step 3: Set a timer and begin thinking about the chosen topic only, don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #2 – Finding God

Step 1: Choose a relaxing location. For example, take a walk around the block, sit on a comfortable chair, a relaxing bath. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Choose how you want to discover God. You can seek God who is “out there” by reflecting on questions like “How did the world come into existence?” or “Why does the world exist?” The second way is to discover God who is “in here” by reflecting on matters like the soul and providence.

Step 3: Set a timer and begin thinking about the chosen topic only, don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #3 – Dialogue with God

Step 1: Choose a relaxing location. For example, take a walk around the block, sit on a comfortable chair, a relaxing bath (unless you feel a bath would be an inappropriate setting for talking with God). Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Engage with God by striking up a conversation. It can be done in thought only or be speaking out loud. Here you have a choice whether to keep the conversation completely unstructured or to have an agenda.

Step 3: Set a timer, begin the conversation with God and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #4 – Torah Verses

Step 1: Choose a quiet location. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Choose a verse from the Bible, it can be at random, or you may choose one that relates to your particular interest.

Step 3: Choose how you want to use the verse. Option one, you can read and memorize the verse and use it as a point of departure for an unstructured meditation. Option two, you may write the verse on a piece of paper and during the course of meditation, reread the verse, directing your mind back to the verse from time to time.

Step 4: Set a timer, begin reading the verse and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #5 – Visualizations

Step 1: Choose a quiet location. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Choose a verse from the bible or any Jewish saying or teaching can be used. Alternatively, the subject of your contemplation can be a candle flame, a flower, or some other object.

Step 3: The verse/teaching/object should be placed before you and you are to gaze at it and not let your sight wander. You can either let your thoughts  wander or a more advanced level, clear your mind of anything but the verse/teaching/object. For object visualizations, the key becomes to examine every details.

Step 4: Set a timer, start your visual meditation and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #6 – Mantras

Step 1: Choose a quiet location. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Choose a verse from the bible or any Jewish saying or teaching can be used. Alternatively, you can use a word or phrase, the recommended phrase by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was “Ribono Shel Olam” (“Master of the world”).

Step 3: Set a timer and repeat the verse over and over again and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #7 – Taste & Smell

Step 1: Choose a quiet location. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the blessing over food, spices (recited at Havdallah), the words and their meaning.

Step 3: Begin the blessing, recite each word slowly, thinking about its meaning and let the enjoyment of the taste/smell be the meditative experience. Don’t be rushed and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation #8 – Postures

Step 1: Choose a quiet location. Make sure you won’t be disturbed while you will be meditating.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the first blessing of the Shmona Esreh prayer, the words and their meaning. Also familiarize yourself with the standing and bowing postures that traditionally accompanies the prayer. The positions are a standing pose (with your hands placed over your heart), a two step bow (drop knees first, then bow), a slow rise (like a snake).

Step 3: Begin the prayer, beginning with the three steps back and three forward, etc. Keep your eyes shut the entire time and recite each word slowly, thinking about its meaning and don’t let your mind wander.

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Meditation on Human Suffering

Consider an idea as a three dimensional object. There are six directions: up, down, right, left, forward, back.
  • Back: Past human suffering weighs upon us like a yoke. The inter-generational trauma prevents us from seeing a way forward.
  • Forward: The future of suffering is almost inevitable. We must share the stories and the trauma of the past for the future generations to prevent the suffering of others.
  • Left: Suffering may cause us to panic and to seal up our emotions, to restrict contact with others.
  • Right: Suffering may cause us to go manic and to open up our emotions, to share with others.
  • Up: Suffering may cause us to reach our true potential.
  • Down: Suffering may cause us to sabotage ourselves from reaching success.
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  • Center: Suffering may be held within us, or we may let it go, or we may think of it like a passing wind, passing through us, providing us with a new perspective.