Textual Study As Meditation
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This essay was published in Meditation from the Heart of Judaism, edited by Avram Davis and can be purchased at amazon.com
by Sarah Yehudit (Susie) Schneider
• The service of meditation is the spiritual and intellectual quest to know, comprehend, and feel an idea or truth of Torah to the fullest extent possible. By pursuing a matter to its depth, one draws his inherited and instinctive knowledge of God into a more revealed and conscious state. The purpose of meditation is to train a person to perceive reality more correctly. (Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh , a contemporary teacher of Kabbalah)
• Meditation is a continuous flow of thought upon a particular object or point of focus. (Patanjali, a medieval yoga philosopher).
Any regular meditation practice, whether of Eastern, Western, Jewish or personal design, frees the mind from its bondage to surface layers and directs it to experience the infinite depth that is always available in each moment.
Every meditation has a point of focus. It could be a mantra such as a name of God or the Sh’ma, or another meaningful affirmation. It could be an object outside oneself such as a geometric image, a scribal design or even a candle. It could be one’s breath or the stillness that lies within each moment. It could even be an intellectual question about the nature of reality or the significance of some ritual law or how to apply Torah principles to a life problem.
When first learning to meditate, it is easier to choose a simple and concise object of focus—a single and static word or an image or a point of the body. The idea is to fix one’s attention on it for a set length of time. When the mind wanders, it is gently but firmly returned to the object of its meditation. As one grows skilled in this practice, it becomes possible to choose more complex and non‑static subjects. In this sense, textual study is a more advanced meditation. To do it properly, one must already know how to bring oneself into a meditative alpha state with ease. (Alpha state is a brain wave pattern and a psychological state that characterizes deep relaxation and associates with meditation.)