Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Heal Through Meditation

I'm interested in what you think about the two perspectives on meditation presented below.  One is a (very) brief YouTube video and the other an excerpt from a (rather lengthy) letter written by a mystic to a young woman seeking answers in 1939.

Meditation training is part of The Method for Self Mastery which launches in just a couple of days.  It's with that in mind that I thought I'd share the two perspectives on the subject.

As mentioned, the first is a YouTube video called, "How to Meditate in a Moment."

When you scroll down, you'll see a translation of a remarkable letter written in 1939 by a spiritual master, the Rayatz, to a young girl in Riga.  In her late teens, she had written a letter to him explaining that "her actions were empty," devoid of vitality and inspiration.  The reply she received is a five page letter elaborating on how profound contemplation and mindfulness bring healing to those who practice it.

Do you meditate?  Is there such a thing as a "One-Moment Meditation" and if there is, is it in contradiction to the Kabbalistic practice of contemplation?  I'm interested in your thoughts on the topic.

If you'd like to participate in The Method for Self Mastery's Kabbalah based program call our office at 718-493-2859 to find out more.

The Method is rooted in ancient mystical teachings, but it’s amazing just how its strategies and methods can be so relevant to your life today.  You’ll experience inside-out solutions coupled with a fresh and practical approach to Self-Mastery and personal transformation.  It’s time to unleash your true self so you can finally live the joyful, prosperous, fulfilling life you were meant to.

Our upcoming enrollment is January 21 2013.  Call our office at 718-493-2859 to find out more.

20 Tevet 5699 (1939)

To the student Chaya Sima,

Blessings and Peace.

I am writing to you in response to your letter of the 14th of this month, wherein you tell me your “deeds are empty” and ask what you should do to fill them.   It is difficult for me to know what you are alluding to.   A clear answer can only and exclusively be addressed to a clear question.   When you articulate your question clearly, with G-d’s help, the answer will come.

In general this concept of Divine service – in which a person strives to rectify their thinking and mental focus, as well as their emotional traits – requires that he have a solid foundation and a structured path.

I have already discussed in a previous teaching that just as one has to know ones lacks one must also know ones strengths.   Anyone who thinks that he has no strengths is just as mistaken as someone who thinks he has no lacks.  For every person by virtue of being a human being contains both within themself.  This is true both with regard to intellect and emotions.   The mission of a human being is to heal the lacks.   In other words, our mission is to enable (spiritual) form to prevail over the matter of the emotions and undesirable habits.   This is accomplished through the inner (mental) powers of the soul and through one’s abstract senses and will.  The beginning of this healing involves knowing and deeply recognizing what true good and true evil are.

Next examine yourself.   You need to look at the totality of who you are; observing all your spiritual faculties.   These include your soul’s intellectual capabilities; your senses and intuitive faculties; your emotional traits; and the garments of your soul which are thought, speech and action.   Do this assessment in the same way an artisan inspects the parts of a vessel that need to be fixed.   As you proceed, mark for yourself which aspects need to be fixed and what parts need to be changed.   (These are two different tasks.)  You can only achieve this rectification with orderly spiritual practice and only when you focus on one aspect at a time.   Do not attempt to address all of them together.   Furthermore, this must be done with spiritual effort and focus.   Once you rectify one point within yourself you move on and address the second, and so on with all the points within you that need fixing.

Accurate recognition of what is good and what is bad comes through diligent study and contemplation.[1]  Take for example a concept which might help you rectify your lacks.   It could be beneficial in one of two ways: either because it addresses the lowliness of the quality you are lacking, or it speaks about the advantage of a strength (which is the opposite of your lack.)  Study the concept well until you know it and it’s clear to you in all its details.   At this point, you should be able to speak about it at length.   Only once you have reached this level of familiarity with the idea can you begin to gaze at the concept in-depth.   This must be done with mental effort.   The mental effort and contemplation will generate a unity between your consciousness and the idea you are exploring.[2]
It is at this point of mindfulness that the rectification of our lacks is to be found. 

Many make the mistake of thinking that “good” study is quantitative.   They think it applies to learning a lot of pages or many concepts.   But in truth that isn’t the case.  The essence of diligent learning is to review one idea many times until it is clear to you in all the details of its details, until you are able to speak about it, describing it with clear articulation.

In addition, many make the mistake of thinking that complete contemplation has to do with being particular about (technical aspects such as) what’s missing, what’s extra and what’s connected, repetition and the like.  In truth this is not so.  All-encompassing contemplation is the unification of an individual with the soul of a concept.  In other words, your mind becomes bound with the essential identity[3] of the concept. 

Every original concept[4] and every idea that is processed by your mind so as to become relevant to you in a personal way[5] has both a “body” and “soul.”  Certainly the “body” of both the original and processed concepts is also spiritual.  But we have access to a higher consciousness.  Thank G-d for His great goodness that He has graced us with Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.[6]  Praise also to our holy Rebbeim who taught us how to use our intellectual faculties.  Thanks to all of this, we have the ability to recognize and distinguish (not only between physical and spiritual but the ability to make subtle distinctions) between spiritual and spiritual.  The meditative contemplation we are discussing happens at this level and involves connecting and uniting with the soul of a concept.

The way to attain this level of mental focus is through training your intellect to focus on one idea with great depth and concentration for a long hour.  This must be done by habituating yourself to concentrate in this way.  Over time this habit will become your nature and you will be able to sustain focus on one idea for a lengthy period of time.

When you can do this, you will experience the spiritual delight that results from the unification of your intellect with the (inner essence of the) concept itself. 

The main impact of this spiritual delight is that through constant practice you will have the ability to use this strength at any time you like.

How is a person to accustom themself to dig and reveal this wondrous sense so as to be able to use this ability at any moment at will?  How can one become capable of using this form of contemplation in the same way that one uses those spiritual powers they are habituated to?

A path is to be found in the commentary on the verse, “It is not in the Heavens and it is not across the ocean.”  The Torah is found neither in those who are arrogant (whose egos rise heavenward) nor within a person who spreads his (arrogant) heart like an ocean.

It is important to note that the arrogance and broadness of heart referred to here are not those in the base category of undesirable traits.  Regarding these a person, simply by virtue of being a human being, must uproot them.  Each individual must uproot these traits as one would a leprosy.

This verse is referring to the arrogance and broad heart of those who study and know the Torah.  It is about them we are told that they are not repositories of the true Torah.  (In other words, you can’t have even a private arrogance about how you do this process.  There can be no ego whatsoever in this process of mindfulness and deep contemplation.)

But do not be discouraged.  We are taught that, “The thing is very close to you.  It is accessible to you in speech, thought and deed.”

Thus through understanding the aspect of the three garments of the soul (action, speech and thought) the practice of contemplation can become very close to you. 

1] Iyun in Hebrew
[2] Masig and Musag in Hebrew.   These refer to the person who is processing the information and the concept being processed respectively.
[3] Etzem ha’Mahut in Hebrew
[4] Muskal, often associated with the attribute of Wisdom (Conceptualizing)
[5] Musag, associated with the attribute of Understanding (Analyzing)
[6] Chochmah, Binah and Da’at in Hebrew.  A useful way of framing these terms is as our ability to Conceptualize, Analyze and Internalize an idea respectively.


Goldie said...

Thanks for this letter, Shimona. I read it, and will reread it many times. It is very special. Just out of curiosity, do u know who the letter was written to...?

Esther said...

who was this spiritual master who wrote the letter?

Unknown said...

The letter was written by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson to a young girl by the name of Sima. She was one of the "achot ha'temimim" - a group of young women who lived in Riga at the time. This is one of various letters written to members of the group.
At that time the Rebbe spoke at length about the unique gifts of women and how the "female" modality is one connected to the era of redemption.
For anyone in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, I will be giving over one of his teachings this Saturday afternoon (Jan 26, 15 Shevat.) The teaching addresses the unique spiritual gifts of women and how we can use them to facilitate healing and redemption for others. To find out more, fill out the "contact us" form on www.shimona.org.

bracha m. said...

Loved the meditation video and very much appreciate being given access to a translation of the letter....thank you.

Shimona Tzukernik said...

My pleasure Bracha. If you're interested, check out www.thecenterforselfmastery.com. The Method I teach incorporates extensive meditation training with new videos and techniques every two weeks. We do breath work, brain gym, and visualization as a preparation for actual hitbonenut.