Question & Answer With Dixie Yid: Implementing Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh
Simple Jew asks:
You have written in the past about the advice prescribed in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. As you continue to learn this sefer, how have you successfully implemented its teachings in your daily routine? What difficulties have you encountered doing so? And finally, did your opportunity to listen to the recordings of the mechaber's shiurim that you posted give you any new insights on how to learn this sefer and put it into practice?
Dixie Yid answers:
As a sentence or two of background, the author outlines a regimen of at least one hour of hisbonenus each day to really internalize 1) Ratzon for Kirvas Hashem, 2) Consciousness of metzius Hashem, 3) consciousness of Hashem's immediate closeness and 4) Hashem's hashgacha pratis in every detail of life. He also says that we must reinforce this hisbonenus with a 10-15 second hisbonenus every 15 minutes or so throughout the day.
At the beginning, I tried the hour of hisbonenus a couple of times. However, my powers of concentration have been so eroded by years of bad habits and perhaps my natural difficulty with concentration. Therefore, I had difficulty staying focused on one line of thinking for such a long time. My other problem was with the periodic mini-hisbonenus'n throughout the day. At the beginning, I set alarms for myself on my PDA and, as part of a chaburah, we would call each other as a reminder a few times a day to do that mini-hisbonenus.
This became hard to maintain as well, so I basically stopped trying to apply the teachings of the sefer for almost 2 years. On one hand, I couldn't give up learning the sefer because I don't want to give up the ship. And on the other hand, I felt that I didn't want to start applying it again if I wasn't sure I could succeed. Furthermore, I had kind of an all-or-nothing attitude. I'm learning, working full-time, and in law school. I certainly don't have time for an hour of hisbonenus in the day. And if I can't do all of it, I don't want to do it at all.
However, in the last couple of weeks, with all of the excitement around the mechaber's visit to the United States, and now being the heat of the Elul teshuva season, I realize that now is the time to reinvigorate my efforts and making Kirvas Hashem a priority again in my life. This was not really advertised in advance, but many people were able to get private meetings in person or by phone with Rav Shwartz to discuss his eitzos for that person's personal avodas Hashem. Baruch Hashem I was able to speak with him by phone and I was able to lay out my situation and ask him how to apply what he teaches into my practical life.
I will not share the very specific advice he gave me, lest people think that what he told me will be applicable to everyone, I'll share a couple of principals that I think might not be obvious from the seforim in terms of practically applying what he teaches.
One thing is not to have the all-or-nothing attitude. Although it might seem from the seforim that if you can't spend 1 hour on hisbonenus per day, you won't succeed, the fact is that everything that you do counts. the main thing, however, is that what you do be consistent. If you can only commit to 5 minutes a day, do 5 minutes a day, every day, seven days a week. The important part is the consistency, more so than the amount of time, though doing the full hour is obviously more effective than 5 minutes. But if, for practical reasons, you can only spend 5 minutes, then do so!
The second thing is just to reinforce the importance of doing mini-hisbonenus'n throughout the day to reinforce the idea you're working on inculcating into yourself during the hisbonenus time.
So IY"H, my plan now is to reinvigorate my efforts and commit to a regular, sacrosanct time for some significant hisbonenus per day and to create reminders for myself as I get into the habit of doing mini-hisbonenus moments throughout the day.
May we all be matzliach in incorporating consciousness of Hashem into our lives!