Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Time As A Loner

(Picture by Konstantin Golovan)

During my junior year of college abroad at Tel Aviv University I read Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's book Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide. It was this book that introduced me to hisbodedus and I vividly remember encountering the passage in which Rabbi Kaplan wrote how Rebbe Nachman of Breslov would seclude himself and use the phrase "Ribbono shel Olam" as a mantra at times when he was unable to speak any other words to Hashem.

As an only child, I was used to being by myself and was often content doing things by myself. Being somewhat of a loner during my year in Israel, I would routinely go off by myself and follow this practice that I read about in Rabbi Kaplan's book. Whether it was on a bench overlooking the Mediteranean at sunset on the cliffs at Tel Baruch, up on the roof of the dorms at night, or alone in an empty bomb shelter/shul, I would sit with my eyes closed, envision that I was ascending higher and higher, and whisper the mantra "Ribbono shel Olam" over and over until I reached a point where I would just sit there in silence.

Looking back, I can see that these early attempts at meditation / hisbodedus helped accustom me to the times when I would practice a more evolved form of hisbodedus by speaking with Hashem at length about all the things in my heart and mind.

Today, in addition to hisbodedus, I often use another technique prescribed by Rebbe Nachman. Sitting alone in a quiet room, I envision that there is absolutely no one else in the world. I push any extraneous thoughts from my mind until I am not thinking, just being. I then imagine that I am alone with just the Ribbono shel Olam and I remain in this blissful silence until I feel ready to open my eyes once again.

What does this type meditation do for me? Does it make me calmer and generally more easy going? I honestly don't know. However, I do know that there is still a part of me that has nostalgia when recalling my early attempts more than a decade ago and longs to have the freedom to go off and find that perfect secluded spot.


At November 11, 2008 at 7:21:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

Such a great post - thanks for sharing. Such a desire to connect to our creator is so beautiful and you managed to capture this in words.

At November 11, 2008 at 11:46:00 AM EST, Blogger Avrum68 said...

I could use some good quality (voice and recording) Jewish meditations on MP3. For now, I rely on guided mindfulness meditations a la Jon Kabat-Zinn.

At November 11, 2008 at 12:30:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. That book is amazing. The chatpers on Shema and Amidah totally changed my davening.

At November 12, 2008 at 1:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ribbono shel Olam; meaning; PLEASE FORGIVE ME, I'M HARM!! (!!)


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