אמרי פי והגיון לבי
Hisbodedus – a practice simple to perform but difficult for me sustain for any significant period of time. Time after time, I renew my efforts to make time to incorporate it into my schedule, and time after time I end up back where I began; and the years pass with much the same result.
I have read and re-read numerous books on the topic and understood that there was indeed great value in just sitting and saying the words “Ribbono shel Olam”, yet I still found it difficult to devote any significant amount of time to hisbodedus.
Earlier this year, I read the following words in Shevachay HaRan #14, “He [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov] initially found it very difficult to sit alone in a special room for several hours, devoting himself to Hashem. At first this was next to impossible for him. But instead of merely giving up, he forced himself, overcoming his basic nature by spending many hours meditating in his special room.”
Inspired, I retreated to a locked file room at work and began to dedicate a few lunch breaks each week to sitting quietly in the dark and occasionally asking Hashem to give me words to speak to Him. I reasoned that over time this practice would lead to me practicing hisbodedus in earnest.
I was able to maintain this practice for a few weeks without difficulty before I was suddenly besieged with months of unrelenting high priority and urgent taskings at work. Almost overnight I found it close to impossible to escape to the file room. The time I devoted to hisbodedus once again slipped through my fingers.
With the increased workload, my stress level increased exponentially. I began to suffer headaches, tension in my shoulder muscles, and back pains that would last the entire work week and relenting only on Shabbos. Earlier this month, I went out running and very quickly began experiencing pains in my chest. After a mile and half, I could no longer breathe and was forced to stop and walked home. This had never happened to me before in all the years I had been running routinely.
“You really should go see a cardiologist if it happens again,” my father advised. Two days later, it happened again. I had to stop running after running only half a block because the pressure in my chest inhibited my breathing. I then called a cardiologist and went in for an appointment. The doctor assured me that he was 95% sure that it was nothing serious, however, he wanted me to come back for another visit for the treadmill stress test and echo cardiogram in order to cover all the bases.
I returned to the cardiologist’s office earlier this week and was given a clean bill of health after both of these tests. The echo cardiogram, however, did wonders for my emuna. It literally changed the way I looked at the world. In utter amazement, I stared at the screen and watched what was occurring within my chest. Although I already knew that Hashem caused my heart to beat and was familiar with how the heart functions, I had never seen my own heart. I never knew that Hashem was this close to me! He was not overseeing the world from afar, He was right here orchestrating every beat of my heart! Wherever I am, wherever I go, He is there keeping me alive each and every second. I left the doctor’s office and cried; overwhelmed with this new realization – inspired to spend time in hisbodedus again.
And I returned to the file room the next day. Sitting in the darkness, I first concentrated on the beating of my heart and immediately I felt Hashem’s closeness. Opening up my mouth, I was finally able to speak to him longer than I had done in the past. This time it did not feel labored and the time flew by. Hashem was right here in the darkness of the file room with me, right now with each beat of my heart.