Meditation & Minchah

Note, the material below was compiled in preparation for a retreat planned for Shirat Hanafesh in 2013, and I’ve posted it in winter 2014.  It is intended to present one way to engage in Jewish practice…with meditation.  The form is the afternoon service, ideal in some respects for its simplicity.  Combining meditation with normative prayer is the foundation for my experience of “Jewish meditation.”


Meditation for the retreat for Shirat Hanefesh, Sunday, October 13, 2013

Three things to review:

  • What is our motivation to meditate, and to pray…why do we do it
  • What is it we’re doing in each, with a focus today on meditation
  • SO what….what is this integration with prayer that we’re doing with meditation, and does it make a difference if we do these together or separately…moving then into the practice itself.


  • The motivation for practice

I call this practice. The term is unconventionally applied to prayer, but I live with it.

Is it reasonable to link together the motivation for meditation & prayer. I think they are close, and would like to take advantage of this session to stretch that way. Let’s see if it works, as we review three reasons to engage BOTH meditation and prayer

  • Pain. Confusion. A desire for things to be different.
    • These are real reasons which motivate us to come to both meditate, and pray.
    • We can’t start our perfectly. We may think we’ll get something from either practice, and be confused, but there’s no reason to beat yourself up about starting with the wrong reason. These are the reasons we do this.
  • Seeking balance.
    • We might help with being not too tight, and not too loose. Also, we might like to be clearer re our place in the world, remembering either G-d, or if we don’t think of THAT, that way…that simply others are more important than ourselves…we might come to these disciplines for that purpose
    • Also, seeking to synchronize body, speech & mind.
  • We might want to understand what is true
    • Consider this as either Maslow’s…or Maimonides’ hierarchy. Sometimes, the best method to apply to finding out what is true, is just to attending as closely as you can to what is, without adding your own version or dialog. So meditation is very practical that way.
    • Prayer…adds annotation. And, because we have trusted in someone or something outside ourselves, allowing ourselves to pray…we have the possibility of experiencing magic…and of touching something greater, beyond ourselves.
    • I’ll share with you that the prayer piece puts the WHAT in “so what.” Wait for it.


  • So, then what do we do in practice…and I’ll focus on meditation practice…as I’ve trained, and as I think applies
  • Being present
    • This is not about interior exploration, which some approaches to kabballah may be about
    • From the point of view of health, there is an appreciation that we don’t frequently see clearly, because we miss what’s going on, and we distort reality, so even if we wanted to go inwards later, it’s sort of reasonable to learn at least to “be here” if we wanted to
    • So, being here is the thing, and further, there’s a recognition of our tendency to focus inwards….which keeps us from being present. So
    • Rather, our approach is to have a focus outwards…and we understand that that’s where it’s at…that’s where reality is.
    • And being accurate and in touch with the real world is absolutely the focus
  • So, developing both mindfulness & awareness is what we want to do
    • We develop mindfulness, so we’re aware of the details that are happening, rather than getting lost for the accidental noise
    • And, as we develop mindfulness, awareness into the bigger space in which we find ourselves naturally arises.
    • Strategies for doing this are:
      • Posture, upright
      • Eyes: I’ll really encourage keeping them open, since we wish to not focus inwards, and keeping our eyes open encourages our not “going into ourselves.” But, you can close them, if you prefer. Consider experimenting. Unless I separately engage in a visualization practice, which I would associate with working with text, like we’ll also do in prayer, I always keep my eyes open.
      • Breath: since our approach is to not go inwards, so also, the focus is the out breath.
        • As you breath out, go out with the breath
        • If you find yourself thinking, label it thinking, and come back to your breath
      • But, because we’re not only engaging meditation, but also prayer, rather than experiencing only mindfulness & awareness…I’ll suggest that we have:
        • Mindfulness, awareness & magic.
          • The magic is really just the gift of awareness, which prayer helps us discover
            • Although recently, I’ve thought to name this access to awareness, available to us when we conclude the amidah recitation, and call it: “quickening,” there is a rich literature from both other traditions, as well as our own that finds agreement in separating this period of “non-meditation” from the mindfulness practice that provides the basis for this.
              • Could read top of page 66, Shofar & the White Conch
            • And the strategy is then…this
              • We’ll begin with the Ashrei, which will introduce us into the world of the prayer service
              • Then, we’ll do the basic meditation practice, where we develop mindfulness, giving a level of focus…maybe 30%…to an awareness of the outbreath…and just let that happen.
              • And where awareness will just naturally come out of that
              • Then, having prepared the ground and stabilized our mind, we talk to G-d in the Amidah
              • We lean into that. We can do that because with our meditation practice, we have let go of pretenses, and can now afford to not hold back as we engage G-d.
              • And then, when we conclude the Amida, we return to sitting practice
              • But in this case, we sort of turn off the jets.
              • We don’t so much direct our mind as we had before
              • We stay in the present awareness, but we let our mind be where it is, without further tampering from our efforts
              • Sit in your present awareness.
              • This state of mind will be available to us, and is a gift to us, after having entered into our communication with G-d in the Amida,
              • And we just sit with it
            • And, then we conclude our session with the closing prayer, which is Aleinu.


  • Then, we begin our practice session…


  • We can refer to page 8 in our siddur for the order of the service, and turn to page 88
  • With Ashray. Read briefly from marked notes on page 57 in Rosenberg, adding in also, even first, that we say this because of the alphabetically ordered line beginning with the letter “pay,” encouraging us to remember to open our hand in order to help others.
  • Meditate for, we’d like…20 minutes
  • If minyan, half kaddish, p. 92, describe the kaddish as a prayer serving as a transition, from phase to phase in the service
  • Weekday Amidah, p. 185 – 197. Begin with a few sentences of orientation from the text on the Amidah in My Jewish Learning.
  • Not to eliminate, closing meditation, to be in length of 3 – 10 minutes
  • If minyan, turn to page 176 for kaddish shalem
  • Alenu, p 179. Begin with brief text from middle two columns from Rosenberg on Alenu immediately before p 272.
    • Suggest, on page 180, 2nd – 4th paragraph in Engish
    • Suggest, on page 181, as we did at Nan’s house, all of the text on the right column
    • Concluding verse on p 181
  • If minyan, mourner’s kaddish on p 182

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