For most of us, the problem is getting there and staying there - wherever.
The book discusses various meditation techniques as can be culled from ancient Jewish sources. Rabbi Kaplan discusses basic techniquwes as can be found in other forms of meditation. Mundane activities with the proper frame of mind can be turned into acts of meditation that put a person into a higher state of consiousness. Excellent book for those into practicing meditation. By and large many people think of far eastern religions when the word meditation is brought up. Both Jew and non-Jew alike seem oblivious to the fact that there is a form of Jewish meditation out there. Jews like other people are spiritually hungry and end up looking to these far eastern religions to satisfy their appetite. Quite simply it means to control your mind. Your subconscious mind is what control your thoughts. So to control your thoughts you must control your subconscious mind. Hence many meditation method have you control your breathing as a first step to controlling your subconscious mind. Two more related techniques are discussed on is called imaging. Imaging occurs when you imagine let us say the letter A in your mind. Meditation means we take control of our thought and of our mind. At 6 years old we did not learn how to control or harness the power of our mind. Even with our eyes open in a well lit room there are images floating right in front of us being generated by our subconscious mind. Some one who practices meditation could learn to quiet the other parts of the brain down. Spiritual people, prophets were able to quiet their mind down. This time let us discuss what mediation should look like. One easy example of meditation would be to think about rearranging the furniture in your mind. This would be an unstructured form of meditation that is internally driven. This is still unstructured ad through such mediation which if one find productive can become a set pattern on a daily or weekly basis such meditation could help one realize that G-d is both within and at the same time way out there. Such verbal meditation is called, by Rebbe Nachman, hisbodedus. Rebbe Nachman used to repeat master of the universe like a mantra. The common elements of meditation are contemplation, mantra, structured and unstructured thinking and internally and externally directed meditation. During our waking state even without actively meditation we can become so engrossed in a problem that we work for our without end trying to solves. The next exercise is say a mantra over and over again and allow an image to form in your mind. In the early days of the Israelite nation meditation was practiced quite regularly. They taught their students meditative techniques that would help them reach higher states of consciousness. The spiritual leadership of the Jewish People could no longer contain the problem of Jews seeking other spiritual path to transcendence, ones that may be easier. The sages built meditative devices within the Jewish prayers. Kavahna means focus or what you are to direct your mind to. Actually the term means to direct our mind towards something. Internal isolation means blocking out all external stimuli and thought. Blue is a spiritual color that open up the gateways to God. THe book explores how mantras were written into the daily prayer. Said over and over again one thinks about the unification of the nation of Israel and about the unification of God. Further in the prayers there are also contemplations on the redeemer. At times it can be rather difficult to start a conversation with God. One can use a mantra " Master of the Universe" in order to get the ball rolling.
If you only read one book about Jewish meditation, this should be it. Jews do not need to stray from their own religion to have an authentic meditative experience.
It is sad that today you see so many Jewish people searching for spiritual sustenance outside of Judaism. I wish that every Jewish person searching for spiritual growth outside of our faith would read this book.
this is not just about jewish meditation.
I liked the degree of integration between ideas found in different chapters, relating meditation to closeness to G-d, to developing oneself, to esoteric mystical ideas particular to Judaism, to the ordinariness of prayer and living. However like prayer and meditation themselves, exposure to the liturgy and ideas therein would provide a reader with the necessary context.
But before the Jewish diasopra (late BC - early AD) there were a lot of different kinds of meditative practices and rituals built into Judaism, but according to Kaplan as the diaspora progressed the torah masters predicted that if the meditative practices went out with the Jews who were leaving they would make people more vulnerable to assimilating because the transcendent experiences they had thru the meditations would make them hungry for whatever religion was closest.
I thought it was interesting how the visualization meditiations in the Jewish tradition involve letters or writing, and there is lot in here about the Tetragrammaton.
The final section talks about other parts of Jewish life (performing the commandments, relationships with others, ethical behavior) and how those can be thought of as meditative acts.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan ZT"L was a world-well-known author. As a graduate student, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan was described in a scientific "Who's Who" as the most promising young physicist in America. Aryeh Kaplan left a legacy of the thousands of people whom he touched and elevated, and of the scores of books and papers that flowed from his pen. We put it down enriched by the intellectual company of Aryeh Kaplan, and grateful for this "gift he left behind.