Nazarene Space


Biblical Meditation
By
James Scott Trimm



Unfortunately to most Western minds the word "meditation" evokes images of Eastern Gurus and New Agers. The reason this is so unfortunate is that the Bible actually speaks often of meditation and actually prescribes meditation. Moreover meditation plays an important part in Jewish mysticism.

The Hebrew word used for "meditation" in Jewish mysticism since the 13th century (perhaps earlier) is HITBONENUT. The two most common words for "meditation" in ancient Biblical Hebrew were HAGAH (Strong's 1897, 1900-1902) and SIYAKH (Strong's 7878-7879, 7881).

Meditation differs somewhat from prayer. Meditation is contemplation; protracted concentration of thought.

The Scripture speaks of mediation on:

* The Torah (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148)

* Understanding (Ps. 49:3)

* Elohim (Ps. 63:6)

* His works and doings (Ps. 77:12; 143:5)

* and His name YHWH (Mal. 3:16)

An intense meditation on ELOHIM is called DEVEKUT (cleaving) as the Torah states:

...you shall diligently keep all these
commandments which I command you,
to do them, to love YHWH your Elohim,
to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him.
(Deut. 11:22)

You shall walk after YHWH your Elohim,
and fear him, and keep his commandments,
and obey his voice, and you shall serve him,
and cleave unto him.
(Deut. 13:5 (13:4 in some editions))

This "cleaving" or DEVEKUT seems closely tied to the laying up of Torah in ones heart (Deut. 11:18) which closely parallels the SH'MA (Deut. 6:4-9) which also speaks of loving YHWH and both Deut. 6:4-9 and Deut. 11:18, 22 tie in with the T'fillin.

A deep level of DEVEKUT is known in Jewish mysticism as "Holy Spirit":

Beyond that level of devekuth lay a realm
called "Holy Spirit," where a man was
mentally, and sometimes even physically,
transformed into a prophet.
(KABBALAH; The Way of the Jewish Mystic by Perle Epstein p. 31)

...different ranks of dekevut itself, such as
... "the holy spirit," and "prophecy."
(KABBALAH by Gershom Scholem p. 174)

This parallels Rev. 1:10 where Yochanan describes himself as being "in the Spirit" when he has his Ma'aseh Merkavah (account of the throne) experience (Rev. 4:1f). And Jude speaks of "praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 1:20).

Another important Hebrew term related to meditation in Jewish mysticism is KAVANNA (bonding). KAVANNA is a term used to refer to focused, one-pointed concentration.


SOME POINTERS FOR GETTING STARTED

To begin with let me say that I have no intention of proclaiming the only "real", "true" or "correct" method of Biblical meditation. The following information is intended only as a set of pointers to get you going in the
right direction.

First off, given the choice, it is best not to meditate when you are tired or right after a meal. While you can meditate at these times you are more likely to suffer from drowsiness which will detract from your KAVANNA (focused concentration).

Second of all it is best not to meditate with loud music or television nearby. Either will usually make it difficult to focus KAVANNA.

Thirdly if you have small children you may find it best to meditate while they are sleeping. Children are a joy and a blessing however, not only will you experience interruptions from them, but you may find that the your worrying about the constant potential for such an interruption at any moment will also detract from KAVANNA.

Fourthly you will find it helpful to have a set time for meditation each day. This will help you to stick with it and make meditation a part of your everyday routine. Most find that the best times are at the time of the Morning and Evening Prayers following the regular prayers.

It is suggested that you find a place that is quiet, dimly lit and comfortable. You do not need to sit "indian style" or attempt any yoga-style positions. You may sit Indian style if you like, or you may sit in a chair. If you choose to sit in a chair it should be one that is comfortable to you and one with a straight back. In any case it is best to keep your back straight/upright as this will help you remain alert and attentive.

You will need to learn to relax. This is a skill many never achieve in their lifetimes. You must rid your mind of all worries and distracting thoughts. Meditation is NOT a tense teeth gripping concentration, but a relaxed focused concentration.

You should have a clock or watch within sight without having to move your head.  You will want to assume a relaxing yet attentive position. Your back should be as staright as is comfortable for you but not stiff or tense.  Drop  your shoulders and let your arms rest limply supported (perhaps on your lap legs.). You will want to either close your eyes (but not tightly) or stare into space. Alternately you may wish to lean your head downward resting it with the tips of your fingers upon your forehead and and your thumb upon your cheek and your elbow may rest upon a table top. You may also wish to place your tallit over your head creating a closed in compartment for your meditations.

As you begin you should take a few moments to simply be keenly aware of your physical body. Start at your feet and focus this awareness through your entire body. As you notice tensions in various parts of your body do not concentrate on them, simply become aware of them and relax them. You will often find that awareness of these tensions will itself relax them.

You will want to achieve a quiet stillness. Try to avoid fidgeting or shifting around. This will be very hard at first. When you first attempt it you will feel almost attacked by itches and minor cramps that almost seem to spring up from no where to break your KAVANNA. In time you will overcome these distractions.

Now you will want to turn your attention to your breathing. Your ability to focus your thoughts is regulated physically by your brain. Your brain is most alert and able to focus with a good supply of oxygen. It is suggested that you breathe in a deep breath, count to four in your head; hold the breath in to a count of four and the release it slowly while mentally counting to four. When holding the breath do not tense the throat but simply hold the breath freely in your chest. You will want to learn to breath in this pattern naturally without having to mentally count.

Now you will want to begin actually meditating on a subject. As we stated earlier the Bible gives many potential subjects for meditation among them are:


* The Torah (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148)

* Understanding (Ps. 49:3)

* Elohim (Ps. 63:6)

* His works and doings (Ps. 77:12; 143:5)

* and His name YHWH (Mal. 3:16)

The following are some suggestions:

Meditating upon the name of YHWH. Dwell upon the meaning of the name.  Focus your thoughts on each syllable of the name. Contemplate each of the  four letters of the name and meditate upon each one of them, then unify them once again and meditate on the whole name. As you focus on the name cleave (DEVEKUT) to it.

Meditate upon the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). Meditate upon each Hebrew word in the shema one at a time. As you meditate upon the phrase "YHWH, ELOHEYNU, YHWH" focus upon their relationship with each of the three pillars of the
godhead and focus your thoughts on that pillar. You may want to deconstruct each pillar and meditate upon each of the sefirot in that pillar. As you meditate upon the word ECHAD focus upon the unity of the godhead. As you focus upon this unity seek DEVEKUT, cleave to the unity of the godhead.

Meditate upon the Torah. Choose a passage (such as the Shema above) and meditate on each word and each letter of it.

Meditate on each of the ten SEFIROT. Meditate upon the meaning of each and their interrelationships. Begin with Malkut and work your way up the tree.  Try to balance the opposing sefirot in yourself as you go.

Meditate on each of the four worlds. Work your way from this world to the world of emanation.

Meditate on the 32 paths of wisdom. Focus on each of the SEFIROT and focus on each connecting path. Fully explore the symbolism of each path, its associated Hebrew letter, and its sign in the heavens. Work your way around the entire tree in your mind, seeking to balance the opposing elements in yourself as you go,

Meditate on the full Armour of Elohim. Focus on each element of Armour, what it represents and how it relates to the parts of Adam Kadmon. Imagine dawning the Armour one item at a time, focusing on the symbolism of each item and exploring its meaning.

Meditate on the nine manifestations of the Ruach in much the same way as you have meditated on the 10 SEFIROT.

Eventually you will see all of these elements of the Tree of Life as a whole and will see these various aspects of the tree all at once as a single system of interrelating parts much like a functioning machine. You will be able to meditate carefully upon each of them as you meditate on each element of the Tree.

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm sorry to say that years ago I used to practice the type of meditation written about by Dr. Trimm, but as the years slipped by I got out of the habit. After reading this article I recalled the overall sense of calmness and self control that I had in my life when I practiced true Biblical based meditation. This short article has made me determined to regain that wonderful sense of peace and, I might add, enlightenment.

Now I'd like to share something that I have previously shared with only a very few people. When in a deep state of meditation a number of years ago, I became aware of the most delightful fragrance of incense. I thought that perhaps my wife lit a stick and that's what I smelled. Then, as my eyes were closed I began to see beautiful colors, most shades of blue and purple with some red, yellow and green. The colors slowly swirled in a flowing pattern. Then, bright gold Hebrew letters flowed into place superimposed over the mass of colors. There formed the four letters of the Tetragrammaton  -- Yud, Hey, Wau, Hey -- Yahweh's most Divine Name. During this time I was not asleep or unaware of my surroundings, I simply felt detached from them. When I opened my eyes and arose from my chair I asked my wife about the incense, when and where she got such a delightful aroma. To my shock, my wife said she never lit any incense nor did she smell any. All the time she was sitting near me on the couch reading the Zohar.            

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