Experiencing the Divine
You must sometimes close out the world and experience Hashem within, and at other times, you’ll need to open yourself to the world of spirituality that is outside yourself...
by Dr. Zev Ballen
So many people who I speak with tell me that they want to have more emuna, but that their minds are too overwhelmed and overloaded with all kinds of intrusive thoughts. They say to themselves: “I should really have more emuna (in whatever difficult situation they’re in), but they don’t because they feel so dominated by negative thoughts and emotions.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev wrote that the only reason that so many people are so far from G-d is because they don’t have yishuv hadaat (a settled mind). From my experience as an emuna-based psychotherapist, I have seen how true the Rebbe’s words are. Secular people can hardly function without a settled mind – how much more necessary is it for people who want to live with emuna to heed Rebbe Nachman’s advice?
After I teach people about relaxation (which doesn’t take long), I like to give them some concrete tools that they can use to be aware of their connection to Hashem as they move through the day.
There are two basic ways to be aware of Hashem – inside of yourself and outside of yourself in the world around you.
Centering is the skill that will enable you to connect with Hashem inside yourself. Opening is the skill that will enable you to be aware of and experience Hashem outside of yourself. I usually teach centering first since once a person feels internally connected to Hashem, it’s easier for the person to extend the feeling beyond himself into the environment.
A method of centering is to sit comfortably and breathe naturally. Place your hands on the place where you feel Hashem is breathing you the most (abdomen, chest, in-between). Now concentrate on the beneficial sensations of feeling more centered, grounded and absorbed in the process of breathing. Since Hashem is the ultimate Good, tell yourself that whatever good, positivem healthy sensations that you are feeling is Hashem Himself. Once you’re centered, you can use opening to expand and strengthen the experience.
A method of opening is to bring your hands from your center and raise them along an infinite vertical axis to the Heavens above, (as Moses did, “…his hands were emuna.”) then lowering your hands slowly and gracefully down to the earth. As you lift your hands keep your awareness on your emuna in Hashem’s being infinite. As you lower them remember that Hashem is in every direction. Your awareness of Hashem at this point can also continue down through the earth and continue on infinitely. Now bring your hands back to your center and extend them slowly along an infinite horizontal axis and slowly make a 360 degree turn around. Your emuna in Hashem is in everything that you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
Now feel the energy of emuna in your hands (and bring your hands over places where you have physical discomfort (head, shoulders, throat, stomach etc.).
Once you learn these simple skills, you’ll find yourself cycling back and forth between them during the day depending on the circumstances that you’re in. At times you will need to close out the world and get more attuned to Hashem as you can experience Him inside yourself, and at other times, you’ll need to open yourself to the world of spirituality that is outside yourself. By learning to alternate between centering and opening, your awareness of Hashem will soon grow much stronger.
Practice this daily and it will come back to you at other times too. In time you will think of Hashem and feel His presence intensely through all your senses even without the exercise.
Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.