The early pious ones would meditate (shohim)for one hour before “the prayer” (ha’tefilla).
Mishnah Berakhot 5:1
Most mornings, for close to twenty years, I have sat for a designated period of time observing my breath mindfully (shohim) before commencing my traditional daily prayers. Meditation and formal prayer are complementary.
Through meditation, I gain deeper calm and hone my concentration. I become more aware of the radio stations that most often play in my mind. With focused attention, I steadily turn down the volume, and even experience the greater silence between stations. In quietude, I am more intuitive, open, and loving. Compassion is enhanced by meditation.
Relaxed and alert, my heart opened, I begin to pray.
Prayer’s goal is connection. Conversation with God enables me to identify with the Jewish people by quoting words of Scripture and echoing in Hebrew the yearnings, gratitude, and awe that span generations. Traditional liturgy at its best reminds me of what I might otherwise take for granted. It coaxes my awareness of God, and conjures a Divine call. Just as Moses encountered God at the burning bush, so too we experience a surprising moment of awareness when we revisit daily liturgy, with the Amidah (ha’tefilla) as our destination. Meditation coupled with prayer prepares me to hear God’s still sliver of voice beckoning compassionate, committed, caring connection with the larger world and God’s abiding consciousness.