15 Tammuz 5759
What is the Torah approach to managing stress? Is meditation permitted or is it considered chukos hagoyim (especially of the eastern religions)?
[Name & seminary withheld upon request]
Meditation is a complex topic as it is somewhat difficult to define. Meditation, in the form it is practiced in eastern religions is almost definitely a form of either chukos hagoyim at best, or perhaps even avodah zarah (idol worship). There is, though, a very Jewish form of meditation. This can take many different forms but the general concept is that the focus is on enhancing my relationship with Hashem and my performance of His Mitzvos. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe shlit”a speaks often of the need for a person to engage in “hisbonenus” or introspection which is most definitely a form of meditation. The Duties of the Heart also discusses at length the need for a person to delve deeply into nature in order to truly appreciate Hashem’s goodness to us. The difference between this and many forms of meditation is that in Judaism, there is always a very distinct goal, which is drawing closer to Hashem.
It almost goes without saying the important place Tefilah can and should play in effective stress management. We are given an opportunity, several times a day, to stop everything around us and evaluate our priorities, our goals, and our dreams. We can take an accounting of things going on around us and draw closer to the Source of our salvation. When taken seriously, Tefilah can, in and of itself, be a tremendous balance in a life of stress. It is also imperative to take time every day to study some mussar sefer. Take some time to find a sefer that speaks to you and your feelings and commit 20-30 minutes a day to work on it. You might only cover one sentence in that time and it might even take days, but the growth you will experience is immeasurable.