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Hitbonenut Meditation and How to Practice It

This article originally appeared in and is shared here with permission.

Hitbonenut (contemplation) is a meditative technique that has been used for thousands of years. It consists of reconnecting with the Source of life through contemplating creation.

The contemplation of creation is a central technique in Jewish meditative traditions, as it is the primary method we have with which to cleave to the Divine (Devekut).

The most detailed accounts of Hitbonenut meditation can be found in the teachings of Medieval Jewish sages, such as Maimonides in the 12th century.

However, contemplation of creation as a means to approach the Divine is already referred to in the Book of Psalms. It is even mentioned in ancient traditions that describe the origins of Abraham, the first patriarch.

Jump to Section:

  • What is Hitbonenut

  • How to Practice Hitbonenut

  • The Origins of Hitbonenut

  • Abraham, the First Contemplator of Creation

  • The Psalmist

  • Philosophers of the Middle Ages

What is Hitbonenut

Hitbonenut is Hebrew for contemplation, and in a spiritual context, it refers to a meditative technique: Contemplating Nature as a means of connecting to the Source of life.

Anything we can perceive with the senses can be used for contemplation: from outer space, galaxies, and stars; to trees, flowers, and the ocean.

We can also contemplate living beings: the sociology of animals such as ants, wolves, and dolphins; the intelligent design of Nature, its perfection and precision; how all elements in Nature fit together perfectly.

We can also dive into contemplating the beauty and complexity of a DNA double helix; the maternal instincts of mammals; or the way plants communicate.

Hitbonenut is the tool we can use in order to connect with the Divine. By contemplating creation we can be closer to the Source of life, and eventually express feelings of love and reverence towards God. Such expression is a primary element of Judaism.

Contemplation of creation is at the core of Jewish spiritual tradition, Hitbonenut is therefore a primary technique in Hitbodedut, one of the central meditative practices in Judaism.

How to Practice Hitbonenut

There are many ways to practice Hitbonenut. Here’s a classic one:

1. Find a quiet place to practice Hitbonenut calmly and quietly.

2. Find a comfortable position you can maintain for a while, without moving.

3. Close your eyes and observe the stream of thoughts in your mind. By observing them, you may quieten the stream, and even allow space within to become an observer.

4. Direct your attention towards contemplating a natural phenomenon, such as the beauty and complexity of the ocean. Try to visualize it.

Visualize how big it is; how deep it can get (as deep as 11 miles/36km); visualize the tiny fish, the huge blue whale; the jellyfish, and the squid; the seahorse, and the eel; the corals, and all the life underwater.

You may zoom in on one of these creatures – and notice how unique it is compared to all the other animals around it; or how perfectly synchronized everything is.

5. Bringing your awareness to the Intelligence of creation, to the Source of all life, you may realize how unique we all are, but also how small we are, compared to the greatness of the entire universe.

6. See how this contemplation can ground you, and provide a fresh view on life.

7. Gently bring yourself back to the here and now, and try to imagine how it would feel to maintain within you this sense of perspective, awe, and connection to the Force of life.

The Origins of Hitbonenut

The history of contemplating creation as a means of connecting to the Creator is as old as Judaism. It started with Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation, and continues throughout the Bible.

The philosophers of the Middle Ages transmitted the most detailed descriptions of Hitbonenut techniques.

Abraham, the First Contemplator of Creation

The origins of Hitbonenut date back to the days of Abraham, the founder of Judaism.