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What is Hashkata Meditation

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Hashkata is a meditation that consists of introspection and verse repetition as a means for ethical transformation and spiritual development.

It may be effective in working on character traits such as becoming more loving, patient, calm, and generous; or as a means to get closer to the Divine Source of life.

Hashkata practice consists mainly in quieting the mind, slowing the flow of thoughts, and turning off the ego to make room for spiritual intentions, and through these, for Divine Inspiration.

An illustration of the Piaseczno rebbe- Rav Klonimus Kalman Shapira, sitting on a chair, meditating, with his feet touching the flor and his hands resting on his knees. He has a long black bird,  wearing a yarmulke and glasses and a black cloth.

Divine inspiration can be used for ethical transformation by cultivating character traits such as generosity, calmness and humility.

It may also be used to bring us closer to the Divine, or in preparation for prayer.

This technique was taught by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, a great Hasidic teacher and leader who was murdered in the Holocaust.

The primary source for Hashkata Meditation instructions is the testimony of one of his students in the mid-1930s.

Although the rebbe alludes to Hashkata in some of his books, for example, in Hovat Ha-Talmidim (“A Student’s Responsibility”), he considers that the ego impedes the attainment of Heavenly Inspiration.

When our thoughts and awareness are awakened and active, it is difficult to attain Divine Inspiration. Therefore, it is important to learn how to access a sleeplike state of consciousness while still awake and aware.

We can do this through the practice of Hashkata Mediation – a four-step technique of quieting our stream of thoughts and desires in order to make space for Divine Inspiration and internal change.

How to practice Hashkata

According to testimony by the rebbe’s students, there are four main steps to the practice:

Step I – Observing Your Thoughts

First, the invitation is to observe your thoughts for a little while, a few moments. Ask yourself: “What am I thinking about?”

You’ll then notice that your mind is slowly emptying, and the flow of thoughts is slowing down. You gain control over your awareness and may use it as you see fit.

Step II – Verse Repetition

The next step includes repeating a verse from the Bible. The rebbe gives an example: “But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King” (Jeremiah 10, 10).

After emptying the mind of mundane thoughts, the idea is to then connect to “one thought of holiness”: Bring your awareness to the spiritual.

Step III – Asking for Inspiration

Now you may ask for Divine Inspiration, the core of Hashkata Meditation. For example, you may ask for help fixing specific character traits, strengthening your faith, working on your love for God, etc.

When working on strengthening your faith, you can whisper something like: “I believe with complete faith that God is the only existence in the universe. There is no reality other than God. All the world and all that is, is just an instance of His Light.”

You may repeat this several times, but the rebbe insists on the importance of keeping a low voice and whispering softly. An essential part of the Hashkata practice is to quiet your ego. When speaking loudly, the ego can be awakened and disturb the practice.

You may use this practice to work on whichever trait you wish, as long as you keep a positive framework and phrasing, asking for the characteristics you’d like to enhance, rather than the ones you’d like to eliminate.

For instance, rather than saying, “I wish I wasn’t lazy”, or “I wish I would stop being lazy”, the invitation is to say, “Please, God, help me have energy for action”, or “I believe in my ability to act quickly when the thought of an action comes to my mind.”

Step IV – Soft Chanting

In order to conclude the practice, the invitation is to chant the psalm:

Teach me Your way, O LORD;

I will walk in Your truth;

Let my heart be undivided in reverence for Your Name.

הוֹרֵנִי יְהוָה דַּרְכֶּךָ

אֲהַלֵּךְ בַּאֲמִתֶּךָ

יַחֵד לְבָבִי לְיִרְאָה שְׁמֶךָ.

This practice may be repeated daily, and, according to the rebbe’s students, you may see results after a few weeks.

Hashkata Meditation is only one of the rebbe’s contemplative teachings. In his teachings, he often uses guided imagery practices and teaches how to “strengthen the mind” and influence our consciousness.

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