It could even be something that makes you feel good.
It could be something with pseudo-rabbinic approval.
But then you discover it's all wrong.
Or at least, partly wrong.
My latest wake-up call came after reading Rav Itamar Schwartz's ideas about concentrating on one's breathing, which he takes from Chazal (as clarified by Rav Abulafia, apparently), and does not borrow from non-Jewish sources.
Then a caring reader sent me a booklet of Rav Schwartz's ideas on breathing & how it specifically relates to the month of Cheshvan:
You can also see a version of it as a blog post:
Now, I was never one of these people who likes to meditate, but I have done guided meditation with frum rabbinically approved people.
And these are people who care about their methods being 100% kosher.
So imagine my dismay when I read in the Q&A section (emphasis mine):
The Torah’s approach to the power of using breathing is not so that we should expel negative energy contained in the body and bring in positive energy.
A Torah-approved method that is being somewhat mirrored in the gentile practices of breathing is that a person can bring positive energy into his system; however, this is not being accomplished through the gentile methods.
A Torah-approved method would be to imagine a thought about something holy and to imagine that it is entering him, or that it is his enveloping his body, or something similar to this.
The gentile approach of breathing exercises, however, involves imagining a “light” that enters the body which purges it from all evil or negativity found in the body.
This approach is heretical to our Torah.
And while I haven't done this a lot nor have I done this since a while ago, I was concerned that something so seemingly innocent & positive is actually "heretical."
Trusting that Rav Schwartz is truly knowledgeable in this area helped me be honest with myself, and convinced me that I must not again try anything that instructs me to inhale "light" or "a power" – ANY kind of "power."
There's just Hashem.
Having said that, I think that one of the frum methods I tried indeed described it as imagining "the light of Hashem" being inhaled into you, which suits the Torah-approved method of breathing, according to Rav Schwartz.
That felt nice, but I never saw any of the promised effects from it, as far as I remember.
At the same time, I don't think all these things always make sure to mention Hashem as a firmly entrenched part of the exercise – which might explain an odd reaction I had to one given by a frum person, which was not only unhelpful but caused a very unpleasant feeling.
Rav Schwartz goes on to explain (emphasis mine):
The purpose of the Torah’s approach towards breathing is that breathing enables us to reach HaKadosh Baruch Hu found in the depths of the soul.
Unlike the gentile methods, which are entirely self-focused, the Torah way of breathing exercises is to come to live with Hashem in our life, through the breathing exercises.
It's all focused on self.
I remember when I read about Buddhism, for example, to see what all the attraction was about, and when I learned what the whole point was & what the greatest achievement could be, I was like, "That's it?"
Just something like, reaching a state of nothingness for absolutely no reason.
And investing TONS of work and discipline to get there.
It was so pointless and meaningless, I really didn't & don't understand why intelligent, spiritual people were & are so attracted to it.
So I decided to try breathing Rav Schwartz's way, and immediately saw the difference.
Concentrating on my breathing sparked a dim image in my head of the whole breathing apparatus, the diaphragm, everything. My mind automatically thought, "Wow, how great are your deeds, Hashem! Look at how everything works together so well without my even noticing! I'm so grateful to You! You're Amazing!"
This was the spontaneous thought, not that I was trying to make it Gratitude Time. (Remember, I was just focusing on my breathing without using my mind for anything else.)
Needless to say, feeling awash in awe & appreciation of Hashem both relaxed & uplifted my mood.
At this point, I plan to use this periodically, but don't intend to make a daily practice out of it because, like I said, I'm really not a meditative type. Anyway, he said this isn't necessary spiritual work; it's just for people who feel attracted to it and wish to make it part of their avodah.
Not every soul needs this particular method of getting close to Hashem.
But yet again, it showed me the great importance of deriving help from authentic Jewish sources.
We don't need to look so often to the non-Jewish world for help.
And we certainly don't need "kashered" versions of unkosher methods.