In the above video, Rabbi Shalom Arush demonstrates “Hitbodedut.”
Rebbe Shalom’s teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslav, teaches a kind of prayer or meditation (or both) called: “His’bo’d’dus” (“Hitbodedut” in “modern” Hebrew). Simply put, you go out into a deserted area, especially a field or forest, and talk to G-d as naturally and spontaneously as if you’re pouring out your heart to a friend who is sitting with you, listening attentively and acceptingly.
There’s no prolonged list of steps in the process; no complicated directions. It’s not “mechanical.” Experience with it is likely to vary from person to person, and from time to time.
Among Rebbe Nachman’s few directions for Hitbodedut: Speak to G-d in your own language.
When you watch Rabbi Arush, you’ll immediately notice that he’s speaking Hebrew. This is because he’s an Israeli (although born in Morocco). So, although you might not understand what Rabbi Arush is saying, keep in mind that he’s speaking in what is, for him, the language of conversation. For Rebbe Nachman himself, it was Yiddish! For most readers of this piece, it’s probably English.
So — speak to G-d in English, if that’s how you speak to your friends.
Don’t worry. G-d speaks English.
And by the way, you don’t have to call G-d “Thou.” “You” is just fine; “you” is even better. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev called G-d “du” — the familiar form of “you” that’s only used (in Yiddish, German, and some related languages) for intimate personal relationships, like family and lovers.
I’d say that the essence of Hitbodedut is “naturalness.”
There’s never a fixed text for Hitbodedut. Whatever Rabbi Arush is saying, it’s spontaneous — just as you are when you pour out your heart to your friend. What you say today will be different from what you said yesterday and what you will say tomorrow — although you might be discussing the same feelings or problems.
Notice also that as Rabbi Arush’s Hitbodedut continues, he becomes more animated. You don’t have to make the same movements as he does; you’ll find your own. They’ll just happen to you, like they do when you’re talking to your friend.
I haven’t done this kind of Hitbodedut consistently. I find that when I try to speak to G-d this way, I get more overwhelmed by my own feelings. Sometimes — that’s exactly what I’m trying to escape!
When I speak to G-d informally (call it “prayer,” if you want), I usually do it in thought, because this allows me to listen, too. G-d answers me in conversation by giving me an unexpected, spontaneous change in viewpoint, or sometimes, an interjected thought (an insight or comment) about my own thoughts. Most of all, I feel G-d present to me, more and more; it continues after I’m finished “talking.” You’ll understand this best when it happens to you.
However you do it, you’ll know that you’re really praying when G-d becomes more real to you than the problem.
I’d guess that if you live in a Breslav community, there are people you can talk to who have long experience doing this. Whatever questions you might have, they’d be able to answer, or point you to someone else who can. Breslav never had another Rebbe after Rebbe Nachman, but it has had “manhigim” — leaders and teachers, who have carried Breslav teachings from one place to another; one generation to another. So, if I were to speak to someone very experienced in Hitbodedut, I might ask about how to speak to G-d without becoming increasingly wrapped up in my own — sometimes negative — feelings. I’m sure they’d have something helpful to tell me.
But you’ll find what works best for thee — uhhh, you.