One of the hallmarks of hasidic practice is everyday spirituality. "Know Him in all your ways" (Proverbs 3:6) is a call to remember God through prayers, blessings, repetition of a holy sentence, and constant adoration in the midst of our daily activities. Yitzhak Buxbaum is a maggid, teacher, and storyteller who has gathered together hundreds of ways to draw closer to God. The author of The Life and Teachings of Hillel reveals the amazing breadth and depth of Jewish spirituality as taught by some of its greatest masters.
Buxbaum shows how everything we do in thought, word, and deed can be used to open the heart in reverence to the Divine Presence. For example, Rabbi Nachman used to talk to his various limbs to "convince" them of the need to serve God. If we adopt the same spiritual intention, eating and sleeping can be occasions for us to renew our bodies so that we are able to be a good neighbor.
Throughout the book, Buxbaum includes examples of aids used by the rabbis to enrich their devotional life. Imagination is an important one. Some hasidic masters imagine themselves in the Garden of Eden before reading the Torah, thus heightening that experience. Others suggest that to chase foreign thoughts away while we are praying, we should clap our hands above our heads. There are many passages here on performing mitzvot and properly fulfilling the Sabbath. One I especially like is from Rabbi Ayre Levin of Jerusalem: "I was careful to receive everyone cheerfully until this became second nature to me. I was careful, too, to take the initiative in greeting everyone."
Jewish Spiritual Practices is an amazingly comprehensive and thoroughly practical book. Open it to any page, and you will be inspired by the words and examples of these masters. You will also understand in a deep way that acts of piety and holiness are not intended to impress God or to win divine favor but are sincere and concrete expressions of our love of the Holy One.