These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] Awakening the Divine

Posted on October 13, 2013 by Baruch Tauber

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Dear Friends

In January, I attended my first meditation retreat at Awakening the Divine. As a beginner to meditation practice, I definitely had my doubts. Sit for hours at a time?! Not talk to anyone?! Really?! Will I have a million emails when I get back? Will I die from boredom? What the hell will I think about?! And what’s with all this praying and God talk? What if I don’t want to awaken the quote unquote Divine?! (from experience, something I would generally prefer to avoid)


Curious and desperate a change, I went. For five days I sat, held silence for most of the day, walked in nature, sung without shame, yoga’d, studied text, and prayed. As the noise of daily life began to fade, the chatter of my mind slowed to a manageable pace, bringing my senses into sharp focus. At night I waited for sleep with a new-found patience. For the first time that I could remember, I wasn’t bored; there was nowhere else to be but here in the moment. Nothing mattered as much as the next breath, suddenly so full of life and promise.

As I learned to be more present with my breath, to let go of impulses to distract myself, I was intrigued by how much great stuff lay inside of me and in others, intangible yet invaluable. I just had to listen.

At meals -consumed at a painstakingly slow pace- I noticed how much I enjoyed actually tasting the food. For most of my life I had never been able to eat without distracting my mind with YouTube or at least NPR. Now that void felt smaller, the itch less urgent. Sure it was lonely, but lonely could be ok, heck, it could be better than ok. In the space expanded by the silence and the comfortably shared solitude, I edged closer to the empty pit inside, surprisingly, in control. Like watching a horror movie from behind the scenes, it wasn’t nearly as scary when I got close enough.

Well. Life moves on. After a transformative five days I returned to NYC and my inbox (not nearly as full as I’d feared/hoped). Yet, as I struggled to meditate very morning and bring the mindfulness practice to the dramas at the office, I sensed something had shifted. The edginess and fear had diminished, and my reactions weren’t as swift or competitive. I wasn’t as blissful as I’d hoped to be, but open, definitely more open. It sure felt good to feel things again.

So there it is, my shameless pitch. After years of resenting “spiritual” friends trying to feed me answers…. Now I am that friend, saying, if you love Jewish mindfulness practice, or think you might, you should check out this retreat. (Registration closes November 1) The teachers (all of whom continue to be present in my life as invaluable mentors and friends) and community are amazing, and you might discover how amazing you are, even more than you already know.

(Sign up here, registration closes November 1) I hope to see you there!

Thank you for listening,