Shut up, sit down: Reflections on a Jewish meditation retreat in Israel

January 7, 2013

Brian Blum, Haaretz: A weekend of meditation based on Hasidic mindfulness practices that were almost wiped out in the Holocaust proved to be unexpectedly transformational.

My wife and I recently went on a silent Jewish meditation retreat. There wasn’t much to say. The end.

Just kidding. There is in fact very much to say about the retreat, which was organized by Or HaLev – the Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation, established by Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels at Kibbutz Hanaton in the northern Jezreel Valley.

As described in its mission statement, Or HaLev seeks to “teach concrete Jewish techniques for deepening our lives and to …

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The anxiety of the long-distance meditator

December 18, 2012

Jeff Warren, New York Times: “You want to cultivate the crackling intensity of the ninja,” Daniel Ingram told me. Ingram made a living as an emergency doctor, but his real passion was teaching advanced meditation. It was day one of a 30-day solitary retreat, and this was my first meditation instruction. We were sitting in Ingram’s straw bale guesthouse, a squat round building next to the main house at the end of a long country road in rural Alabama. Behind the house a thick forest buzzed with insect life.

Ingram stood and began to walk, arms outstretched and eyes shock-widened, as though his …

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Mammoth pyramid meditation centre set to be opened

December 17, 2012

Nemmani Sreedhar, The Hindu: Faith, they say, can move mountains. But with a firm belief in their system, the faithful have literally created a mountain near the capital.

Spread over 150 acres, Pyramid Spiritual Trust is developing a grand meditation centre at Kadtal village on Hyderabad-Srisailam highway, the star attraction of the centre being a 114-foot tall ‘Maheshwara Maha Pyramid’.

Made of steel and concrete, this structure is the biggest pyramid in the world built exclusively to facilitate meditation, V. Lakshmana Rao, a trust member claimed.

“With practice and observation we have found that pyramids have great healing powers. Human body gets rejuvenated while …

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Retreating into meditation

December 11, 2012

Robert Wright, the Atlantic: At the moment this post is published–Monday evening–I’m probably miserable. But I can’t say for sure.
Monday is the third full day of a week-long silent meditation retreat I’m attending. Since being on a silent meditation retreat means cutting off all contact with the world, I had to write this post before the retreat started. But since this isn’t my first week-long meditation retreat, I can with some confidence predict how I’ll be feeling three days into it. And it’s not a great feeling.

As I put it a couple of years ago in a piece I wrote about …

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Zen and the art of switching off

November 26, 2012

Nina Karnikowski escapes the frenzied pace of her everyday life with a meditation, yoga and detox retreat in the hills of Bali.

I’m a chronic multitasker. A restless sleeper. A compulsive mental to-do list compiler. A neurotic over-analyser. Put simply: my head is an exhausting place to be.

People have often told me meditation could help me shush things up top, and I have tried it a couple of times. There was that session a girlfriend convinced me to attend 10 years ago because “the monk running it is so hot” (he was), and those couple of Buddhist meditation classes I did half-heartedly last …

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The sound of silence

October 18, 2012

Sarah Berry, The Age (Australia): What’s the point of being completely silent for three days? You could just be drinking cocktails by the pool.

“You’re doing this for fun?” confused friends ask before I leave. After spending three days in ‘noble silence’ and meditating for 11 hours a day, several people with me on the silent retreat are asking the same question.

At the end of the final day, when the silence is finally broken, one woman admits she spent a fair bit of the time wondering why she hadn’t just “booked into a resort and spent the weekend by the pool, sipping cocktails …

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Four days of silence

October 17, 2012

Beverly Willett, Salon: Still grieving my divorce, I went to a Buddhist retreat and discovered the challenge — and joy — of not speaking.

“A retreat is a good idea,” my meditation teacher, trained in the U.K. by a Tibetan monk, said when I consulted him about my persistent urge to get away. “And I recommend a silent one.”

My husband had left me for another woman. I was juggling two kids, in and out of divorce court, and felt my lid about to blow.

As luck would have it, I’d just turned 50, too. Even I knew I needed time for introspection, but why the …

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Former Benedictine monastery finds new life as retreat center

October 1, 2012

Bill Sherman, Tulsa World: A dozen people sang a prayer of invocation and then sat for 20 minutes of silent meditation in a round, sunken prayer room at the Osage Forest of Peace retreat center.
A bell chimed to end the meditation. They rose, bowed and sang another prayer.

It was a ritual repeated three times a day, every day, at the center, an interfaith contemplative community on 43 wooded acres four miles west of Sand Springs.

Osage Forest of Peace was founded more than 30 years ago as a Catholic Benedictine monastery by Sister Pascaline Coff, who modeled it after an ashram in India that …

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Entrusting yourself to the waves

September 6, 2012

I was drawn to my first Buddhist mindfulness retreat during a time when my son, Narayan, was four, and I was on the verge of divorce. During a slow, icy drive through a winter snowstorm on the way to the retreat center, I had plenty of time to reflect on what most mattered to me. I didn’t want a breakup that would bury the love I still shared with my husband; I didn’t want us to turn into uncaring, even hostile, strangers. And I didn’t want a breakup that would deprive Narayan of feeling secure and loved. My deep prayer was that through all that was happening, I’d find a way to stay connected with … Read more »

The quiet hell of extreme meditation

August 24, 2012

Michael Finkel, Men’s Journal Magazine: These are my final words: “Why a camp chair?” I speak them to a man named Wade. Wade from Minnesota. I’m in line behind him, waiting to enter the Dhamma Giri meditation center, in the quiet hill country of western India, for the official start of the 10-day course. Wade tells me that this is his second course and that he learned a valuable lesson from the first. “I’m so glad I have this,” he says, indicating the small folding camp chair tucked under his arm. I utter my last question. It’s never answered. One of the volunteers …

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