For seven days, I sat in silence together with 35 other meditators and three marvelous teachers. Except for "daavening"-chanting prayer services, asking questions of clarification concerning the meditative practice and meeting privately with the teachers, we were expected to maintain silence when we ate, returned to our rooms, walked and sat. Needless to say, this is quite a daunting task for a rabbi, even one who is retired!
The rationale for the silence was to eliminate distractions and enhance and sharpen a sense of mindful awareness that allowed for the cultivation of a calm mind and an open heart.
I confess that I enjoy silence, and solitude. What was particularly amazing was that in fact I was never alone. I was constantly surrounded by community, and in spite of silence, our shared experience of meditating was a powerful means of communication and support.
Paying attention to the breath, becoming aware of the thinking that occupies our mind
relentlessly and randomly , are spiritual activities that deepen our consciousness and allow for the emergence of insight and heightened attentiveness to life in general.
Why did all of us subject ourselves to this exercise? Each one of us participated for individual reasons of many kinds. What unified all of us- young college students,women in middle age, retired professionals -was the desire to return to a space in our lives -our unencumbered souls that we are granted each morning, as reflected in the morning prayer that declares: " My God, the soul that You gave me is pure..." We all possess this unencumbered spot...an umbilical spot of grace where we were first touched by God.
I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to return to that spot , and wish to thank my teachers-Sylvia Boorstein, Rabbi Jeff Roth and Joanne Katz. Special acknowledgment is extended to the Isabella Friedman Jewish Retreat Center at Falls River Connecticut:a real Garden of Eden.