Jewish Mindfulness Teaching Training – April 2014
This is the opening evening talk for this iteration of the Jewish Mindfulness Teaching Training program. Each teacher is introduced, and discusses some of their intentions for the retreat.
Sheila Weinberg then opens the retreat with a talk laying out the parameters of the training program, and introducing both the practice and the wisdom tradition supporting Jewish contemplative practice. Jeff Roth closes with a brief meditation with instructions, following by Kaddish and the counting of the Omer.
This is a full morning service. It begins with Jeff presenting an introduction to this style of davvening. Many of the prayers/chants are introduced with kavanot. A valuable recording.
Jeff presents a brief introduction to the theology of Jewish contemplative practice. He discusses what is needed to support our practice, and focuses on the Jewish concept of mochin de katnut, or small mind. Jeff details how the experience of self-identity is a process of small mind. He discusses the make-up of small mind through the lens of the five aggregates: body; feeling tone; perception; volitional fabrications; and consciousness.
Jordan discusses how normative Jewish practice is a spiritual practice resonant with mindfulness of the moment-to-moment experience of the normal course of events. He tells the Torah story of the spies returning from Canaan, focusing on how it illustrates the reality of human experience and the importance of remembering (mindfulness), and that our actions should be based on investigation and wisdom, not on our fears and delusions. This allows us to remember who we are: remembrance as the sharp focus of attention, embracing concern and involvement, active, not passive.
Joanna talks about how each of us has something precious and unique that is only ours to unfold in this practice. That a spiritual practice is a practice that allows the heart and mind to settle. Joanna teaches that spirituality, which is an essential part of Judaism, is always striving for the presence of God, and the fashioning of a life of holiness appropriate to that striving. Joanna asks: how we able to be open to the presence of God in a state of great adversity. Being open to the presence of God is directly related to the state of one’s own heart.
Jeff leads us in a morning service with only chants. No kavanot, or instructions, or other words.
Sheila begins with the connection of mindfulness to the cycle of Jewish holy days, being immersed in the embodied experience of the intentions arising in the practice of each holy day. Sheila teaches that Torah has a sense of being a path of well-being and peace, leading to an understanding that creates transformation. The Torah teaches us to let go – let go of that which impedes our ease, our mindfulness, our connection to the Devine.
Jeff begins by addressing the question: what is the binary nature of conceptual thinking. This is an important frame for finding the solution to the problem of defining the task of a human life: alignment with loving attention/connection to the truth of what’s arising, allowing the unfolding of wisdom, all of which is being known in awareness. Jeff talks about the purpose of human life, which is to further the divine unfolding, allowing consciousness and love to be fully expressed and realized in all transitory corporeal existence. Jeff brings new meaning to the stories of the exile from Eden and of Moses at the burning bush – opening these stories more deeply to our human experience of separation from the Devine Presence.
Jeff gives instructions related to paying attention to the Third Foundation of mindfulness: moods and mind states. He expresses the importance of the awareness both is sitting practice and in everyday life. A focus is on whether a particular mood is currently present or, just as importantly, whether it is absent. This helps us know how each mind state arises, how they are manifesting in the present moment, and how to work with them skillfully.
Sheila discusses the meaning, the value, and the importance of Ana B’koach a prayer often said as we move into Shabbat. It is especially resonate during the counting of the Omer. She wrote an English version, which she shares with us. In the chanting of Ana B’koach, we ask for deep acceptance and the support that allows us to be with whatever is arising in our lives. Shabbat is the practice of: this is like this.
Jeff leads us in a warm, inclusive havdallah service, using chant and developing meaning.
Sheila lays out the hevruta process, assigns pairs and gives basic instructions.
Sheila lays out the Special Interest Group process, facilitates the building of such groups and gives basic instructions.
Sheila talks about the process of leaving and returning home.
The Sheila and Joanna begin by continuing the discussion of returning home, focusing on how you talk about your experience on retreat with the people in your lives. Jordon discusses dedication to the practice now that we are home again, and the impact on us and on the people in our lives. Sheila then answers the question, what do I say on the phone before I arrive home.
Sheila then shifts to a discussion of the curriculum. Then Jordan answers the question, “is there a bridge, a middle ground between this formal practice and our daily lives”. Joanna and Sheila continue answering this question, focusing on the resources available to support your practice.
Teaches also discuss working with mentors. They discuss how the curriculum instructs you on maintaining your practice. The teachers make suggestions regarding sustain your practice. Jordan closes with a Traveler’s Prayer.
Sheila teaches the practice of meditation, focusing on awareness of the body, and bringing in the widen concepts of Jewish meditation.
Joanna teaches us the practice of sitting meditation. She weaves the practice of developing gratitude into our sitting practice. She discusses the development of intention, or kavanah, for practice.
Sheila teaches about the importance of a focused attention during walking practice. She gives detailed instructions, reflecting on the connection to Jewish contemplative practice.