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Welcoming Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg

10/30/2019 01:08:56 PM


Rabbi Brent Spodek

I took a bus to my first meditation retreat, in Accord, NY. Two busses, actually, and then someone was supposed to pick me up when I got off the second bus to take me to Elat Chayyim, the old Jewish retreat center. 

But, my ride never showed up, and this was before ubiquitous cell phones, so I had to walk (!!) to a gas station, find a pay phone, and then call a cab to take me to the retreat. 

By the time I arrived at the retreat center and entered through a beautiful wood doorway that had the words of the Shema etched directly into the wood, I was hot, sweaty and furious. 

“Where was my ride?!” I practically shouted at the young woman who was at the reception table. “Someone was supposed to pick me up almost two hours ago!”

The young woman was there for the same retreat with Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg that I was attending, and she looked up at me as sweet as could be and said, “I’m sorry your travel here has been so difficult. You’re here now - perhaps you’d like to take a breath? Who are you performing all this anger for?”

Who are you performing all this anger for? I have never had my life so thoroughly turned around by one question. Who was I performing for? Who was the audience for the “Brent” I presented to the world?

From there, I went into my first meditation retreat and learned the difficult art of sitting still. Sheila introduced me to the radical idea that I do not need to think every thought that arises in my mind, including anger. She taught me that I could learn, with practice, how to notice thoughts arising in my mind and lovingly invite them to sit at the edge of my consciousness as I returned my focus to my breath. 

She taught me that - to a degree - I could exercise some control over the thoughts and feelings that arose within me. I could notice anger, sadness, happiness, desire, longing - all emotions - arising within me and sometimes be deliberate about whether I wanted to give my consciousness over to those feelings. When I sit for my meditations in the evening, it is still Shelia’s voice I hear in my head. 

Rabbi Sheila is an incredible teacher, rabbi and human being, and I am beyond delighted that she will be at BHA on November 21 for a conversation about Jewish meditation and the contemporary state of spiritual practice. I invite you to come and learn from one of my most important mentors and teachers, and if you know of others who might be interested, please let them know as well. 

If you are interested in going deeper, consider taking part in the Jewish mindfulness retreat that Shelia will be facilitating immediately before speaking at BHA, Opening the Heart, Befriending the Mind, Acting Wisely

If you come , just remember that there might be frustrating travel delays, and you might want to be deliberate as to whether you want to embrace the anger which might then arise in you.

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780