May 23, 2019

Exploring Jewish Mindfulness

“The practice of mindfulness is widely advocated as a way to improve our mental wellbeing. Derived from Buddhist meditation, it can be often taught as a secular technique.

But similar practices have long existed in Judaism, says one rabbi who has made it his work to revive them. Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels is the founder of the Or HaLev Centre for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation — its name means “Light of the Heart”— which runs retreats and courses in the USA, Israel and now in the UK.

Over the bank holiday weekend, he helped to lead a retreat here for Hamakom, the charity founded by a British rabbi, Danny Newman, and gave a talk in London before returning to his kibbutz in Israel.

He calls himself a “spiritual archaeologist”, uncovering Jewish traditions of mindfulness in sources that may have been overlooked. Partly, because since the Enlightenment of the 18th century, Judaism was influenced by the rationalist, analytic culture of the Enlightenment West and eschewed spiritual ideas associated with mysticism. But also because the centres of mysticism in Europe were all but wiped out in the Holocaust.”

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