When my husband Monte and I started to facilitate a weekly Jewish meditation sit at the Boulder JCC in the Fall, we knew from experience that there is power in meditating in a group setting. We had previously lived in New York City, and trained as Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. We would often attend meditation sits at the JCC on the Upper West Side, where twice daily meditation sits were offered. We also had meaningful experiences at silent meditation retreats sitting with others. While there is proven value and benefit to meditating alone in one’s personal space at home, or out in nature, we have come to appreciate the added sense of community and connection that comes from meditating with others.
Since life has mostly moved indoors because of Covid-19, and most community events have gone virtual, the Boulder JCC has found numerous ways to provide on-line programming. Given all of the uncertainty and anxiety that has entered our lives since the virus took hold, offering people the opportunity to meet and meditate by Zoom seemed like a valuable forum to share connection.
What started out as an online version of the JCC’s Tuesday morning mediation sit has quickly morphed into five daily morning sits, Monday through Friday, to meet people’s desire for a gentle and meditative way to enter their day during this tumultuous time in all our lives. The meditation group gathers from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. each day, and after a short introduction and teaching, there is 18 minutes of silence, followed by brief optional sharing, and then the reciting of the Mourner’s Kaddish.
There is a different facilitator each day of the week, and our styles and teachings vary. I lead on Mondays, Reb Patrice Spitz leads on Tuesday, Rabbi Mark Soloway from Bonai Shalom on Wednesdays, Rabbi Ruthie Gelfarb from Har HaShem on Thursdays, and my husband Monte on Fridays. No meditation experience is necessary to participate; many participants have become daily regulars, others drop in from time to time, and we recently have had Boulderites’ friends and family members from around the country Zoom in as well. The Zoom link to the meditation sits can be found on the Boulder JCC website on the New Virtual BJCC tab on the home page (https://www.boulderjcc.org)
Here’s what some of our participants are saying about their meditation Zoom experiences so far:
The morning meditation series has become an anchor for my day during this time of uncertainty. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only just woken up, neither brushed my teeth nor combed my hair. I can come as I am to sit before my computer, the screen alive with the faces of friends, known and unknown, to become present to what is, following the gentle prompt and kavannah set by whomever is facilitating. And even though I am alone in my space, there’s a palpable feeling of togetherness which makes my meditation feel more focused and purposeful.– Laure Liverman
This group has been a lifeline for me! I’ve been trying to have a meditation practice on and off for decades. Now I’m there on my cushion M-F at 9. I finally get what people mean when they say (which always used to annoy me) that meditation is a secret superpower. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, and I feel better all day long. The short teachings are quite different every day and the intentions are always so helpful. Just the right amount of teaching, enough of an intention or mantra to focus my mind. Seeing the faces of friends I know and and those I’m getting to know is so affirming, and it’s much easier to show up with a group at a specific time than when I could do it anytime (and so often didn’t make the time, despite my best intentions). I didn’t think I would like meditating on Zoom. The technology seemed all wrong. To my surprise, I found I love it! It doesn’t take any extra time to go anywhere. I can see everyone when I want to and have my eyes closed most of the time anyway.– Lynn Stein
This pandemic moved this lovely and miraculous meditation group online, thereby amplifying its sweetness and power towards the infinite. Fueled by its wise, skilled teachers and the sincere intentions of the Zoom group, it anchors us daily in presence, gratitude, and strength. This meditation sit is a blessing of community, sanity and peace, during this time of uncertainty and stress.– Suzanne Weiss
At a time when we are all struggling to find some structure to the days of home captivity, meditation has become a perfect gentle and purposeful way to begin the day. They open each session with a beautiful reading or image to set an intention that settles the body and mind for a blissful 18 minutes. It’s Chai time we had such a wonderful communal activity to bring us together in this challenging time.– Ellen Taxman
Attending morning Meditation via zoom at the JCC was a gentle way to start another day with others, mindful and sensitive. Also being able to say kaddish was important to me. Jackie Seltzer It a wonderful to be bringing mindfulness practice to our community especially now during a time of social distancing, increased anxiety and uncertainty. Along with the Dubes, I love being able to lead a sit!– Rabbi Ruthie Gelfarb
First of all, I was not be able to do the sits pre-Covid as I was working … so it is one of the silver linings for me, that I can participate! I have had a regular daily morning mediation practice for over a year now, by myself, usually at sunrise, and it has been a huge gift for my health, stress management and overall well being. Shifting to a group experience has also been a gift for me! I have loved closing my eyes with an invitational intention given by the teacher, knowing that there are a group of you meditating with me. I have grown accustomed to all the faces, and it brings me comfort after the meditation to scan the faces and feel part of something bigger than myself. I always feel gratitude washing over me as I gaze at this group – some beloveds and some new faces. I was recently diagnosed with cancer, and having this group as a constant and stable touch point during my day has come to mean even more now than it did a few weeks ago. I am a teacher and am on my computer with my students from 7:00 am, but I have begun to structure my daily lessons and live calls to make sure I can be on the 9:00 am sit. That’s how important it has become to me.