Today’s idea comes from Jay Michaelson (@jaymichaelson), author of Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism (Shambhala), as well as two other books and over 200 articles. A columnist for the Forward, Huffington Post, and Tikkun, Michaelson was recently named to the “Forward 50” list of the most influential Jewish leaders in America. He is also executive director of Nehirim, a national nonprofit organization of GLBT Jews and allies. In 2008-09, he spent five months on silent meditation retreat, mostly in Nepal.
Ask anyone who’s gone on a seven-day meditation retreat, or a weeklong Jewish spirituality retreat, and they’ll tell you that the experience is life-changing. It’s not merely a pleasant weekend, or interesting few days of text study. Real spiritual retreats – whether traditionally religious, Renewal-style, yoga-based, meditation-oriented, musar-focused, or any number of other flavors – are transformative, not informative. When they work, they change the self, often in radical ways. Spirituality may not be for everyone, but for those for whom it is, it often becomes the center of Jewish identity and practice. Like Israel experiences or immersive social justice programming, spirituality is one of the many items on the Jewish salad bar which, for many people, can become the main course.