Wednesday night was the JMC’s 2nd annual “Beer, Jews, and Enlightenment” party. Even in the rain, we had a great turnout and a lot of fun. When we first started the Jewish Meditation Center, we put a survey up on our website to see if we could gauge what programming would most interest everyone. Out of a bunch of options (including weekly sits, holiday events, etc), social events got the highest percentage of responses. This desire for likeminded community and engaging interactive events aligns perfectly with our vision of creating a Jewish Meditation Center.
Meditating at a bar is an effort to really integrate contemplative practice into our everyday lives- it’s also a little bit silly and fun. Knowing that we can place ourselves firmly in the present tense, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, and find that amazingly deep well of stillness and peace wherever we are, is powerful. Whether it’s walking across the Brooklyn Bridge together, seriously paying attention to the drink in our hands at a party, sitting together on our cushions each week, practicing yoga as part of our prayers, preparing for and celebrating holidays together, all of these practices root us in our own experiences individually and support us collectively, in community.
The party this week was also a celebration of the first year anniversary of the JMC. In the past year we’ve built the first neighborhood-based, community-led Jewish Meditation Center reflecting the leadership and values of the next generation of young Jews. We realized early on that the JMC of Brooklyn can be a replicable model, and we started creating the infrastructure to make the JMC sustainable and provide the training and resources to create a national network of JMCs. This is exciting and would not be possible without the dedication, enthusiasm, practice, and support of many, many people who believe in the transformative nature of meditation and recognize the necessity of spiritual community that meets people where they are.
I’ve been to many Buddhist meditation teachings and retreats and very often someone will bring out a bowl or bag of raisins and everyone practices an eating meditation with the raisin. Why always raisins? They’re small, easily portable, don’t go bad, etc. But there’s also this raisin-precedent. All of these teachers learned this practice with raisins, so they continue using raisins. I’m kind of tired of raisins, personally. Practicing over beer in a bar in Brooklyn is not only awesome alliteration, it reminds me that we can take these same lessons of attentiveness, patience, observance, slowing down, and fully experiencing our present moment in any situation.
Meditation is a practice of retraining your brain, teaching yourself to see what you really are and giving you the space to plug back in to your source. For many people, “religious experiences” don’t always happen in a religious space or context, they happen in the presence of love, brilliance, genius, intensity, wonder, and I love the idea of setting ourselves up for them in the least likely of places. Even on a rainy night in Brooklyn at a local bar with a bunch of friends.
Let’s not wait a year to do this again.