As a Jubu (Jewish Buddhist), I give a lot of thought to how I want to celebrate Jewish holidays and pray. This year, I joined a synagogue for the first time since my husband and I created our own family of five.
I grew up going to synagogue, but I have yet to find my personal spirituality within those walls. True prayer, in my mind, offers comfort, support and answers for often-unanswerable questions. And the answers I am seeking have not come to me in synagogue. I studied Jewish theology and Hebrew in college, but still, singing prayers in a language I can read, but I cannot always translate is confusing and disorienting to me. Then, when I read the English translation, I often find myself bristling.
At the same time, Zen Buddhism draws me in in a soul-deep way. So, during times of need, when I seek extra guidance and clarity, instead of dressing up in my finest for services, I don my spandex gear and attend a yoga class. Once there, I connect to the uplifting energy of the instructor and my fellow yogis.
But as a Jew, I still see Judaism as the foundation for my family history, tradition and identity. So this is why we chose to join the synagogue. My three daughters are in Sunday School there. (And when we received High Holiday tickets in the mail, I felt a little thrill as if we’d gotten the golden ticket!) It is important to me for my children to know where we come from by way of Jewish tradition and religion.
As a Jewish Buddhist, when I am struggling with something personal and/or emotional, I seek counsel from both my favorite yoga instructor and my rabbi — and it works out well, because my favorite yoga instructor, a close friend, happens to be well versed in Jewish religion and customs. And my rabbi happens to be a certified yoga instructor. (I’m not joking!)
This year I attended a Bikram class, which is hot yoga where the room thermostat is set to 90 degrees, on Yom Kippur. Like fasting, hot yoga was not something I really wanted to do because I abhor the heat. Still, I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone on the same day I felt discomfort from fasting. Aligning this class with Yom Kippur was kismet (or beshert), and I knew the extra sweat and effort would be cleansing in more than one way.
As we stood in forward fold, the teacher said, “Let what is troubling you fall out of your head and roll off your shoulders.” With this prompt, I felt everything I had been holding on to tumble onto the floor like boulders. A sense of accomplishment, meaning and purpose returned to me. It feels special and meaningful to experience this on a Jewish high holiday, but these sensations emphasized for me how meditation spiritually cleanses my mind, and yoga cleanses my body.
As a Jubu, it is how I pray.