After a six-day retreat and two intense days on the West Bank, our Still Water group arrived, a little ragged, in Tel Aviv. We had the pleasure to rest and stay in the homes of members of the Tel Aviv Sangha: Ann-Mari and I stayed with Dharma teacher Rachel Maori and her husband Yossi in the center of Tel Aviv. Lynda, Mick, and Carlos stayed with Marietta Oppenheimer. and then with Rachel Eilfeld, near the Mediterranean shore.
Tel Aviv reminded me of Los Angeles: dry, busy, and recently built up. Tel Aviv is Israel’s second largest city (after Jerusalem) and is known for its financial services, high-tech industries, entertainment, and night-life.
I had been invited by the newly formed Mindfulness Center of Tel Aviv to offer an Introduction to Mindfulness Practice. On our first evening in Tel Aviv I spoke to about sixty people gathered at a spiritual center at the University of Tel Aviv. Like at home, I explained mindfulness as the coming together of present moment awareness, concentration, and deep looking. Then I guided participants in sitting and walking meditation and talked about mindfulness in everyday life. There was good energy in the room: people settled quickly and were attentive. Afterwards, many asked about the Mindfulness Center and about the two Sanghas in Tel Aviv that practice in the Plum Village tradition. (A video of the talk is available on You Tube.)
The next day our Still Water group declared a lazy day, so that everyone could rest or sight-see as they wished. In the afternoon Ann-Mari and I walked to the Yitzhak Rabin Center, a memorial museum that tells the story of Rabin’s life in the context of Israeli history and world history. The three-hour visit helped us understand that sometimes, in a war-torn country, it is the courageous warriors who have the standing to move towards peace. One line from the exhibit stayed with me. A critic accused Rabin of working with Israel’s enemies. Rabin replied: “You negotiate with your enemies, not with your friends.”
On our third day the Still Water group had a rich conversation with the founders of The Garage, a remarkable pre-academic art program for young people with mental health challenges. The artist-founders, Dalit Sharon and Ilana Baer, had the insight that many young people struggling with emotional challenges also had artistic talents that were not being nourished. The Garage website notes that it was founded:
with a vision of enabling people facing mental health issues to cultivate their unique artistic talents so as to develop, grow and be able to become contributing, working members of society. The multidisciplinary preparatory arts school was designed to offer a learning environment and platform leading to self-fulfillment and professional fulfillment, enabling admission into art colleges and academies or placement in jobs in their fields of talent.
Everyone in the Still Water group was immediately impressed by the aspiration and physical space of the school and the loving energy of the founders. We soon learned that the founders invited us there with a purpose. Both Dalit and Ilana have been at Plum Village, and they were exploring how to bring mindfulness practice to The Garage students and staff in a way that wasn’t pushy or oppressive. We shared for almost two hours about our experiences with loving speech, using bells of mindfulness, quiet times, adapting the practice to young people, tea ceremonies, and much more. It was a lovely, nourishing morning. (The photos below are from a video on The Garage website.)