When Yoga and Mindfulness Meet Torah

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

Published March 03, 2010, issue of March 12, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A rabbi, a yogi and a Buddhist walk into the Manhattan JCC

Devoted: Dani Shapiro’s new memoir chronicles her spiritual journey.
LORIN KLARIS
Devoted: Dani Shapiro’s new memoir chronicles her spiritual journey.

What sounds like a stock opener of a joke actually happened at an event March 1 connected to Dani Shapiro’s newly released memoir, “Devotion” (Harper). The author invited her spiritual teachers to join her in a conversation moderated by writer and former television producer Abigail Pogrebin, who not only feigned surprise that attendees didn’t arrive in yoga pants, but also declared herself the most high-strung person in the room.

Spiritual searching seems de rigueur for the modern memoir, and when Shapiro’s first blipped my radar, I thought, the world does not need a Jewish “Eat, Pray, Love.” Luckily, with “Devotion,” we’re getting much more.

After relocating to rural Connecticut from Brooklyn, Shapiro suffered a general malaise. A mother in her mid-40s, she’d buried her father in childhood, battled drug addition and alcoholism, and abandoned her Orthodox upbringing. Yet it was her young son who nudged her toward a transformative journey. He asked about God; she sprung into action, seeking out teachers to guide her through her own head. Shapiro came to realize that the enlightenment she was seeking wasn’t in far-flung Eastern locales. Rather, she needed peace that could work at home.

Shapiro’s journey is a gripping one, yet at the JCC event her gurus stole the show. Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky reconciled what the yogi of the group, Stephen Cope, called “shopping at the mall of spirituality,” which is increasingly popular these days. Visotzky has no problem with Torah study following yoga class, topped off by silent meditation, or Qigong. Sylvia Boorstein, the resident Buddhist (also a psychotherapist and Jewish scholar), uttered some of the most memorable lines of the evening. What endures, she said, is “any spiritual lineage that has the pursuit of peace as its goal,” and that going deep within ourselves isn’t narcissism, it’s necessary in our becoming more engaged human beings who better serve our world. The event was certainly worth the journey to the Upper West Side.


Watch scenes from the event:






Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.