Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wandering Mystic Meditation From Israel

Before I began traveling abroad, I considered myself to be quite the cosmopolitan. Two years and 15 countries later, I'm constantly learning things about myself and my relationship to the global community. Wasn't it Socrates who said "true knowledge comes in knowing that you know nothing"? Smart guy, that old dead Greek. It is simultaneously an irritation and a pleasure to be slapped upside the head by the world each time I get too comfortable in my situation. One of the biggest wake up calls came early on October 8, 2012.

I'd been living and working on kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in the southern part of Israel for one month. Due to the kibbutz being closer to Gaza than my mom was comfortable with, artillery fire was a common soundscape as we went about our lives. While I was initially afraid, never having lived near an armed conflict, reassurances from fellow volunteers plus the variety of bomb shelters scattered throughout the kibbutz put my mind at ease.

Until the morning I was awakened by an explosion sounding much closer than usual. Too close. Wrapped tightly in my duvet and resembling more a giant burrito than a human, I shuffled to the bunker inside our house. The whole time I repeated a mantra: "Don't worry, the Seva Adom hasn't gone off." Seva Adom means "Color Red" in Hebrew and is like an air raid siren. Not ten seconds after entering the bunker and sitting down on my friend's bed, the house shook with yet another explosion and the alarm came to life.

Our housemates piled into the bunkers and wearily tried to get comfortable on the floor or a tiny corner of someone's bed, if they were lucky. We got a phone call saying we all had to stay in the bunkers until someone came to the house. This was the part when I began to pray.

Despite being a religious studies nut, I am the consummate atheist. No bearded men in the sky for me, thank you very much! I believe in the power of positive human thought and the collective unconscious. So, when I initially felt the urge to close my eyes and appeal to some higher power, I was taken aback. I had to ask myself, "Who am I sending these prayers to, if not the God who now seems only a storybook character from my typical white-bread American childhood?"

I concluded I was sending positive and peaceful vibrations out to the other people on the kibbutz, willing them to be calm and safe, in the hope they would do the same for others, ultimately creating a selfless bubble of soothing thoughts throughout our little community. This all happened in a span of seconds, by the way.

Sitting in a small concrete and steel room with 11 people for hours, waiting for the phone to ring or the door to open, is emotionally exhausting. The already elevated tensions are only magnified when you are packed in like sardines. However, I noticed that when I requested a moment to meditate, the collective exhale was palpable. Vocalizing my intention to seek tranquility made peace of mind seem possible.

In my experience, you have to actively strive for connection with the collective unconscious. When our sphere of consciousness doesn't expand past the self, we become incapable of relating to and understanding one another. I had become lazy, favoring easy contentment over the pursuit of deeper connection to the people with whom I was spending my life. As pageant-queeny as it sounds, being scared out of my socks put my kibbutz life in perspective. A volunteer's time in this place is fleeting. I pledge to no longer take this existence or these relationships for granted.

Ashleigh Bowers graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in Theatre and Religious Studies. She decided to forsake her beloved mile-high lifestyle to pursue a more bohemian existence, focused on intercultural exploration and understanding. With a passion for communicating wisdom she has gleaned, Ashleigh blogs about her adventures from the mildly dangerous to the mentally expanding at


  1. A part of the world I've become well acquainted with through the setting for my writing, Ashleigh. I have to see the country for myself.

  2. It sounds so adventures,makes me want to visit some time in the future.