Thursday, October 25, 2012
Wandering Mystic Meditation From Israel
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?"
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.