Bodhichitta and Boogie

by Brian on December 6, 2007

in Only in Israel

My wife Jody and I have been getting into meditation lately. Both of us had tried it in the past and dropped it. Now we’re back on the path. We’ve even taken to reading some literature on meditation before bed which relates to Buddhist subjects such as tonglen practice and boddhichitta – most commonly translated as “complete enlightenment.” We’re not looking to take on a new religion but we find the teachings at times to be, well, quite enlightening.

Now, Jody and I try to go out for a “date” once a week. Sometimes it’s to a restaurant, sometimes to a play or movie. This week it was a meditation class run by Dina Wishogrod for graduates of her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.

Dina focuses on helping students become more cognizant or “mindful” of their surroundings through different forms of meditation, ultimately in the pursuit of bodhichitta (although Dina, approaching meditation from a more practical/functional point of view, wouldn’t necessarily call it that).

During this class we tried two different types – a traditional sitting meditation and a walking meditation where you concentrate on the point that your feet make contact with the earth. In both, the goal is to gently push away the thoughts that so often clutter our minds in order to gain some peace.

Meditation is not something that comes naturally to me. It’s hard work, quieting the ever-active mind (and mine seems especially active these days). The way Dina puts it, we spend more time thinking “I should have done this,” and “what do I need to do tomorrow?” than being in the moment. That’s quite normal; the key is not to berate yourself for what you can’t do but to accept the process for what it is and have no expectations. Even so, I have a tough time with it.

During the class, Dina told a story about a recent experience she had in New York. Her mother is dying and Dina hasn’t had the head for meditation lately. Instead she found that the best way to clear her mind was to bicycle around Central Park – as fast as she could. Two loops of the whole park took her 45 minutes (during our family’s recent trip to New York, we did one loop in an hour, so I can imagine how fast she must have been pedaling!)

In this way, Dina explained, meditation doesn’t have to be limited to sitting or walking. Focusing on the moment can be found riding or in other physical activities: running or playing or even…dancing.

Perhaps that’s how Jody and I ended up continuing our date night with what might initially seem to be diametrically opposed to the quiet contemplation of the first part of our evening. We went to Boogie – a remarkable free form dance event that takes place twice a month in Jerusalem’s German Colony.

Boogie is a place where you don’t have to worry about your dance steps or dance partner. You just flail your arms around, hop up and down and twirl to the beat which emphasizes energetic world music rather than the disco or trance found at more traditional dance clubs and bars.

When we arrived at the Adam School just off Emek Refaim Street where Boogie takes place, it was just after 10:00 PM. The crowd was still sparse but the music was pulsating, alternating between Egyptian belly dancing rhythms set to a throbbing base and Balkan Gypsy polkas with a plethora of wacky accordions. I didn’t know you could dance to accordions but at Boogie, anything is possible.

As the night progressed, the room became steadily more crowded until it was no longer possible to tilt and swirl freely without running into another dancer. The music became more commercial too – the ethno groove of the early hours giving way to Donna Summer and the kids from Fame. But everyone was loving it, including Jody and I.

Boogie is the kind of place where post-India backpackers can relive some of their care free days from Goa, Pushkar and Rishikesh in a safe and creative environment. The crowd ranges from 14 to 44 and beyond. While teenagers may be more prevalent, there are still a few old geezers like us. And no one’s judging. They’re having too good a time.

I had a hard time in the meditation class. It wasn’t easy to get into a quiet contemplative space. But at Boogie, I gave in to the groove and let all my cares float away. If that’s not a taste of true Boddhichitta, I don’t know what is.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: