Saturday, August 3, 2013

My mind: not unlike Jerusalem

A friend just returned from herding a bunch of 20-something Jewish Americans on a tour to Israel. My friend is not Jewish, Christian or Muslim, but is a very spiritual person. She describes her spirituality by way of an image in her mind's eye: The hand of an old person holding the hand of a baby. That is her religion.

Isn't that awesome?

Also awesome is what she said about Jerusalem, a city she did not enjoy and would not want to re-visit. The wall, in particular, pissed her off. The separation of men and women really bothered her. As a young American woman, this ancient taboo made no sense. Oh we American women are lucky!

But she also saw incredible sights, and had conversations with every kind of resident of that crazy, mixed up, powerful city. She described her melt down at the Dome of The Rock. It was a beautiful desert morning, the Dome was beautiful, Mt. Olive was behind her, stately and powerful. There was trash in the street, children playing, soldiers with machine guns. She said the extremes of beauty and ugliness were all around.

Because it was Ramadan, their Israeli guide said there could be no contact between men and women, not even conversation. When she burst into tears, her boss, a man, came to her and gave her a hug. People began shouting (including the Israeli guide) and the tension increased palpably. It felt like something terrible was about to happen, but - nothing happened. Everyone noticed the hug, no one reacted except for the momentary shouting.

She said she knows it hasn't always been peaceful there, but right now, that day - even when her boss gave her a hug as she sobbed - she could feel the people around them restraining themselves. This includes the Muslims coming to pray, the Jews, the soldiers. I guess the kids probably didn't mind.

What a scene!

She described the atmosphere of Jerusalem as 'an unbearable peace.' I'll be thinking about that for awhile. Jerusalem: like a volcano that tries not to erupt. Oh yeah.

If an opportunity arose, yes I would love to go to Israel. I don't want to go alone and I definitely would not want to tour the whole country. I would go to Haifa or another beach town, spend 2 or 3 days just settling into the landscape and weather. Once I got my footing, I would dip in to Jerusalem for a couple of days at most, after which I would fly directly home to process and integrate the experience.

In terms of every kind of experience, less is more for me. When my ex and I were in Varanasi, I spent some of the time hiding in our hotel room, most of my time on the street with a scarf pulled over my head and face. Yes I walked around veiled. No one seemed to care and it helped me feel more grounded. Oh the energy of Shiva's city! My guess is in terms of intensity, it is in the same category as Jerusalem. I'm grateful to have been there and would not want to return. Once was enough.

An unbearable peace is what I often experience in my head. That's one of the compelling reasons to continue my meditation practice, because in my head, there is no hotel room, and not any ideal way to be veiled. Wine helps veil the unbearable peace, but I try not to let it become a habit, you know. Better to learn to tolerate what's inside my head, yes?

Life is rich beyond belief. So precious to me now that I'm sixty.


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