God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice


Your body is the place where heaven and earth meet.

The greatest spiritual achievement is not transcending the body but joining body and spirit together. But to do this, you must break through assumptions that draw boundaries around the Infinite and wake up to the body as the site of holiness itself.

This groundbreaking book is the first comprehensive treatment of the body in Jewish spiritual practice and an essential guide to the sacred. With ...

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God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice

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Your body is the place where heaven and earth meet.

The greatest spiritual achievement is not transcending the body but joining body and spirit together. But to do this, you must break through assumptions that draw boundaries around the Infinite and wake up to the body as the site of holiness itself.

This groundbreaking book is the first comprehensive treatment of the body in Jewish spiritual practice and an essential guide to the sacred. With meditation practices, physical exercises, visualizations and sacred text, you will learn how to experience the presence of the Divine in, and through, your body. And by cultivating an embodied spiritual practice, you will transform everyday activities—eating, walking, breathing, washing—into moments of deep spiritual realization, uniting sacred and sensual, mystical and mundane.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The best text ever composed on the Jewish way to integrate our spiritual paths with our physical bodies. Clear, concise and beautifully written. Highly recommended."
Rabbi David A. Cooper, author, God Is a Verb

"A work of genius…. Recasts Jewish observance and daily living as spiritual practices that act as bridges between our physical and spiritual worlds. Should be read by every rabbi—by every Jew—in America."
Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, chair, Department of Talmud and Rabbinics, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Holy Men and Hunger Artists: Fasting and Asceticism in Rabbinic Culture

“Amazing … authoritative and sweetly accessible. Presents every aspect of our physical lives as yet another opportunity to experience such closeness to the Divine that blessing becomes spontaneous. The ordinary becomes miraculous.”
Sylvia Boorstein, author, That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist

“Will transform the old, body-aching asceticism into an altar for healthy, robust and life-affirming worship. Brings Hasidic wisdom to contemporary life.”
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, coauthor, First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman’s Guide to Recapturing the Intimacy & Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God

“The simplicity of being fully present in the body and the depth of Judaic spiritual tradition find a beautiful companionship in this book.”
Sharon Salzberg, author, Lovingkindness

“A must read for anyone seeking an integrative, contemplative approach to Judaism. Masterfully weaves many strands of mystical theology into a practical, user-friendly manual that helps one celebrate and develop awareness of the Divine in the most 'mundane’ activities in our lives.”
Rabbi David Ingber, founder, Kehilat Romemu, New York

“A brilliant exploration of modern and traditional practices that reconnect us to Judaism’s celebration of the human body. Teaches deep appreciation of the sacredness of even the most mundane aspects of life.”
Steven A. Rapp, author, Aleph-Bet Yoga: Embodying the Hebrew Letters for Physical and Spiritual Well-Being

“Thoughtful, contemplative, and insightful. You will be intellectually stimulated and emotionally awakened.”
Rabbi Dovber Pinson, author, Meditation and Judaism: Exploring the Jewish Meditative Paths

“Fuses the heart with the head, the soul with the body…. Full of wisdom, insight and practical exercises; it reflects and transmits a deep, personal spirituality from a fresh and important new voice.”
Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein, author, Gonzo Judaism: A Bold Path for Renewing an Ancient Faith

“An innovative yet timeless way to understand and live Jewish practice. Should be required reading for the religious leaders who have kept us 'in our heads’ and not in our bodies—but also useful for beginners and seekers of an embodied religious life. Whether you are a contemplative or an ecstatic, a practically minded sort or a mystic, you’ll find something here that will enhance your way of being.”
Rabbi Jill Hammer, author, The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons

Publishers Weekly
With the gentle authority of a good yoga master, Michaelson, chief editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, offers not so much a mind/body lesson in Kabbalah as a map to a mindful, spiritually rich lifestyle. Having "chosen to emphasize those aspects of the Jewish and world wisdom that treat the body as a sacred site for contemplative practice," he uses a combination of simple meditations, prayers, Talmudic excerpts and wisdom from historic rabbis to guide those seeking to embrace the "God in your body." While most journeys begin with a single step, this one begins with a single breath. Throughout, he reminds us that "a practice is done `no matter what' not for strictness's sake, but so it can be a prism which casts light upon the mind" whether that practice be one of breathing, eating, walking or even using the bathroom. Yet, the calls to practice are balanced with a fascinating cache of tidbits. For example, the Amidah, or Standing Prayer, is sometimes called "The Eighteen," referring to the 18 blessings within it that are believed to correspond to the body's 18 vertebrae. This book belongs as much on a shelf with other meditative, mind/body titles as it does among Judaica. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580233040
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 247
  • Sales rank: 997,754
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay Michaelson has taught Kabbalah, mindfulness, and embodied spiritual practice at Yale University, City College, Elat Chayyim, the Skirball Center, and the Wexner Summer Institute, among other institutions. Chief editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, he is a regular contributor to the Forward, the Jerusalem Post, Slate and other publications. He holds a JD from Yale and an MA in religious studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is currently a doctoral candidate.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

The Union of Body and Soul ix
"God"? xi
The Idea of Practice xiii
Cutting and Pasting xv
An Invitation xvii

1. Eating1
V'achalta: Eating Meditation 2
V'savata: Experiencing Satisfaction 7
U’verachta: Count your Blessings 9
Transparent Kashrut 16

2. Praying 21
Embodied Jewish Prayer 22
Sweat Your Prayers—Hasidic Style 27
"Every Limb Will Praise You":
Jewish Liturgy and the Body 30

3. Breathing 35
Basic Breathing Meditation 36
Adding God to your Breath 39

4. Walking 45
Basic Walking Meditation 46
Four Ways to Walk with God 48

5. Using the Bathroom 55
Asher Yatzar: The Bathroom Blessing 56
Toilet Zen: Meditation for the Restroom 60

6. Sex 63
Sex Is Holy 65
Practicing Sacred Sexuality 72

7. Mirroring the Divine 77
Contemplating the Miniature World 78
Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation 83
Embodying the Ten Sefirot 86
Looking in the Mirror 95

8. Exercising 97
Spiritual Exercise: Beyond the Mat 100
A Four Worlds Workout 104

9. Dancing 115
Ecstatic Dancing, Sacred and Secular 116
The Quartet and the Mosh Pit 122

10. Fasting 125
The Benefits of Denial 126
Fasting in Context: The Five Minor Fasts 128
Fasting as Catharsis: Yom Kippur 132

11. Washing 137
Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness? 138
Washing as a Spiritual Practice 141

12. The Mikva 145
Waters of Rebirth 146
Solitary Mikva Practices 149
Communal Mikva Practices 151
Beyond the Mikva 153
Your Blood Is a Blessing (by Holly Taya Shere) 154

13. Nature 159
Mindfulness in Nature 161
The Path of Blessing 164

14. The Five Senses 169
Sound 170
Smell 173
Touch 176
Taste 179
Sight 181

15. Embodied Emotions 183
Feeling Emotions in the Body 184
Kabbalah’s Map of the Heart-Body 187

16. Sickness and Health 191
Spiritual Practice in Sickness and in Health 193
The Deeper Meaning of Health 195

17. Life Cycle 201
Birth and Childhood 201
Adulthood: Coming of Age, Partnering, and Aging 205
Death 207

18. Just Being 211

Appendix: Four Worlds—A Kabbalistic Map of Our Experiential Universe 215

Notes 217
Glossary 225
Bibliography 231
Credits 239
Acknowledgments 240
Topical Index 241
Index of Practices 246

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