When the Judaism of her childhood doesn’t satisfy Dani Antman’s yearning for spiritual awakening, she embarks on a quest for a spiritual path. Dani finds herself immersed in the world of yoga, energy healing, and Kabbalah but her journey of inner transformation has only just begun.
A healing crisis, misplaced trust and a failed marriage, intensify her desire for a teacher who can lead her to self-realization. Her prayers are answered in the form of a realized adept, a Swami from the faraway shores of Rishikesh, India, who initiates her in his lineage of Kundalini Science, the study of the Divine force within every human being that is the initiator of spiritual growth.
And so begins an incredible inner journey as Dani dedicates herself to a spiritual practice aimed at the redirection and completion of a challenging Kundalini process related to her Jewish past. Paradoxically, with the completion of her process she experiences a triumphant return to the religion of her birth.
Wired for God is the candid and compelling memoir of Dani Antman’s spiritual journey from mystical Judaism through Kundalini Science and back again, told in a conversational and informal style. Her story gives inspiration and hope to all sincere seekers looking to make real spiritual progress and find their own unique spiritual path.
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About the Author
Marci Shimoff, is the coauthor of six of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, and was a featured teacher in the movie and book, The Secret. Marci is a highly successful speaker who travels to women’s associations, universities, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to teach her formulas for success and personal fulfillment.
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Growing Up Jewish
Queens, New York, 1960s
There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen
I was raised culturally Jewish but not religious.
My dad, a child of Polish immigrants, came from an observant family. He grew up in a Brooklyn ghetto, and his mom kept a kosher kitchen. His parents spoke Yiddish, and consequently my childhood was peppered with Yiddish words used when my parents didn't want us kids, myself and my younger brother and sister, to understand what they were saying.
Words that remain in my vocabulary and still tickle my ears when I say them are:
meshugunna — crazy
bubbemyseh — an old wives' tale
tsurris — big trouble
fermisht — all shook up
ferdrayt — dizzy and confused
oy gevalt — how terrible
Strung together into a sentence, they might sound something like this: "That meshugunna lady down the block, she tells such bubbemysehs to all you kids. Don't listen to her! It will only make tsurris! You will become fermisht and ferdrayt, oy gevalt!"
When my dad joined the navy at age seventeen, he was the only Jew on his ship, and he abandoned his religious observances so as not to be ostracized.
My mom was brought up in the Bronx by parents who felt being "American" was more important than being Jewish. My mom's father owned a small store and was a pharmacist, so they had some financial security. Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression, and the insecurity of those times imprinted upon them the desire to create a safe and secure life for their children.
In our home, Jewish holiday celebrations centered on food: matzo ball soup at Passover, potato latkes at Channukah, and hamentashen, a prune or poppy pastry in the shape of a triangle, at Purim. We hardly ever observed the rituals of the religion and attended synagogue only once or twice a year.
I did, however, learn the Jewish prohibitions: Do not date Gentile boys, do not eat shellfish or ham, do not shop on Saturdays, and do not have Christmas or believe in Jesus. Somehow the rules were bent for shopping and eating shellfish, but not for dating Gentile boys, believing in Jesus, nor celebrating Christmas.
Becoming Aware of the World
In the 1960s, an atmosphere of fear from the Holocaust still permeated the Jewish culture. Although I learned about the Holocaust in grade school, I didn't fully comprehend the impact of what had happened until much later, at my first real job when I was nineteen. I was hired by the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, a foundation that supported Jewish education, to catalogue mountains of old clippings and pamphlets that the president, Harry Starr, had collected for more than forty years. One day, I came across newspaper clippings from the years 1938 to 1945. I hardly got any work done as I instead read the New York Times articles chronicling Hitler's growing threat and his attempts to annihilate the Jewish people. My horror grew as I read the articles, living through the news as if those events were unfolding in current time. In hindsight, it is no accident that I developed debilitating migraines that year and eventually quit the job.
But as a young child growing up in the '60s, those events were not part of my consciousness. When the Six-Day War started in Israel in 1967, all the neighbors rallied to collect money to support the Jewish state. The battle for the State of Israel seemed distant compared to the Vietnam War, which was played out in our living room every night on the evening news. I tuned out the images of violence and couldn't imagine the young boys on my block being drafted and sent off to the jungles of Vietnam. My first day of junior high school, students held a "sit-in" to protest the war.
By the time I was twelve, drugs had infiltrated the neighborhood, and my "older friends" — who were all of fourteen — were already smoking pot and using LSD. To add to the atmosphere of instability, the serial killer Son of Sam was on the loose, and several of his murders happened nearby. Despite these chaotic times, my parents did their best to create a stable home and imprint upon us the desire for a college education, a successful career, and marriage to a Jewish partner, preferably a doctor or a lawyer for me.
Religious education was optional for me, mandatory for my brother. When asked if I wanted to go to Hebrew school so that I could have a bat mitzvah, the coming of age ceremony given for thirteen-year-old girls in the Jewish tradition, I declined. I shrank inwardly at the thought of standing in front of my friends and family and reading from the Torah in Hebrew. I also knew that my parents couldn't afford more than one extravagant party, and my brother's bar mitzvah was the priority.
Nevertheless, I remember my excitement when I was invited to my first big bar mitzvah party by of one of the most popular boys in my class. My mom fussed with my hair as she pinned large curls on top of my head and weaved them into a multilevel beehive. I wore a pretty brown and pink chiffon minidress, a hand-me-down because we didn't have the money for new clothes at the time. My excitement about the party was tinged with guilt, because I knew that giving a monetary gift to the boy would stretch my parent's limited budget.
A Crack in My World
Around the time I was just entering adolescence, my parents were engaged in an epic financial battle with my maternal grandparents. My grandparents wanted to retire and move to Florida. They were determined to extract every penny they could from my parents as they negotiated the sale of the attached two-family home that they co-owned and the business that they had groomed my father to run.
My grandfather's business had changed from owning a pharmacy to manufacturing creams, lotions, and perfumes for distribution to smaller companies. He had taught my dad, who, though not a pharmacist, learned how to mix the ingredients from the formulas and then create, fill, and package the products. My dad always came home smelling like his latest creation, and I came to love perfume, associating it with the smell of my father.
Our house shared an interior door with my grandparents, who lived upstairs. The door was always open, and, as a child, every night I scrambled upstairs after dinner to join them for a second supper. My favorite meal was matzo brie, a kind of Jewish French toast. I stood on a stool and watched my grandmother first soak the matzo cracker in water, then squeeze it dry and plunge it into beaten egg. The combination was then scrambled until it became fluffy and lightly browned. I waited impatiently for it to be ready, my mouth watering as I anticipated dipping the cooked morsels into sugar, sour cream, or applesauce.
Now it was my parents who headed up the stairs every night to my grandparents' quarters to negotiate the terms of the sale. I sat scrunched up on the steps with my ear pressed to the adjoining wall, trying to get a handle on why my mother and grandmother were screaming at each other. Picture a Jewish version of the TV show Dynasty, with Crystal and Alexis, well-matched adversaries, engaged in a life-or-death duel of words.
"You are cheating us!" my mother yelled in a raspy voice. "We could never pay that much money for the business. The house isn't worth what you want for it! What do you want to do, ruin our lives? Don't you care about your grandchildren?"
My grandmother shouted back, "Do you want us to starve in Florida? We can't live on what you are offering us! We'll sell the business to someone else!"
Back and forth they went for hours, and then my parents came downstairs, drained of all color, and retreated to their bedroom.
The nightly, high-decibel screaming matches continued for months and were impossible to ignore. As the oldest child, I was the one who was supposed to be in charge, and I resented it. I fought constantly with my younger brother and sister, as if we could transmute the energy and tension in the house by staging our own battles.
My friends asked, "How come you don't speak to your grandparents anymore?" I felt ashamed and couldn't explain the situation, because I didn't really understand what was happening myself.
My friends and I stole Newport Light cigarettes from an unsuspecting mom, and we smoked endlessly. Inhaling the cool menthol smoke tickled my nose and became a balm to my feelings of despair.
I became obsessed with a boy across the street. Tall and lanky, he had a ponytail and a great sense of humor. Two years older than me (not Jewish, of course), he had a reputation as a "bad boy" because he rode minibikes, smoked, and did drugs.
The atmosphere in his house was worse than it was in mine. We crept past his alcoholic mother in his perennially dark house and spent hours kissing in his bedroom. Fevered embraces, tongues exploring, we found every possible way to rub each other, without taking off our clothes. Overwhelmed with lust, I lived in a constant fantasy world anticipating our next meeting.
My dad lost twenty pounds and paced around the house muttering to himself. During the day, he went to work with my grandfather as if everything were okay. At night, the fights resumed, and it was like living in a war zone.
Speaking to my grandparents soon started to feel like a betrayal of my parents. Gradually, we three kids ignored them, even though we shared the same driveway and would see them coming and going. I no longer ran up the stairs excited to share my day with them. Pulled between two sides like a child of divorce, how could I choose my grandparents over my parents? My grandparents became the enemy.
This was the setting for my adolescence, and my excitement about going to a bar mitzvah was overshadowed by guilt because things were so tense at home. My dad looked at me all dressed up, a budding young lady, and, with his voice choking, said, "You will always be my little girl. Come, I will drive you to the synagogue."
As we pulled up, he parked the car, and with tears in his eyes he turned to me. "We finally settled with your grandparents. They will move to Florida, and we will own the business and the house. I don't know how we're going to make it. I owe the bank two hundred thousand dollars for the settlement. You kids may not have what you want, but you will have what you need. I'll make sure of that. We're going to be okay. We're a family, and we will get through this together," he reassured me. Far from being reassured, I felt shaken and scared. I had never seen my father cry before.
My heart broke as I hugged him goodbye and went into the synagogue in a daze. I sat down in the row with all my friends. They were exchanging glances, admiring and comparing their party dresses. I felt as if I were falling into an abyss, wondering how my family was ever going to survive.
The service started, and when the words of the Shema were chanted, everything seemed to disappear. Tears rolled down my face as the ancient chant of unity permeated my being. My worries and fears were subsumed in the chanting: Shema Y'Israel Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad. Listen Israel, you who wrestle with God, God is One.
I didn't know the Hebrew prayer or what the words meant then, but I experienced them as balm to my aching soul. They spoke to a union beyond the world of battling matriarchs and irreconcilable opposites; they soothed me, and, for a brief moment, I felt something ineffable, as if I were in the presence of God.
Many years later I received an envelope from my grandmother. Inside were pictures of all of us during better times. There was a short note: Don't you remember us? We love you. Call us.
But I couldn't do it. I couldn't contact them and forge my own adult relationship with them without feeling I was betraying my parents. My parents never saw them again, despite the fact that they, too, eventually moved to Florida. My grandparents both died without ever reconciling with our family.
This painful episode caused a crack in my world that I didn't know how to repair and left me with a strong belief that conflicts can be resolved only through painful separation. It is probably this early rupture in my family that eventually led me in my adult years to explore the healing arts and energy work.
From Artist to Healer
New York City, 1986 — 1988
The first thing you will face after committing yourself to your path is your fear.
— Barbara Ann Brennan
New York City was the place to be in the 1980s. After graduating from the New York School of Interior Design, I rented my own miniscule apartment on the Upper West Side, living the life of a single, New York City party girl, very much like Carrie Bradshaw, the character Sarah Jessica Parker played in Sex in the City. I spent summer weekends on Fire Island or in the Hamptons; I had a long list of sizzling and short relationships; I smoked, drank, and danced all night in the after hours clubs. I took multiple trips to Europe where I did the very same activities. The only thing I didn't have was Carrie's budget for clothes and shoes.
I barely attended Jewish services or thought about Judaism, other than the ever-present command to marry a Jewish man. I rebelled and dated men from every other possible religion and nationality to be found in the bars and clubs of New York City. Looking back, I led a promiscuous and superficial life. It is no excuse that all my friends were doing the same thing, or that it was a sign of the times: the post-60s, feminist, sexual liberation, pre-AIDS, Studio 54 days.
My spiritual self bubbled under the surface, and I satisfied my curiosity by being an armchair traveler: I read books. I gravitated toward books about magical powers and esoteric spiritual paths. Once, when I was nine or ten, my dad had brought home some books that he happened to be shipping for a mail-order company. The books were on telekinesis, the ability to move objects with one's will, and astral traveling, the ability to leave one's body consciously. With great excitement, I carefully studied the books and tried all the exercises they presented in an attempt to move an object with my mind or to leave my body. I just ended up with a big headache and gave up.
Later, I became obsessed with Carlos Castaneda's series of books that describe his esoteric training under the tutelage of the shaman Don Juan Matus. I desperately wanted to experience the alternate realities he described, most of which were induced by plant medicine or by direct transmission from his teacher. I had a secret desire to meet someone just like Don Juan, who would train me to perceive subtle levels of reality. I never consciously thought that I would undertake such training.
By the time I graduated from interior design school, I knew I did not want to be an interior designer. Since I could read blueprints, I was employed and trained by the largest painting company in New York City to estimate the cost of their large commercial paint and wall-covering jobs. Although estimating jobs was not my passion, it gave me the time to go back to night school to study interior rendering, which is the art of creating perspective paintings to depict and sell the yet-to-be-built layouts of interior designers.
I loved that work and, within two years, I launched my own freelance art business, with barely five hundred dollars in the bank and a small portfolio from the class. I gradually built my business up, and after five years of struggling, I had a steady stream of clients who were the top interior designers in the field. I finally felt stable in my life, and I could pay attention to the voice inside me that whispered, "It's time to settle down and get married."
It seemed to be the next logical step.
Magically, I met Reuben soon after I made the inner decision to stop going for the "bad boys" and to find a man who would make a good husband.
One day, I glanced up from the painting in progress on my drafting table to see a tall, handsome man in a European-style navy overcoat peering into the window of my storefront office. I cracked the door open to see what he wanted.
"I am an architect, and I heard you have office space for rent here. Can I come in and look around?" he asked.
I blurted out, "You look so familiar. Have we met before?"
"No," he replied. (Later, he told me he had followed me once at the flea market.)
He had a kind, open face and didn't seem dangerous, so I let him in. The landlord wasn't around, so I showed him the various cubicles available for rent.
We both felt an immediate connection, as if we already knew each other. He told me about graduating at the top of his class as an architect from Cooper Union. I told him about my training in interior design. It turned out that I knew his last girlfriend, who had graduated from the New York School of Interior Design the year before me.
Excerpted from "Wired for God"
Copyright © 2017 Dani Antman.
Excerpted by permission of Turning Stone Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Marci Shimoff ix
Part I Discovery and Doubt 1
Chapter 1 Growing Up Jewish 3
Chapter 2 From Artist to Healer 11
Chapter 3 Healing School Begins 29
Chapter 4 A Healing Crisis 37
Chapter 5 My Marriage Falls Apart 43
Chapter 6 Seduced by a Dark Guide 51
Part II Kabbalah: The Jewish Mystical Path 63
Chapter 7 A Society of Souls 65
Chapter 8 The Tree of Life 81
Chapter 9 Healing with the Sefirot 93
Chapter 10 A Growing Dissatisfaction 101
Part III Kundalini: The Vedic Path to Enlightenment 105
Chapter 11 Answered Prayers 107
Chapter 12 Kundalini Initiation 123
Chapter 13 Reaching Makara Point 131
Chapter 14 Repair and Restoration 141
Chapter 15 Homecoming 153
Chapter 16 Entry into No Self 167
Chapter 17 Freedom from the Body 177
Chapter 18 India: A Second Homecoming 185
Chapter 19 Befriending the Angel of Death 197
Chapter 20 Celibacy 217
Chapter 21 Completion 229
Chapter 22 Liberation Is at Hand 237