Larry Terkel was originally put off by some of Judaism’s apparent “superficial practice.”
After spending a year in India, learning about yoga and meditation and diving deeper into the religious tradition, Terkel said he’s “come to really appreciate some of the mystical teachings of Judaism.” He’s practiced Jewish Kabbalah meditation every day for 46 years.
Terkel will be the Mystic Heart Program’s teacher-in-residence for Week Nine. Mystic Heart is a Department of Religion initiative that teaches Chautauquans about a different world faith and meditation practice each week. Traditions throughout the season have included Sikhism, Vipassana, Buddhism and Sufism. Terkel will teach from his tradition of Kabbalah.
Terkel began teaching meditation and yoga after his trip to India. He and his wife, Susan, started the Spiritual Life Society in Hudson, Ohio.
“I can’t imagine a day without meditating. When people ask me what has sustained 46 years of daily meditation, my answer is not the bliss,” Terkel said. “For me, it’s the listening. It’s what I hear. It’s the insights into how I should be directing my life. It has had a tremendous live and practical effect on my life. That’s why I do it every single day.”
In the Jewish tradition, the Shema is a three-minute prayer used to express monotheism, Terkel said. The prayer is usually interpreted as, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one.” Most people place the emphasis on the last word of the prayer — on “one,” he said.
But Terkel has a different interpretation of the prayer.
“I like to translate the Shema as ‘Listen and hear, at the innermost core of your being, the oneness of the divine,’” he said.
The listening is key.
“Now, does that mean that, when you sit and meditate, a real small voice will speak to you in English and tell you everything you want to know whenever you want to know it?” he said. “If you don’t listen, that’s not even a possibility.”
In his Tuesday and Thursday seminars, “The Link Between Meditation and Prayer” and “The Mystic Path in All Religions,” Terkel will combine the use of mantras and mindfulness meditation.
Terkel said Hebrew mantras are effective agents of meditation because they fit a two-syllable model, such as shalom, meaning peace, or chesed, meaning loving-kindness. He will also explain how people can create their own mantras.
Other topics Terkel will cover include the three levels of prayer and the three levels of communication that exist between people.
The Mystic Heart Program holds daily, guided meditation sessions from 7:15 to 8 a.m. Monday to Friday in the conference room of the Main Gate Welcome Center. Meditation seminars, which include more in-depth instruction and discussion, are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. in the Hall of Missions. Silent meditation is held Thursday from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. in the Welcome Center.
People of any religion or spiritual belief can attend the sessions, and can attend any day of the week, regardless of previous experience with meditation practices. Gate passes are required to attend the morning meditations.