Friday, January 4, 2008

About that yoga center...

A couple of years ago, someone wrote to Marcellino D'Ambrosio at The Crossroads Initiative to question the wisdom of featuring The Catholic Home on his ministry's website. This person had discovered my marketing communications work for Kripalu yoga center -- toward the end of the 20th century. This person, who apparently had never read anything by Anthony de Mello, S.J., was very concerned. Thus ensued a terrific exchange between me and the ever gracious, sensible, and smart Dr. D'Ambrosio. Note: He still stocks my book.

I have more to say about my yoga years, specifically this: ghee whiz, cut me a break. Anyone who knows anything about contemporary Judaism knows that for American Jews born between 1948 and 1953, futzing around with Hinduism would be as central to our spiritual formation as having a bar/bat mitzvah. Plenty of them would end up picking oranges on an Israeli kibbutz and making a pilgrimage to India. Not me! I would end up peeling carrots in Massachusetts.

As a matter of demographic fact, the proportion of Jews either visiting or in residence at Kripalu far exceeded the proportion of Jews in the general population. And feature this factoid: much of the pranayama, hatha yoga, chanting, meditation, puja, and fire ceremonies took place before a towering mosaic of St. Ignatius Loyola in the main chapel. During an earlier incarnation, the building had been a Jesuit novitiate. No regrets about this pit stop on my spiritual journey. I loved my time in and around that yoga community (née ashram), later depicted in all its delightful weirdness by Stephen Cope.

Shortly after 10 continuous hours of chanting our guru mantra, I switched to the Holy Name, but not because breathing in "Jesus" and breathing out "Christ" got me through 108 mala beads any faster than om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Jesus Christ was making a whole lot more sense than the guru we ended up firing. Yes, we fired our guru. I eventually ended up becoming Catholic.

By the way, the interest in Buddhism among Jews which ramped up during the 1990s is something I've never quite understood, even after reading Roger Kamenetz and then Sylvia Boorstein on the matter. Okay, so the fixation on suffering makes sense, but the food? Gag me.