Upcoming Online Prayer Project Intensives
Learning to Engage Prayer as Practice: Month-Long Intensives
Does your prayer life need a boost? Could you use support, guidance, community and/or teaching to help you engage a richer and more meaningful prayer practice? Then consider joining our month-long prayer intensives!
These 30-day modules are designed to help you focus on cultivating a specific modality of prayer practice. Each Sunday, participants receive an email with a half-hour video teaching, recorded by one of our master teachers. These video teachings accompany a written lesson, which may include links to Jewish texts, secular writings, poems, music, videos, and other references to supplement your learning. You can choose the best time in your schedule to watch the half-hour video teaching and read the written lesson, as well as to log onto the community forums to post your questions and reflections. Throughout the week, you will receive daily emails, which will encourage you to keep up with your own internal work with twenty to thirty minutes of daily practice.
As an optional supplement to the course, you may also choose to participate in an OPTIONAL weekly processing group with your instructor. These are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for an additional fee of $50, and offer the opportunity to engage with your teacher and other participants in a “live” environment, using Zoom video conferencing technology.
Month-Long Prayer Intensive: $100
Month-Long Prayer Intensive Plus Weekly Live Processing Group: $150
Mark your calendars! The 2018-2019 Prayer Project series is now available.
Registration will be available soon!
One of the greatest treasures of Jewish religious life is the siddur, the prayer-book. It reflects generations of spiritual struggle and exaltation, expressed in prayers of great poetic richness and nuanced theological reflection. While it is “one book,” it is made up of layers of texts, each one articulating its own way of expressing the deepest cares and yearnings of the Jewish heart. Yet, for many Jews this same book is an impediment to prayer. Forced to say someone else’s words of prayer, to live into someone else’s experience of God, to follow the flow of someone else’s heart, many people feel stymied, silenced. In this module we will investigate our own modes of praying through body, heart and mind – and then discover which of the many prayers in the siddur might serve as a vehicle for our native expression. Over the course of the month, through our individual practice and collective investigation, we will begin a process of sketching out what might constitute our own matbe’a, our “fixed” structure of prayer, for the sake of nurturing our own deepest kavvanah, our true intention in prayer, and for the sake of connecting in truth with the Jewish tradition.
According to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, hitbodedut – talking spontaneously with God -every day is the most powerful path to spiritual growth. Over these four weeks we will try out this potent practice, starting with small amounts of time and building each week. Daily assignments will explore preparing to speak, setting intentions, time and space for practice and closing a session. We will address what it means to have a conversation when you are not sure to whom you are speaking or if there is any conversation partner at all! Related practices will include turning Torah into Prayer, a particular technique for connecting the mind and the heart to transform action. A month of hitbodedut has the power to open the heart, clarify priorities, increase awareness of our soul’s desire and strengthen our connection with God. Hitbodedut is not designed to take the place of liturgical prayer but it can have a profound influence on the quality of our more formal prayer lives, as well.
Receiving & Extending Love: Jewish Prayer through Meditation
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg
February 3 – March 1, 2019
The very center of the Jewish liturgy is love. Indeed, we suggest that prayer itself is an act of love and is designed to enhance the human capacity to love. The words and ideas are right there in every Jewish prayer book. In this month of learning together we will offer three sets of clear and specific meditation practices drawn from the discipline of “Sustainable Compassion Practice” to train ourselves to receive and extend love. By liberating our innate loving capacities of care, tenderness, compassion, equanimity and discernment, this work will lead us to a deepened way of engaging and living the central prayers of Ahavah Rabbah, Shema and Ve’ahavta. We will explore obstacles and resistances to receiving love; the non-judging, non-separating, open and accepting attitude that is necessary for experiencing oneness, unification and connection; and the possibility for extending love to our neighbor and to the stranger.
From My Flesh I See God: Embodying the Amidah
Rabbi Myriam Klotz
March 3 – March 29, 2019
The Amidah, or Standing Prayer, forms the backbone of daily Jewish liturgical worship. The physicality of this prayer is essential to its expression. In this module you will be invited through the gates of this prayer into the realm of embodied prayer practice more generally.
We will inquire together: How can we deepen our prayer through physical gesture, presence and posture as we stand and stretch into the blessings that form the vertebrae of this prayer? What opens in our prayer lives if we expand our intention to pray with the body? What happens as the prayer emerging from the heart expresses itself not only through lips, but also through arms and legs, through bowing or uplifted spine? How does the body in stillness or movement express authentic prayer? At the same time as we will delve more deeply into this central Amidah prayer and its worded intentions, we will explore how to embody prayer more generally. Participants will be led each week through a guided, audio practice.
Sacred Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love
Rabbi Shefa Gold
March 31 – April 25
By cultivating a personal practice of chant, we are receiving the holy texts that we have inherited by making them wholly our own. Through daily practice supported by teachings, processing and reflection we will learn and explore the power of the sacred phrase as a tool of healing and transformation. Through experiential classes we will discover what makes a chant different from a song, by exploring the power of intention, repetition, focus, awareness of states, and the silence that follows a chant. We will learn to use chant to build the mishkan (sanctuary) of heart, body, relationship, community, and world, so that God’s Presence can be invited into our lives. We will study the process of cultivating a middah (internal quality or characteristic) through the embodiment of a sacred phrase while meeting our obstacles and resistances with compassion and wisdom. Together we will work at becoming whole-hearted before God through deep devotional practice, so that when it is time to serve, our service will be the overflow of our own evolving and vital chant practice.
Liberating the Voice: Niggun as Prayer
Rabbi Sam Feinsmith and Aviva Chernick
May 5 – May 31, 2019
So many of us struggle with the language of Jewish prayer – Hebrew. Even if we feel comfortable with liturgical Hebrew, we may still feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words that characterizes Jewish prayer. Then there’s the issue of holding back our free expression for fear of judgment or ridicule. In an effort to decode the prayers’ meanings, “get it all done,” and avoid shame, we may get stuck in the mind, losing our authentic connection to the heart, the body, and our spiritual core.
The practice of niggun (wordless chant) can reawaken that connection and provide us with a strong base of prayerful energy, intention, and presence to call upon as a companion – or alternative – to traditional Jewish prayer. During this four-week practice intensive, we will study the spiritual underpinnings of the practice of niggun through hasidic text. We will use what we learn to develop our capacity for receptively paying attention to the body and heart as we chant so that our vocal expression might flow freely and authentically from our inner lives. We will use attention and voice to cultivate heart-opening emotions such as awe, compassion, yearning, gratitude, and love. We will sing niggunim as both a companion to traditional Jewish prayer and a way into some of its words. No prior experience with Jewish prayer, singing, text study or mindfulness meditation is required.
Praying In, and With, the Natural World
Rabbi Mike Comins
June 2 – June 28, 2019
So many of us feel divinity in nature, where God’s creation pulls on our heartstrings and the obstacles to prayer seemingly melt into the earth. Rabbi Nachman taught that when we go outside to pray, the energy of the grasses, trees and plants joins us and helps make our prayer whole. In this prayer module, we will explore how listening for God and praying in wild spaces can elevate our practice and enliven our connection with God.
We will explore Judaism’s wisdom regarding the special relationship between human beings and the natural world. We will take a deep dive into biblical texts and the writings of Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel, and then apply the gleanings of our inquiry to contemplative practice in the natural world. We will work outdoors with walking meditation, blessings, psalms, and spontaneous, unscripted prayer. While it is helpful to be in a wild place removed from civilization, the practices are fruitful in a back yard, a local park or walking down a neighborhood street.