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Meditation is a way to connect with yourself, others this season.
Approaching the High Holiday season, most would not think to bring any meditation or mindfulness skills they learned on a yoga mat or a meditation workshop along to High Holiday services.
But Brandon Klein, who left a doctoral program in psychology at Hofstra University and, in 2016, moved back to Michigan to start his own meditation coaching business, thinks meditation is just the thing Jews need at the start of a new year.
In fact, meditation in Judaism dates back to the practices of the Chasidic masters who often sat silently with their thoughts and intentions before praying formally.
At press time, Klein will be offering several High Holiday meditation workshops at area congregations such as Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield and Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, and at Tashlich on Sunday, Sept. 16, with The Well at the Franklin Cider Mill.
Within each session, and with the help of congregation rabbis, Klein hopes to weave the liturgy and the themes of the High Holiday season — return, repentance, introspection and forgiveness — into a meditative practice that congregants can use not only during the high holidays but also throughout the new year.
“Meditation can and should be a Jewish practice even though most associate it with more Eastern religions,” said Rabbi Mark Miller of Temple Beth El, where Klein was to lead a workshop prior to Selichot services Sept. 1.
“At Selichot services, thinking inwardly and being mindful are actually what we are supposed to be doing. Meditating right before will create a natural connection to the mood of the season and help us think deeply and contemplate: ‘Am I ready for the High Holidays on a spiritual level?’ With so many practicing these techniques outside a Jewish setting, bringing it into a Jewish framework is relevant and relatable to many,” Miller said.
Klein’s meditation session the afternoon of Yom Kippur at Shir Shalom will focus on fasting and include visualization exercises about forgiveness.
“With a rabbi by my side serving as a facilitator into the meaning of the liturgy, these supplemental workshops on the High Holidays will help people regain the intent of contemplation and focus during services, something that has been lost in Jewish services over time,” Klein said.
Growing up at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Klein said that conventional Jewish prayer “didn’t do it” for him and says he knows many others feel the same. He takes this into consideration as he begins his new position as program and partnerships coordinator with The Well.
Now he says he sees attending services as a way for him “to be well” and to connect to other Jews. He has also incorporated Jewish rituals and concepts, such as unplugging on Shabbat and putting on tefillin in the morning, into his own meditative practices.
“I have found that these things are small ways for me to stay on Judaism’s path,” Klein said. “As my work begins to become more specialized around the Jewish community, I hope to continue to work in creating new ways for others to gain footing on their own Jewish paths, starting with the High Holidays and moving forward throughout the year.”