Last year I was contacted by Katy Kimhi of “Menta” (Ment) magazine (Feb., 2010 issue) to be part of an article on non-Israeli spiritual teachers who decided to make Israel their home. In the piece I was interviewed along with 4 other “spiritual” teachers, two German women, one teaching Tantra and the other teaching Wellness, and two English men, one teaching vipassana and the other teaching sacred dancing of Gurdjieff. As well as asking me questions about my back ground, Katy went on to ask about how I ended up in Israel, what I teach, and my impressions of Israelis. We back translated the article into English and now are posting it below. Enjoy!
“Israeli Spirit” - Foreign spiritual teachers who’ve made Israel their home.
By Katy Kimhi of Menta Magazine
We Israelis are used to self berating. We’re used to apologizing for all the shameful behavior we make abroad, for our vulgarity, for our Mediterranean rudeness and for our base outbursts. Therefore, it’s a bit surprising to discover a trend which has been increasing in the last few years. Spiritual teachers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who are drawn to this country.
They come here for work, or a trip, or for romance, and they fall in love with the place. They fall in love with our country, and for most fall in love with working with Israelis. And they claim that there’s no other place in the world where they’ve found a people more committed to spiritual growth.
We gathered (some of these teachers) and asked them to tell us why they especially chose Israel to be their home base, even though they could have chosen any other country, and what is it about us Israeli’s makes them excited.
Miles Kessler: Aikido and Meditation Teacher
Home Land: U.S.A
Stops on the way: U.S.A, Japan, Burma, Europe
Final destination: Tel Aviv, Israel
Who Am I:
I was born and raised in U.S.A and when I got to the age of 25 I moved to Japan and stayed there for 8 years practicing Aikido. By the end of the 8 years it was time to leave. My teacher told me to go back to the U.S to begin teaching but I didn’t feel complete with my own personal development. So I decided to go to Burma to take up the practice of meditation. That’s where my formal spiritual journey began. In Burma I found a meditation teacher and I practiced with him every winter for 8 years and at the same time I was teaching Aikido in Europe.
One day, to my surprise, my meditation teacher asked me a personal question: he asked me if I’m Jewish and would I like to go to Israel and help spread the Dharma. I was in shock because the thought living in Israel had never crossed my mind. At that time I had no intention of coming to Israel but the seed was planted. Six months later by “chance” an Israeli Aikido friend of mine invited me to come and teach in Israel.
I came during a very sensitive time security wise (the 2ndintifada), and the contradiction between the beauty and spirituality on one hand, and the political conflict on the other was very powerful for me. I came back to Israel to teach yearly and the more I visited I discovered that I really love this place. I had a girlfriend here during this time and at a certain point it was clear that is was important for me to develop not only physically and spiritually, but also emotionally.
After so many years of traveling, the thought of living in Israeli society was very challenging, but somehow I again and again found myself thinking of living here. Finding a place in the world where my practice could be shared, to settle down, and throw my energy into it.
For me Israel is a very creative place. There is a lot of destruction here, but also a lot of creation as well which comes from within the culture.
My work here on the physical level is devoted to the practice of Aikido, but also I work on the mental and spiritual level with Insight Meditation. The fact is that both Aikido and meditation are wonderful paths for developing body, heart mind and spirit.
An integral part of all my work is the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. I’ve started an Aikido project for Israeli’s and Palestinian’s and I regularly teach in Ramallah and Bethlehem. This year I fulfilled my dream of opening my own dojo (The Integral Dojo) which is located in the Montefiore neighborhood in Tel Aviv. This dojo is a practice community where we have Aikido classes, meditation gatherings and other Integral workshops.
Israeli’s, and Jews in general, tend to be a cynical bunch. As anyone with a deep spiritual practice knows cynicism is the last stand of the ego and it’s a barrier which most teachers need to work with on a daily basis. The spirituality in this country is very broad, but there’s a core of people which have decided to place spirituality at the center of their lives. They make me feel that with them anything is possible. Because with these people, even if they are a few, there is an interest in change. And that’s what’s really exciting about this country. There’s a core of people who always want to give, and who are always there.