Be Still and Get Going: A Jew­ish Med­i­ta­tion Prac­tice for Real Life

Alan Lew
  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

If you nev­er intend to try med­i­ta­tion, you might change your mind after read­ing this beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten book that demon­strates how the Torah, Tal­mud, and oth­er Jew­ish texts, along with dai­ly med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, can help us cope with the pres­sures and crises of mod­ern life. 

If you already wish to learn how to med­i­tate, this book will have an even more pro­found impact. It describes tech­niques root­ed in the Bud­dhist tra­di­tion — how to sit, how to breathe, how to cope with the mil­lion stray thoughts that whip around your con­scious­ness. Most sig­nif­i­cant­ly, it high­lights aspects of Jew­ish rit­u­als and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty that feed direct­ly into med­i­ta­tion practice. 

The author, a rab­bi, knows this ter­ri­to­ry well. Alan Lew is a cofounder of Makor Or, a med­i­ta­tion cen­ter con­nect­ed to Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Shalom in San Fran­cis­co, where Lew is the spir­i­tu­al leader. From this van­tage point, Lew approach­es med­i­ta­tion as a form of leave-tak­ing” that leads to rev­e­la­tion, a theme, he demon­strates, which is echoed repeat­ed­ly in the Five Books of Moses. 

Lew draws on insights from Rab­bi Aki­ba, Yitzchak Abra­vanel, and oth­er great Torah com­men­ta­tors, along with close read­ing of tra­di­tion­al texts. He also uses exam­ples from his own life, includ­ing how med­i­ta­tion helped him deal with a moth­er wracked by Alzheimer’s and with a dan­ger­ous­ly rebel­lious teenage daugh­ter. This is Lew’s third book weav­ing togeth­er Jew­ish and Bud­dhist spir­i­tu­al prac­tice, the oth­ers being This is Real and You are Com­plete­ly Unpre­pared and One God Clapping.

Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

Discussion Questions