BARUCHIM HABAIM! WELCOME TO EVERYONE
Dear Friends, Shoshana and I have devoted our adult lives to practice and inquiry on the meditative path, sparked both by Judaism and Buddhism, with dozens of silent retreats of various lengths under our belts. At least four different years we have been on retreat each over one hundred days, l and we have sat or taught weeklong silent retreats an average of at least four times a year. When not on retreat, our lifestyle supports a practice of two to three hours each day. This extensive contemplative living is as close to monastic life as we are able to go.
At the end of one of our hundred day retreats back in the mid-nineties, Shoshana and I broke silence on a park bench which at that time was located behind the dining area of Insight Meditation Society. We fondly remember this reconnecting as “our bench conversation.” Not having spoken for the entire time, we found ourselves being comfortable in our silence, neither of us was drawn to interrupting the peaceful and balanced state of mind each of us enjoyed as we sat.. But we did somehow find words to share and what we discussed was the realization that we hoped never to forget the pervasive calmness and equanimity in which each of us was immersed. We rededicated ourselves to help each other keep on track, to carefully make decisions that would minimize disruptions or distractions from our essential daily practices, and to retreat as often as we were comfortable doing so. In essence, we committed ourselves to what we could have called the “monastery without walls.”
We have had the opportunity to share over the past fifteen years what we have learned, and as teachers we have dramatically deepened our own practice. Our emphasis has been to bring contemplative methodology to Jewish and Buddhist practitioners, and while there are many different schools of meditation in the Buddhist world, Judaism is more limited in its contemplative outreach and thus is a fertile ground for the teachings we and other skilled meditation teachers have introduced. It is my hope to extend these teachings to a wider audience and this is one of the primary reasons for the development of this website.
Initially, if you have the time to cruise the material offered on this site, you will find a rich resource of print and audio materials. There are wonderful Hasidic stories, teachings in Kabbalah, wisdom teachings from other traditions, a selection of chants, guided meditations, a concentration practice developed by the 13th century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, along with a selections of focused teachings on souls, the tree of life and creation.
Thematically, the primary focus is on what I call the God-ing process, the Presence and penetration of spirit and love in every aspect of life. God-ing is the realization that Primordial Awareness is always continuously present, in every bit of motion and matter that exists. This is the starting point that is the source and essential realization that nurtures all of my works. In addition, the site will sustain a continuously developing segment on questions and responses regarding meditative practice that people have asked throughout the years. And there will be a selected bibliography of books, cd’s, and websites that I have found to be the most useful for my own growth and development.
The idea of all of the above is to provide the tools that will help those of you who have a “willing heart,” to get some good guided experience on the cushion in the comfort of your own homes. Some parts of this site will have modest fees so that I can afford to keep site running, but most things will remain free to use as you wish. Feel free to stay on the subscription list for all the no-cost updates and listings of events. We welcome your thoughts, inquiries, corrections, additions, and general comments. We may not be able to answer or respond to everything, but we do read all of the written communications we receive and where we feel that something might be relevant for many of our members, we may respond via the website for all to see.
So, we already have been successful with a beta approach to this site for the past year. We know that a great deal of material already has proven valuable for thousands of readers and listeners. We hope you also will enjoy some of what is provided on this retreat. This website was conceived and financially supported by a group of dedicated students as a gift on my seventieth birthday a year ago. I would like to formally acknowledge and thank each and every one of you, both active, and alumni, for this amazing opportunity to give new life to the teachings: Ann, AnnaMaria, Anita, Ariella, Billee, Bob, Brenda, Cheryl, Daniella, Dena, David (z”l),Edna, Elana, Fred, Hal, Harry, Judy, Kevin, Linda, Naomi, Nechama, Phyllis, Regina, Robert (Micha’el), Robin, Ruth, Sheldon, Stanley, Steven, Teya, Trudi. I bow to you all with the deepest gratitude for our mutual learning and growth together over the years.
A big thank you to my nephew, Timothy Conroy, who has renovated the site and taught me a great deal on how to work in the digital world with a new degree of confidence .
Finally, and most important, this project could never have gotten off the ground if my beloved Shoshana had not been holding things together over the years with partnering on some programs, encouraging on others, bringing new perspectives, and often pointed critiques when needed. Significantly, her voice was heard in times when misunderstandings were clouds on the horizon that could easily have become storms but were usually dispersed by gentle winds of reason and compassion. As a Tea master and gifted artist, she brings the blessings of harmony into our lives on every level. If you like what you see, please let others know. The universe ripples each time a single, individual human consciousness discovers anything new.
Warm wishes, Rabbi David Cooper
(view David's biography under events)
A Community Message from Eliezer Sobel!
Either we’re all crazy, or we’ve stumbled onto something quite unique. (Probably a little of both!) Apart from flocking to Chinese restaurants, what better way for a group of Jews (and often non-Jews) to spend time on retreat together. Retreat weeks have grown to become one of my favorite weeks of the year. And I know many others would agree, for we continuously find ourselves greeting old friends who are returning for their second, third or even ninth or tenth retreats with us.
For years we have delighted in co-creating a cocoon of contemplation with everyone lighting a candle on the first night to signify their commitment to hold the integrity of the group’s journey to the interior, and ending a week later with a deep and joyous celebration of a Shabbat like no other you’ve ever experienced: a quiet, meditative welcoming of the “Shabbat Bride,” the Shekhinah dancing through the doors with a finger to her lips as if to say, “There are no words for this heart-space.” Her lips, like ours, remain sealed for a silent, deep, contemplative approach to Shabbat. But this is not the austere monastic experience that you might just as easily have in a Buddhist setting. Far from it. For each morning, with yours truly at the guitar and keyboard, Reb David, Shoshana and I conduct a 90-minute davening and prayer service that blends Kabbalistic teachings, beautiful melodies and heart-full and full-voiced devotional singing and chanting—all interspersed with short periods of sitting quietly to breathe in the rarified atmosphere of a morning service that seems to grow deeper with each passing day. For many, our gathering together in prayer and song each morning is the most memorable and meaningful part of the retreat.
For those who feel the need for physical expression and movement, we offer two choices: a gentle Hatha Yoga class with Naomi in the early morning each day, and a class in the 5 Rhythms™ movement practice as developed by Gabrielle Roth that I teach each afternoon. The 5 Rhythms work is a dancing path of healing, a moving meditation that calls the spirit into physical form and propels each unique body—no matter what size or shape—toward its own destiny. I provide an introduction to the fundamental “wave” of the practice that progresses daily and beckons us forward through the obstacles of inertia and resistance to change, taking us on a highly personal journey toward an inner stillness, pulsating aliveness and naked mystery. (No prior dance experience or skills required; only your sole!)
Participants have informed us over the years that both the yoga and the movement classes have served as great complements to the fundamental meditation sitting practice that is at the heart of the retreat. Finally, each evening we get to relax from the hard work of meditation practice and sit back to enjoy receiving teachings. Reb David is famous for tackling the big questions concerning the nature of reality, God (or Godding, as he likes to call it, as described in his now-classic work, God Is a Verb) and our place in the cosmos. Shoshana is always a wild card and never quite knows herself what she will speak about until she shows up and sits before the group, but it never fails to be challenging, thought-provoking and filled with the overflowing generosity of her spirit.
They save me for Friday night, to offer stories and songs, comic relief and entertainment. And by Friday night, after a week of silence, believe me, it is REALLY easy to get a laugh. In fact, virtually anything I say usually seems to be hilarious to a group that is by that time somewhat starved for diversion and distraction; there couldn’t possibly be a more receptive and easy audience than Friday night at a silent Cooper retreat! All in all, over the years it has consistently been a rich week for people of profound inner experience, insight into the workings of one’s own mind, and often many life-changing “a-ha” moments. We hope you can join us for this unusual collective experiment in deepening consciousness this year.
I look forward to seeing you there.
Eliezer Sobel is a certified teacher of the 5 Rhythms™ movement practice, which he offers as part of the seven-day silent meditation retreats he co-leads at Isabella Freedman each year with Reb David and Shoshana Cooper. He is also a musician and the author of a memoir, The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments; a novel, Minyan: Ten Jewish Men in a World that is Heartbroken, which was the winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel; and a creativity retreat book, Wild Heart Dancing. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, Shari Cordon, and their three cats.