Morning Meditation and the Ashram

Stumbled out of bed this morning. It was one of those “hit the snooze multiple times” type experiences.

What’s wrong with me? I don’t need to make meditations at 8am. There’s a whole days’ worth of time to get in a session.

I can explain. When I was very young, my parents became involved in macrobiotic living. Eating whole foods ( I just had to battle my spell check not to replace with the grocery store name)

This was when whole food ( happened again) was a diet and not the chain where only us privileged few can shop.  We ate a sugar free, mostly meat free, diet of tofu, kale, brown rice, adsuki beans ( look it up) and miso soup among other  highly digestible options.

Then my parents were clued into this Ashram that was looking for residents outside of Philadelphia. It was a commune with a Guru from India named Amrit Desai whose teacher Swami Kripalu had founded the ashram named for him, “Kripalu.”

So when my brother and I were 2 years old, we moved to this holistic, spiritually driven conclave in sumneytown, PA , where everyone was called “Brother and Sister,” meals were shared in a common room cooked by members and there were daily services called Kirtan, in Sanskrit, as well as courses in Yoga and Yoga teacher trining.

So if you’re wondering how i got into all this meditation and seeking the spiritual life, I owe much of it to my foundational experience at Kripalu.

But we were talking about stumbling out of bed.

There were 2 Kripalu centers of which one is still in existence, up in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The Philly Kripalu people would often travel to Lenox to visit the big center there on the grounds and in the halls of an old convent.

It’s a gorgeous setting in the hills of southern Massachusetts, just adjacent to the Tanglewood center.

When I was 23 and studying at Seminary I took two weeks of summer break to go work up at Kripalu. They used to put you up and gives you free classes for volunteer work on the grounds.

There I, would awake at 6am hearing the sounds of soft Sanskrit music floating into my room from across the hall.

Morning Yoga was beginning. I don’t know if there’s anything more beautiful than waking up to the sound of harmony and a sense that the world has begun anew.

So I drifted over to the yoga room and sat waiting for the day to begin.

I wanted to replicate that for our meditations and have this experience of starting the day with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

By the way, the Kripalu center is still open today and functions as a  holistic retreat experience. Its quite beautiful, serene, rejuvenating and worth the trip.

Our meditations are on Monday and Wednesday at 7 PM and Friday mornings at 8 AM.  You can always review them on our Beth El streaming page. https://www.bethelmc.org/spiritual-life/live-service-streaming/

Shabbat shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin

Hazzan Asa Fradkin is the hazzan at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. He is a native of Baltimore.

1 comment

Very interesting on a couple of levels. First of all, I am originally from Philadelphia; however, back in the 60s, there was no such ashram of which I was aware. Second, my husband and I were considered “strange” bc we were vegetarians, ate a sugar free diet, did not consume dairy foods nor provide cow’s milk to our children, consumed only whole grains and whole foods and ate tofu! So different from today! Currently, I am basically vegan and no one blinks an eye to my dietary preferences. Thank you so much for sharing. I will need to log on to one of your meditation sessions.

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