Judaism in the Air

Taking Torah on the road

Daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. the chapel draws passengers who seek consolation (like the families of those killed in last summer's Swissair Flight 111 crash), or want to pray for someone ill whom they're flying to see, or just want to chill out in private.

Inside the chapel, everything feels hushed and slightly amniotic. Panels of stained glass patch through soft light. It is lovely. Just as I closed my eyes, the last call for a flight to Ghana worked itself into the rhythms of my prayer. — Nita Rao


Buddhamerica

A Buddhism craze hit these shores about 50 years ago. How does a religion so seemingly antithetical to late-20th-century American values translate without losing its soul? How does it change when juxtaposed with democracy, individualism, feminism? These questions are at the heart of Tricycle, a quarterly magazine founded seven years ago by editor in chief Helen Tworkov to explore the broad theme of Buddhism in America. Not wedded to any particular school or tradition of the faith, the magazine contains interviews, articles, poetry, and humor from sources as wide-ranging as Spalding Gray, who interviewed the Dalai Lama (!) for the debut issue, and Richard Gere (perhaps our country's best-known Buddhist celebrity) to various Buddhist teachers from both Asia and the States. Especially popular was a series of issues featuring Jack Kerouac's previously unpublished Buddha bio Wake Up. But more than just a religious journal, Tricycle (the title is an ideological mishmash of three Buddhist catchwords: triads, wheels, and cycles) is a musing reflection of life at large: not just Buddhism but sex, music, racism, sexism, sports, movies, the environment, you name it— seen through a Buddhist lens. Dubbed "Buddhism for the hip-hop generation" by one reporter, Tricycle takes an ancient religion and hooks it into the here and now— in the true Buddhist tradition. — HOLLY MCWHORTER

To subscribe to Tricycle($24 annually) call 1-800-873-9871.


Solstice

Winter solstice signals the return of light and serves as a universal metaphor for humanity's optimism in times of darkness. So the day before the solstice, I skipped Sunday mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral to attend a celebration hosted by sprightly dance therapist Dassie Hoffman.

The five-hour ritual included Hoffman's combination of myth telling, ceremonial movement, and catharsis, rigorously exploring how archetypal images of Demeter, Persephone, and Hecate apply to female struggles today. Hoffman insists that "the event's primary purpose is to teach women about the solstice and the trinity of the triple goddess. It allows women to embody the teaching, not just hear it but take it into their body and learn from it physically and spiritually. I create a safe environment in which women find relevance in their own lives." Although Hoffman does not intend a therapeutic effect, she conducts the event much like a dance therapy session. "Trusting that participants are psychologically stable, you carefully select music, give clients very little instruction and let them move in a way that is meaningful to them. We will let them push it as far as they can, and serious issues may surface." She cautiously structures her sessions to allow self-revelation but avoid dangerous outcomes.

This event is for women only. An enthusiastic husband and wife were firmly rejected at the door. Hoffman emphasizes the need to keep it a women's event. "Had there been a male presence, many of the serious issues discussed wouldn't have surfaced." Amid altar worshiping, wildly emotional dance, and song, discussions grew intensely personal. Conversations touched on defiance of the established patriarch (i.e., male bashing), midwifery, underwater births, abortion, divorce, and mother-daughter woes.

If you seek traditional worship, look elsewhere. At best, Hoffman's inclusive ceremony serves as a cultish party for Mount Olympus's most empowered goddesses.

Dassie Hoffman's next myth and movement ritual is "Aphrodite Day: a celebration of the teachings of Aphrodite and Psyche," Sunday, April 25, 1-6 p.m., $65

Jessica Guarnaschelli

Dassie Hoffman, Center for Experiential Psychotherapy, 57 West 58th Street, Suite 10G, 980-1355


One of nine articles in our Mind/ Body/ Spirit Supplement.

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