My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this book back in 2002 when author Audi Gozlan came to talk at my synagogue in Miami Beach. At the time I found his lecture, focusing on Abraham as the father of meditation in both east and west, interesting, so I purchased the book. It took me 10 years to get to it, but the timing was just perfect.
Gifts of Abraham presents a look at meditation across the world religious landscape and shows how it all ties back to Abraham with the use of Biblical commentary, Talmudic discussion, midrashim (legends) and the tools of Torah exegesis. His presentation is clear and concise, well-documented via endnotes showing his sources (both Judaic and otherwise), and thought-provoking for anyone willing to consider a far grander picture of world history. Though the book is geared toward Jews and Judaism, I believe it should prove an interesting read for anyone who appreciates theology, world history and philosophy, not to mention meditation and meditative practices.
While I have no problem with being big, I got tired of being fat, so five weeks ago I decided to restart my own fitness program by counting calories and doing some form of exercise with regularity. Two years ago I lost about 40 pounds doing exactly the same, so I know it is possible if I set myself a schedule and follow it through. Having climbed back up to 351 pounds, I simply had to, period.
The day I was to start my exercise routine, I woke up with some minor back pain that got exacerbated during the day, so instead of doing the boot camp video I had planned, instead I did the intro to yoga one. Now, for years my wife has been trying to get me to do yoga. I had nothing against it, but didn’t think it was for me. I pretty much actively refused to even consider it, probably getting derisive at times as well. I guess it’s all about timing. After doing this 1-hour introductory routine I was beat: my muscles ached, I was sweaty and breathing as if I’d run a mile. Furthermore, the pain in my back was gone, and I felt great. I decided I would do it again the next day.
That was 5 weeks ago, and I’ve done that routine pretty much every day since. I dusted off my yoga mat, got myself a strap to help with some poses, and have been reading up on yoga topics in a way which my wife charmingly calls obsessive. I do this.
A news article from New York was heavily making its way across the cycling blog/Twitter-verse yesterday, about some New York City bicyclists that repainted some bike lanes in Brooklyn. I vaguely registered the news item on my radar, but did not take a moment to read it until a friend of mine sent it to me by email. It was then I clicked and read it, and realized the Brooklyn area this happened in was Williamsburgh, a section that is full of Jews, specifically Hasidim (or as they are called in the news, Ultra-Orthodox, a title I do not like at all). Oh boy.
I don’t know exactly what happened that those bike lanes in Williamsburgh were sandblasted away. I can only comment on what is said in the article, and even then I have to treat it as not entirely accurate. That said, there’s one part that really pressed my buttons:
Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained.
Again, I have to assume that this is the paper embellishing things unless I actually hear it from someone who could corroborate that is precisely what was said. The thing is, it does sound like something they would say, and based on a Google News Search of recent news, and even some articles from a year ago, it would appear this is indeed cited as the reason.
To celebrate, I’ve changed the look of the website to a magazine-style theme. The main advantage of this new look is that it allows a lot more stories to be on the front page without overwhelming you, the reader. It makes things a lot more organized, and I, frankly, I like the look.
The other new addition is the Slow Bike Miami logo I created. I’ve no doubt I’ll keep playing with it for a while, but in general I quite like it. I’d like to make T-shirts with the logo so we can wear at bicycling events in Miami.
So, happy and sweet new year to those to which this is applicable. To everyone else, have a great weekend and I hope you like the new site look and the logo.
Though I ride during the week every morning to synagogue, I had never done it to go there for Shabbat. This past Friday all was ready at the house with some time to spare (!) so I decided to do it, ride the bike to shul for Shabbat; I’d ride there, leave the bike, leave the bike in the building during Shabbat, then ride home Saturday night.
Wow, what a great experience. I normally rush to prayers, get there *just* in time, which isn’t really conducive to proper kavanah, the proper mindset for prayers, let alone for Shabbat prayers. But this time, as I rode there, I had the chance to be connected with the world around me, to see the sun setting, to notice night slowly approaching, to feel the wind on my skin. It took time to get there–not a lot longer than by car, but enough–and that gave me the time to ease into the Shabbat mindset.
Riding back from shul Saturday night I got wet as there was a light rain falling. I donned my poncho, turned on my front and back lights, and rode home getting a bit wet, yes, but enjoying the chance to ease back into the regular week as well.
I will try to do this as much as possible from now on. It truly made my Shabbat more special than anything else has in a while.
I woke up early this morning (as in 6:45 am, after having gone to bed at around 3:30 am) so I could get ready for morning prayers. We are now doing some extra prayers called selichot in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and those are done before regular morning prayers; for today, that meant being at synagogue at 7:15 am.
I had mentally planned last night to ride my bike over (also tied to the Go By Bike Challenge I posted about previously) but this morning, seeing how little sleep I’d gotten, I almost went back on that plan. Almost. After getting dressed I decided to ride the bike anyway; I have to start at some point to make the transition from using the car for short trips to using the bike and this was as good a start as any.
The trip itself is very short, about .75 of a mile each way, but the kicker is that right after leaving my house I have to cross the intercoastal waterway, meaning I have to cross a bridge, a pretty steep bridge, with very little momentum on the way up.
I’m actually pretty proud of myself. I was able to get a bit of speed on the way to the bridge (not a long way from my house, but still) and that helped some, but I went all the way up the bridge basically on pure leg power. I mean, my heart was racing when I got to the top, but still, I made it! After that it was all a joyride; you just coast your way down the bridge and pedal the flat streets of North Bay Village all the way to the synagogue.
On the way back my legs were still feeling the burn of the initial climb, but this time I was able to build enough speed to carry me without much effort about a third of the way up the bridge (I also discovered that the incline heading back into Miami Beach from North Bay Village is a bit less steep but longer and curves a bit). After that it was back to pure leg power, though I took it slowly so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.
Did I mention my cruiser bike has only one speed? Because that means a lot in a climbing situation like this.
I got home pumped and wide awake from the excercise, but very pleased with myself. The goal is to do that every morning to go to prayers, though I’ve allowed myself a one day leeway in case one morning I am running so late that I just need to use the car.