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Pardes Levavot

Pardes Levavot, “Orchard of Hearts,” was formed in the spirit of creating conscious holy community. Our name expresses the spiritual blossoming of each individual heart within an inspiring and nurturing orchard.

For information on our congregation please call (303) 563-2110 and leave a message or send email to To join our congregation, please print a copy of our membership form, fill it out, and send it to our Synagogue.

Pardes Levavot gratefully acknowledges Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado for their support of our Circle of Family Education program. Thank you!

Reprinted from The Daily Camera, July 8, 2006.

Go west, young seeker

Christianity, Judaism offer rich meditative traditions

By Cindy Sutter, Camera Staff Writer
July 8, 2006

Like many young people coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pat Laudisio became interested in eastern meditation and in the way that other cultures integrated their sacred traditions with their everyday lives.

She remembers particularly traveling in Morocco.

Rabbi Nadya Gross chants during her weekly chant and meditation at Pardes Levavot.

"I was strongly affected by the call to prayer that was part of daily life in the cities, the continuous chanting prayer that was found in some of the mosques," says the Boulder resident, now a deacon at St. John's Episcopal Church.

The experience made her aware of the lack of depth in her own prayer life.

"But I realized I was not a part of this Muslim tradition in Morocco, so I started looking at my own roots," she says of her Christian upbringing. "I was very surprised to learn that contemplation was a part of the very early (Christian) church. A formal prayer practice did not really develop until much later in the history of the church."

While many associate meditation with eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, both Christianity and Judaism have highly developed contemplative traditions as well.

While the ancient Jewish practice of Kabbalah has garnered attention in recent years, as celebrities such as Madonna have embraced it, Judaism also includes other meditative practices. Rabbi Nadya Gross, who with her husband, Victor, serves the Jewish Renewal Congregation, Pardes Levavot, leads a weekly chant group.

"Chant is an ecstatic form of meditation. We repeat over and over, with melody, a phrase from our literature, our Torah," she says. "Or (we use) phrases from a Psalm. The Psalmists gave us such beautiful language to access the ways God shows up in our lives."

The Roman Catholic Church is rich with several types of meditative practice, says Father Jose Ambrosic of St. Malo Retreat and Conference Center in Allenspark. They include praying the rosary, a practice, which he says is gaining in popularity.

"People used to think the rosary was prayed by old ladies who had nothing better to do than to be in church all day," he says. (But) more men are now taking up the rosary. It's something that's actually growing."

The rosary consists of four sets of five mysteries, he explains. The joyful mysteries, for example, include the birth of Jesus Christ; the luminous mysteries include the miracle of turning water into wine; the mysteries of sorrow include Christ's crucifixion; and the mysteries of glory, his resurrection.

"Many people pray many rosaries a day," he says. "It brings them a lot of peace, a lot of balance in their lives. It's basically getting in touch with mysteries of Christ through the eye of Mary. Who knew Christ better than anybody else? His mother, Mary. We're saying, 'Mary, help me to understand the mysteries of Christ.'"

The experience can be very profound for men, he says.

"I think men see in the relationship with Mary, this feminine approach that's more tender, but at the same time deep in spiritual density. It's powerful."

Ambrosic says some Protestants have taken up the rosary, as well as other traditionally Catholic practices.

That is the case with Laudisio, who engages in a meditative technique called centering prayer. The practice was brought into contemporary prominence by Thomas Keating, formerly an abbot at a monastery in Massachusetts. He now resides in Snowmass.

"They noticed that all these people were coming to the monastery to stay at guest facilities on their way to the East to study meditation with eastern masters. They started asking themselves: 'Don't they know it's also part of the Christian tradition?'" Laudisio says.

To engage in centering prayer, a person sits in a chair or on the floor, keeping her back straight but not stiff. Hands are open, and legs are not crossed, so blood can circulate easily.

"Then you introduce the sacred word," Laudisio says. "Basically, it's a word that helps remind us of our intention to be open to the presence and action of God within. The word itself is not important. But how you use that word to remind yourself every time that thoughts interfere. It's very within one's mind. You say this word (silently) as lightly as a feather falling on a pillow."

The person sits for a minimum of 20 minutes to a half hour and ends with a verbal prayer or praise. Laudisio tries, but does not always succeed, to practice centering prayer every day. She belongs to a group that meets weekly, which, she says, helps to keep up the practice.

Of the effect, she says: "It's not how one actually feels during or immediately after the prayer itself. It's how it enters into one's daily life where you begin to feel a difference. It has brought a different dimension to the work that I do in the world, particularly as a deacon, and in my daily life of being open to God's presence around me."

Gross says the chant she and her congregants engage in has a very deep effect.

"The first thing it does for us, it clears away the clutter, what other traditions call the monkey mind, all the things the mind is focusing on. (It allows us) to go to these deeper places." she says. "In the group practice with voices chanting together, it creates an energetic field that allows each of us in silence to go that much deeper. The group creates a container of safety. It provides support for each of us to go into a deeper realm."

Ambrosic says that in addition to the rosary, Catholics have turned to other types of meditation, including a vocal tradition called unceasing prayer.

The practice, which grew in the 12th and 13th centuries in eastern Christian churches such as the Greek Orthodox is a response to New Testament verses in which Paul calls Christians to unceasing prayer.

"This is a prayer which you repeat continuously," Ambrosic says. "'Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.'" You repeat this over and over thousands of times a day. After awhile, it becomes a habit that you do it like you were breathing. You go about your daily life (while) at the same time praying unceasingly this prayer."

Ambrosic says these practices can bring Christians closer to their spiritual center.

"The deeper my connection to Jesus, the more I can reproduce him in my life," he says. "I'd like to think with the mind of Christ, love with the love of Christ in my heart and act and speak as he did."

Laudisio also cites the deepness of connection she feels as a part of centering prayer.

"I believe that it has provided an opening to the core of my own being where God is," she says, "just as God is in each person and each living thing around us."

Contact Cindy Sutter at (303) 473-1335 or