MIT Hillel provides scholarships for students to participate in Jewish experiences off campus. Carrie Watkins is a graduate student in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. This is a reflection on her recent experience at the Pardes Spirituality Retreat.

Five days of meditation. Wake up at 5:45 a.m. Sit. Chant. Daven. Eat. Sit. Walk. Sit. Eat. Sit. Walk. Listen to an epic meditation talk by one of the teachers. Sit. Sleep.

Being asked to write about it now, I am finding my words choppy and insufficient. The attached photo is a small snapshot of the touchpoints into the learning. Whoever is reading this, I would be happy to delve further into any of them with you.

We were asked not to write on retreat. Trust emergence. What you need to remember, you will remember. Allow yourself to be present in this moment, not writing ideas down for later.

This was my second extended silent Jewish meditation retreat. Going into the first one in Israel last year, knowing little about it, I was skeptical about the concept of Jewish meditation. The structure of a silent meditation retreat is Buddhist, not Jewish.

The verdict: It was deeply Jewish. It was the Torah I hadn’t known I was looking for. It was transformative to the core. Words are doing an insufficient job of explaining it.

Attending the Pardes Spirituality Retreat this year allowed me to continue to learn and unlearn toward a life of Jewish mindfulness. I hope to bring this forward into my time at MIT by creating a sitting group with Reb Daniel. The philosophy and mindset of mindfulness have also been influencing my work as a master of city planning and will continue to do so.

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