I met David Smith in Seattle in a church basement doing yoga on a cold linoleum floor. He was my first yoga teacher. I spent 1 1/2 years learning yoga from him. At first the poses were so painful. My scoliosis presented some physical limitations which were difficult to overcome. I cried for most of that 1 1/2 years, but every time I performed the postures my back became straighter and the pain subsided. For the first time in my life, I felt physically strong and invincible. I started to experience a deep peacefulness and inner calm while in the postures. I could observe my body while performing asanas as if I was outside looking in. I was spiritually awakened and awakened to a whole new way of being.

I moved to Israel to experience my spirituality in a Jewish way. I studied Kabbalah, Jewish ritual prayer, Hebrew and Torah. I became Sabbath observant and entered a world I didn’t previously know existed. I watched the sun setting as I welcomed the Sabbath bride and felt graced by God’s presence. I felt elevated to another plane much as I had doing yoga. I felt and breathed the oneness of creation.

Now I was truly ready. However, I was soon to learn that women were not granted the access to spiritual teachings that men were. As a woman, I was instructed to become an eshet chayil, a worthy wife, knowledgeable in the laws of kashrut (keeping kosher), and nida (purity). But I wanted more. Disillusioned with the system and the structure, I returned to my Vedic roots and moved to Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv in the 1980s was like a spiritual candy box, much the same way America was I the 1960s and 1970s. I became enamored with the Course in Miracles. I finally understood that Judaism and Christianity were a continuum, the Old and New Testament forming a cohesive whole. I resonated with the practice of forgiveness, and the idea of loving kindness. Most of the concepts were familiar to me, though no one had taught them to me. I wanted to bask in love and forgiveness but didn’t know how to do this as a Jew.

I met my husband that first night in the Course in Miracles. There were 108 people in that room and I knew I was to marry him even though I didn’t know his name. We learned TM together and moved to a meditating community in the Galilee Mountains. I now had a systematic approach where for 20 minutes twice a day I could feel at one with God and all creation. This established a discipline in me and showed my mind what I wanted it to see. TM is a science, and while it engaged my mind, it left the development of my heart, my feeling center untouched.

I spent some time exploring Vedic heart centered approaches like Siddha Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. While I derived a lot of healing during these years I always felt as if I had to choose. Did I want to be a Jew or a Hindu? Was I less of a Jew if my spiritual practice was purely Vedic?

In 2011, I became a Kundalini yoga teacher. The walls came down. Everything I knew, that I thought I knew, came into question. What I began to discover was that there are parallels between Kabbalah and Kundalini, between Hebrew and Sanskrit. Rather than there being a conflict, there actually exists complete unity.

No longer do I need to separate the two practices, to choose between yoga/meditation and Jewish spirituality/mysticism. The two systems mirror and support each other perfectly, creating a cohesive whole. I have arrived at the path I’m on after a lifetime of searching,experimentation and practice. I love Hebrew, my Jewish roots, Jewish prayer and spirituality. I also love my meditation and yoga, Sanskrit and Vedic texts. I love using my mind to explore, synthesize and understand ancient languages and texts. When I open my heart to the love and wisdom in all spiritual traditions, I feel blessed with everything the world has to offer. I love learning and I love learning to love.

I might have been unloved as a child, but I know in my wisdom and in my heart that I will always be graced with the love of family, community and friends. I am grateful for this presence and abundance in my life.

– Laney Schulte


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