Spirituality Podcasts

A couple weeks ago, my partner Ariel and I racked up a ton of hours and miles in her old Prius, The Black Pearl. We drove from Oakland to LA, where she had her admissions interview at American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. First of all, she got in! Woo! Mazel tov!

 

 

So on our drive back, we had many spiritual questions on our minds. We talked for hours about them, but we still had more hours to go, so we turned to podcasts for stimulation, as I am wont to do. (Related: Please hurry, Overcast!)

While she slept for a spell, I listened to the week’s episode of Back to Work, always one of my favorite shows. Sometimes it has a spiritual bent to it. It asks good questions: What is your work? What do you want to spend your time doing? How is the quality of your attention? And that week’s episode was a great one, but it just reminded me of the daunting complexities of work. It didn’t help me wrestle with the fundamental questions of life that had been on our minds.

When Ariel woke up somewhere around Santa Barbara, she fished through the glove compartment and pulled out a bona fide audio cassette and popped it in. It was something her mother had given her, some Canadian writer and spiritual teacher of no particular denomination, maybe born Jewish, but the content wasn’t religious, it was just broadly applicable, good life stuff.

I felt better and better the longer we listened to this until it hit me: I spend hours a week listening to people talk about work and computers! When I’m not doing that work myself, I’m listening to others talking about doing it! Sure, it makes me better at my work, but it also feels like I’m working constantly! And moments of deep contemplation feel like gasps for breath after being underwater. Listening to that teacher’s tape was like crawling out of the sea and resting on the beach to catch my breath.

I realized that I could replace lots of tech podcasts with spirituality ones, and it would probably make me happier, better integrated, and more well-rounded. I’m one week into the experiment, and it’s working. I’ve mostly chosen shows that reflect my Buddhist leanings, but I’ve also picked some to help me engage with my Jewish nature, which has started flourishing again thanks to Ariel. Here are the new podcasts I’m listening to and how they’ve struck me so far:

Audio Dharma

Talks by Gil Fronsdal, Andrea Fella, and others at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Publishes often. Everything I’ve listened to has been great. Pretty advanced Buddhist concepts, but still accessible.

Dharma Seed

A deep well of publicly available Therevada dharma talks being digitized and published since the 1980s. Consequently, each one is different, but there are some deep cuts here.

Ibn 'Arabi Society

Lectures on a range of topics from a Sufi perspective. One of my first spiritual teachers, who was supposed to be my high school science teacher, turned me on to Ibn 'Arabi, and there was no turning back. Sufi teachings seemed to underly everything.

The Interdependence Project

I love this one because it’s Buddhist teachers on everyday topics, like sex and environmentalism and parenting, rather than religious topics.

Kehillat Israel Podcasts

Torah study from a progressive Reconstructionist congregation in Pacific Palisades, CA. Probably too traditional for more New Age-y seekers. Not sure if I’m going to stick with this one, but it’s nice to hear some discussion of the weekly Torah portion. Keeps me grounded in the Jewish calendar.

Park Avenue Synagogue Lecture Series

Awesome lectures on general spiritual topics from the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. Not just religious study. More like wrestling with how to live and die well and find meaning in things.

Upaya Zen Center

Wednesday evening dharma talks on broad and deep subjects from the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM. Joan Halifax Roshi is one of my favorite teachers with whom I’ve had the honor to sit, so this was an instant subscription. Intense, challenging, and rewarding.

Zencast

More dharma talks mostly from Gil Fronsdal/Insight Meditation Center, but it seems to be different, more general-interest stuff instead of the regular lectures posted on Audio Dharma.

My search for great spirituality podcasts is still ongoing, and I’ll add more as I find them. I’m especially looking for good Vajrayana podcasts to balance out the mix of Buddhist stuff I have. More interesting Jewish podcasts would also be appreciated, because I want to know as much as possible about how the 21st century is affecting Judaism worldwide. But I want podcasts from all kinds of traditions, so I’m open to anything. Do you know of any good ones? Drop them in the comments. (Oh God. I turned on comments.)