After meeting in a Mercer Island coffee shop, I follow singer Gila Cadry home so she can demonstrate her work. (Gila is her professional and Hebrew name; some may know her as Ginette Keebler.)
For many years Gila has been singing, chanting and meditating as 'a modality for healing,' first to help herself feel better and then to help others. A decade ago she was quite ill with a blood disorder and turned to music for comfort. This evolved from private to public. 'The next thing I knew I was making a CD and meeting clients.'
Six years later her blood work was normal.
'My doctor told me, 'whatever you're doing, keep doing it,'' she says.
Although this sounds similar to the current popular interest in Kabbalah, Gila says that while she reads those texts occasionally for inspiration, her chanting ' mostly comprised of Hebrew prayers ' has long-standing Jewish roots.
'There are 'feeling states' that we access during meditation that bring us to an awareness of completeness, wholeness and balance,' she explains. 'Our [Jewish] tradition is embedded with rich and potent tools for meditative practice and inner work. It behooves us to make use of all that it has to offer.'
Gila often accompanies herself on a unique instrument, a large crystal bowl (not a crystal ball used by carnival fortune tellers). The one she shows me is a beautiful pale pink, the size of a large salad bowl. Tapping it gently with a special rod, it vibrates loudly, like tapping a crystal goblet with a fingernail. Circling the rim with the rod sustains the vibration.
The bowl is a 'drone instrument,' she explains. It plays only one note, which allows the mind to focus. Gila blends her voice with that note, allowing the words of traditional prayers, and melodies that she improvises, to meld with it.
To get the full effect, I lie on a mat on the floor, a few feet away from the bowl. As Gila plays, the floor, the room and my body resonate with the sonorous vibration. In the end, I am completely relaxed.
Although she sings in Hebrew for me, more often she mixes in English as most of her audiences and clients are not Jewish.
Born in Iran, Gila's family moved to Philadelphia when she was 13. She's lived in the Northwest for 22 years and raised three kids here. (I wrote about her son Daniel Keebler in February.)
While Gila cautions that her work should not replace medical treatment, she encourages everyone to both sing and meditate.
'Sing in the shower!' she advises. 'The water is cleansing and the sound resonates.'
She is planning a private concert on Aug. 12 (her birthday). For more information, call her at 206-230-8135.
' ' '
While thumbing through my mail a few months ago I was startled to see Martin Jaffee looking out at me. Not the usual black-and-white thumbnail that accompanies his 'View from the U' column in this paper, but a full color shot of the comparative religion professor in his book-lined office at the University of Washington, one arm on the Jerusalem Talmud, kippah slighly askew.
It turned out that Jaffee was serving as poster boy for a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson's disease offered at Seattle's Northwest Hospital and Medical Center. The photo was on the cover of the hospital's quarterly magazine, Med-Info, and the article inside explained that Marty had had a Deep Brain Stimulation device placed inside his brain.
'My symptoms before the procedure were beginning to get troublesome and I had no idea how I was going to manage them,' Jaffee explained to me by phone recently. He thought he might have to stop working because he could no longer type.
'If you can't type, as a professor you fail,' he says.
The decision to get DBS was easy.
'The company that makes this gadget had a very convincing video that'made it look miraculous,' says Jaffee. 'It really is.'
His doctor assured him that there were few downsides.
'I felt I could go to work and lecture the day of the procedure,' Marty continues, 'but they wouldn't let me out of the hospital.'
One of the downsides is that strong magnets can turn off the generator embedded in his chest. He can never go through a metal detector, so he is subject to pat-downs when he travels. Occasionally, the magnets in refrigerator doors have the same effect.
'It cuts down on my refrigerator time, which is good,' Jaffee jokes. There's no way for him to tell if the device has shut off, so he has yet another device to check it from time to time.
Originally from the Bronx, Jaffee has been teaching at the UW for about 20 years, in the job that brought him to Seattle. He is married to Charla, a Seattle native whose uncle, Dewey Soriano, was the owner of the old Seattle Pilots baseball team, 'something of a local hero,' Marty says. Residents of Seward Park, they attend Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath. Marty has two daughters, Lilah, 20, and Aviva, 11, a student at the Seattle Hebrew Academy.
When I ask him what he does for fun, Marty says, 'I write those damn columns!'
Pressed for details he adds that he likes books.
'I read, then I read, then I watch a movie,' he admits, explaining that Charla is the outdoorsy one who gardens, hikes and jogs.
Jaffee is clearly delighted to have his symptoms under control. He carries a full teaching load and writes books and articles. The second edition of his textbook, Early Judaism, is coming out soon, as is his Cambridge Companion to the Talmud.