The Place Changes You

My son and I are in New York quickly as I pitch my new book to the Jewish Book Council in hopes of being invited to different cities for speaking engagements. My mother, who is a travel agent, booked us at the Mondrian Soho and when we pulled up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

A greenery tunnel framed the entrance with tiny white lights sparkling throughout. Inside, crystal chandeliers decorated the lobby, and a balcony just outside the concierge desk was carpeted in foliage with a wood swing like you’d find in the countryside. 

In the room, the glassware is crystal (!) and the window beside the marble shower overlooks the in-process new World Trade Center. Beautiful. Luxurious. A haven for hipsters.

And so we felt unusually cool and trendy and globe-trotting because we are staying here. 

I can affirm that if we had stayed at one of the bars-on-the-windows Manhattan hovels, we wouldn’t feel nearly so cool.

So what is that?

We are the same people regardless of where we stay, but suddenly we feel better or worse about ourselves dependent on our surroundings? That’s living in the surface world.

I can tell you that the more I meditate every day, the less this stuff occurs to me. I just get connected to a higher place. Clearly, I don’t live there! But for a shred of time each day, I almost do.

Maybe it’s not an entirely bad thing, though. When I go to Israel, I feel more passionately my heritage. When friends go to India, they feel more spiritual. Perhaps it is ok for the place to seep inside us, especially if we are to expand our notions of the world. As long as it doesn’t set the bar at unattainable levels. And especially if we don’t lose sight of the truth inside, at the heart of who we are.

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