My path into Kabbalah

A journey that began on the tube and went around the world allowed the author to let go of his corpo

I think it was the Northern line on London's Underground in 1995 that finally got me!

Depression by osmosis – the misery on people’s faces each and every morning finally made me want to believe there must be more to life than Investment Banking.

So, one Sunday night, sitting in my St John’s Wood local, I made a drunkard pact with a friend to quit the investment bank the following morning, jump on a plane and go explore the world VIP-backpacker style!

Through Hong Kong, I continued to Indonesia. I stepped out of Jakarta Airport into a tropical downpour, where three Indonesian children ran out into the rain with arms outstretched, laughing, kicking and stomping with joy. I remember that scene well – it still smacks me when I need a wake-up call in life. The idea that these kids – with nothing in life – all of sudden seemed to have everything I wanted – a pure ecstasy of life.

I got out of my mood and resolved to experience as much as I could on this trip of a lifetime. Each subsequent destination offered me more amazing adventures: skydiving from 11,000 feet (clouds are at 2000 ft they tell me!); dodging sharks in the waters of the Australia; getting legally ‘high’ with a governor in Fiji; 48-hour parties in L.A and celebrating my newly born nephew in Sweden.

After travelling some 20,000 miles and experiencing as much as I possibly could, I returned to London to start afresh – just anything not to fall back into an another city-job rut.

Sure enough within a month, I was back in the ‘city job rut’ and craving change. Solution – run away to another holiday please!

So it was that summer, during a holiday in Israel, I caught one clear word over a muffled conversation my oldest and dearest friend Marc held a with a stranger – ‘Kabbalah’.

Back in London I began to ask questions about Kabbalah: what was it, who was it?

I wasn’t sure what to expect – why was it so controversial? Was it a religion? No religion had never really made sense to me. Didn’t you have to be academic? A wealthy celebrity? Over 40? Fortunate for me Marc returned on fire after the lecture bubbling with energy saying ‘you gotta hear this stuff’.

Despite my innate cynicism, there was something extraordinary about the first class. Over time, the whole controversy of Kabbalah became myth – the 4,000 year old wisdom of Kabbalah just explained how life works and how, through change and hard work, each of us can learn to take back control over our lives and live more meaningfully. I had done many self help courses but Kabbalah was unique in its depth.

Over the course of the next three years, I opened a headhunting and recruitment consultancy for the banking industry with a great friend and successfully applied my Kabbalistic and his Hindu principles, creating a very exciting business.

Because of Kabbalah I felt a change ripple through my relationships, business and health. I became excited about waking up in the mornings seeing life through different goggles and saw how I could help others in a major way too.

All my questions about the contradictions of life finally were answered

It was a very tough decision but I eventually decided I could give much more back to my community by learning to teach what I had been taught. So after much soul searching I left the business and went to study full-time with Rav Berg in America.

It first fascinated me that the Kabbalah Centre is the continuation of a 4000 year lineage pure to its original teachings with many parts made practical to allow all to see how personal strength and social responsibility can remove a lot of pain and suffering from people’s lives. I was melted by the pure intentions and love of this Kabbalist and his ‘show, don’t tell’ manner.

And from this I learnt the point of the Kabbalah Centre charity – first to provide people of all religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds with a variety of educational resources (i.e. seminars, online study, books newsletters, one-on-one consultation, and special events) that aim to inspire students to become proactive members of their communities and the world. And second, it created several charitable programs that provide direct physical assistance for people living in impoverished conditions; crime prevention programs to prison inmates and juvenile delinquents; and peace-building programs for children and adults.

Marc and I have now been studying at Kabbalah Centre for nine years and teaching for five of them. Whether its royalty, celebrities or us lay folk – everyone but everyone is looking for the same fulfilment out of life, and like gravity, the Universe treats us all identically – we’re all playing the same game of life to get the same high from life, and I had finally found the life manual!

Thank you, London Underground!

Marcus a student of Kabbalist Rav Berg is one of the leading teachers at the Kabbalah Centre London. He currently spearheads many European and African charitable projects, and coaches individuals and companies to achieve lasting success and balance.
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The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org