About Time You Met: The Kabbalah CentreBy Angelica Malin
Interested in Kabbalah? The Kabbalah Centre is a spiritual and educational organisation, whose goal is to make this ancient wisdom accessible and understandable to whoever wishes to learn. We caught up with Marcus Weston, from the Kabbalah Centre in London, to find out what it’s all about:
So, Marcus, how did you get into Kabbalah? Have you always been a religious person?
In 1995, during a journey on the Northern Line, I suddenly became very aware of the gloom on people’s faces each morning. “Depression by osmosis”, as I’ve come to call it. I had a very successful job as an investment banker yet one evening, I made a pact, while slightly drunk, with a friend to quit the world of finance. I then hopped on a plane and travelled the world. It really opened my eyes.
A few years later, now running my own businesses, a friend thought I might like to check out a free course he’d found. I was skeptical but asked anyway, “What course?”. His response was it’s an introductory course at somewhere called The London Kabbalah Centre. Despite my innate initial cynicism (‘What is Kabbalah?’; ‘Don’t tell me it’s a religion?’; ‘Don’t you have to be an academic?; ‘Over 40?’), there was something extraordinary about the first class. I was completely fascinated by the depth and sincerity of both teacher and the students and a lot of great things started happening in my life.
That was 17 years ago, and the teachings still fascinate me. It seems to get even more profound and fulfilling the more I learn and experience. Kabbalah is a spiritual teaching, not a religious one. So it can sit alongside any religion or indeed none at all. I grew up neither religious nor spiritual. Born Jewish, I would just enjoy family traditions more than any true observance.
For anyone who doesn’t know – what exactly is Kabbalah?
Literally meaning ‘to receive’, Kabbalah teaches us how to find meaning and receive lasting fulfilment. It is a 4,000-year old study and practice of practical ideas and insights into how we can each gain more from life by looking within. We teach Kabbalah, not as an academic study but as a way of creating a better life and a better world. Kabbalah is so applicable because it teaches students to harness their full potential, feel more in control, realise the best version of themselves and reach a broader understanding of how life, business and relationships work.
We regularly hear about random celebrities who have now decided to practice Kabbalah – why do you think that is?
The truth is, there are far more exciting stories about 99% of our non-celeb student-base. Using the tools we teach in class, one lady who took an introductory class learned for the first time in her life how to actually listen to her children. In another instance, a volunteer group from the Kabbalah Centre who work passionately and tirelessly with some of the City’s councils, repainted and refurbished a flat for a disabled man. This completely changed his life. But obviously, someone as high profile as Madonna will continue to captivate readers’ attention.
Is Kabbalah a religion or something more?
Kabbalah is definitely something more. It’s a spiritual wisdom, not a religious one. Classes are about personal development, self-awareness and mind-body-soul balance and health. Students learn and practice how to change negative reactions into mindful positive proactive decisions. They also are introduced to our concept of the Ego which is used to explain how a distorted view of the world can lead to poor judgement and less than successful relationships at work and at home. The classes are the bridge between this ancient spiritual study and improving relationships, creating more professional success, and making healthier lifestyle choices.
Kabbalah’s first book was written by Abraham the Patriarch, around 4,000 years ago. It was, and still is, the underlying spiritual foundation behind what, much later, became the various religious practices – the original instruction manual for life, if you like. The teachings detail the secrets of creation and how the universe and life actually work, setting out a path of study, transformation and connection for creating joy and lasting fulfilment.
Why do you think there has been a shift recently, and people have now started studying Kabbalah?
Interestingly, there has been no sudden shift. The London Centre, just off Bond Street tube station, has been consistently growing for many years now. To the degree where we’ve outgrown our lovely building and are planning a substantial building extension. Over 90% of students are friends of friends, so I think because we’ve hit quite a milestone, teaching over 1,000 people each week, it gets the attention of more and more people. Quite a beautiful contrast, I would add, to the ‘old days’. I remember sitting in a tiny classroom in Regents Park College with literally only a few others in 1999.
What is the Kabbalah scene like in the capital?
Active, to say the least. Apart from a vibrant centre with people streaming into courses, workshops and events, we also run a sizeable volunteer initiative across London. Our students work with many of the London Councils. Around 400 Kabbalah Centre volunteers engage with and empower some of the most disadvantaged communities in Greater London. There are also many events around London that we host or are invited Guest Speakers at that cover topics like meditation, leadership roles for women and values-based leadership: there is never a dull moment.
How has Kabbalah changed your life?
Quite profoundly. I was always particularly selfish and self-centred, most evident in my business dealings: any means justified the end. I learnt, through the study of Kabbalah, that you actually create more wealth when you’re excited to help and share with others. It really changed my definition of success. Not to mention I truly felt I had stumbled across something which can really effect massive positive change in the world. I think the fact I got married too is quite a miracle. My selfish nature, much to my surprise, doomed every relationship. So when I found out how to really open up my heart, my life changed around me. We’re all so busy trying to change everything and everyone else that nothing much ever actually does change. When we change those things within us, our environment, work, success, relationships and health start to change for the better. So from the outset I saw, beyond coincidence, my life improve.
Describe a typical day in your life
I wake up at 6.30am – from either the alarm or the sound of my children. I always start the day off with a deep 45 minute active meditation. Then plan the context of every meeting to come and task that day. I’ll typically then hit some book studies. Every teacher is more of a student than a teacher, so a constant study of the almost unfathomable depth of Kabbalah is a must – and a sheer joy of mine. Then my one-on-one meetings start. Students who come for private tuition learn how to apply this ancient wisdom to life, business, relationships and so on. These sessions are where we can really give our students individual attention and are of course free of any charge. In between, I’ll try and grab lunch with my wife or pop home for a quick hello and play with the kids before evening classes kick off at 7pm. Then around 10pm, I get home and watch a little TV to rest my head and switch off. I might sneak in a little midnight study and then grab some shut-eye before the next alarm or thud of kids’ footsteps! It sounds like a lot but it’s amazing what you can achieve in a day if you’re balanced.
Where’s your favourite restaurant in London?
Reuben’s on Baker Street – simply the best burgers in town! Medium rare, salt beef top layer and fresh salad all over. Wow.
Where do you go to relax in London?
Tennis club for a brisk, strenuous exertion. Or better still, just walking through the front door at home. There’s nothing in the world like your daughter running up to you, shouting “Daddy!” as you walk in!
How can Londoners find more time and peace in the city?
Apart from taking a course at the Centre, you mean? So, there are actually many ways we teach too. Start with Breathing. You might laugh but most of us have no idea how to breathe properly. Turn your phone off occasionally too. Stop what you’re doing for a moment. Allow your intuition to speak to you. Meditate. Turn pressure into productivity. And how about just run to help someone. Do something positive totally against your nature. Oh yes, and breathe!
Describe what Kabbalah means to you in three words:
Transformation. Community. Humanity.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about studying Kabbalah at the London Kabbalah Centre, visit here