Wandering Jews: Former Tucsonans thrive in new locales
Mark Naseck is an internationally known lecturer, practitioner and teacher in the holistic healing arts.
How long did you live here? How often do you return to Tucson? Do you still have family or friends here?
I lived in the Tucson area for 13 years, in the Tucson Mountains on the west side, on the east side near Sabino Canyon, Patagonia and Bisbee. In Patagonia I was connected with the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center and the work of Dr. Gabriel Cousens. Later I worked at Canyon Ranch as a yoga, meditation and chi gong instructor. I created the famed “Shamanic Journey” service that is still thriving and facilitated an experiential lecture, “Energy ConnectionTM,” giving guests an understanding of how holistic/alternative / energy-based therapies work based on the science of quantum physics. I also taught yoga and meditation intensives at Miraval Resort and Spa as well as a one on one private healing experience called “NamasssageTM.” I left Tucson in February 2010 to make aliyah to Israel. I have not been back to Tucson since making the move to Israel. I have many friends in Tucson.
What was your favorite thing about Tucson? What have you missed most about living here?
My favorite thing about Tucson is the weather. Having grown up in Boston where there is snow and many gray sky days, Tucson’s sunshine was very attractive to me. More important, it was in Tucson that I began to connect deeply to my Jewish roots. In 2005, I met Rabbi Michael Shapiro, a teacher and musician from Scottsdale who frequently spoke in Tucson. He inspired me to deepen my studies in Israel. Via the web I found Shalom Rav Yeshiva in Tzfat. I then visited Tucson’s Israel Center and Moshe Babel-Pour, the shaliach, suggested I take a two-week pilot trip to Israel.
I went home and booked a flight. When I boarded the plane I was pleasantly surprised, shocked actually, to find Moshe Babel-Pour on the same flight. The plane arrived in Israel at night. As we passed a Tel Aviv skyscraper with Hebrew letters I said to myself, “I’m home.” And then I thought, “Home? You’ve never been here before!” In Israel I visited Bnei Brak, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Tzfat. I knew Tzfat was where I wanted to be. It is is a very charming, quaint, romantic, spiritually charged place. Ancient Judaism and Kabbalah have deep roots in Tzfat. On that trip, I decided I was going to make aliyah. Six hours later I received an e-mail from my landlord telling me he was going to sell the house I was living in and that I needed to move. What instant confirmation of my decision!
Friends and family ask if I miss all I left behind on the other side of the puddle. I miss my friends and family more than anything. But I am so happy to be in Israel and to experience a whole new world that satisfies me on a very deep soul level that is quite hard to put into words.
What big changes have occurred in your life since you left Tucson?
The biggest change is living in a new culture with a new language. I told my friends back home that many times I felt like a helpless baby. For the first six months, I needed help doing everything, even the most basic things like calling the phone company.
How were you involved in the Tucson Jewish community? What did you learn or experience in Tucson that has most affected you in your present life?
I attended services at Chabad on River, classes and retreats with Rabbi Michael Shapiro and his Scottsdale Torah Institute and served on the board of directors of Rabbi Miles Krassen’s organization Rain of Blessings while he was living in Tucson. My good friend Tsipi Goeta-Kreisler is the person who connected me with these amazing people and institutions. She and I met at a conference on spirituality and consciousness in downtown Tucson in 2004.
I always had a love/hate relationship with Tucson. I was guided to go there in 1996 after working on a film set in Los Angeles, where I was a raw food chef for a director. After the film shoot, I went to San Diego where I had a dream about a wave that destroyed houses on the beach, but the dream also included many people seeking me to teach them about making wheatgrass juice and sprouts. I had always been concerned about earthquakes in California. When I woke up the next morning, I went to a metaphysical bookstore and looked at a map that was supposed to show what the land would look like after an earthquake. Tucson was on the other side of the San Andreas fault and would be the new San Diego. Two days later I was in Tucson. The first year I lived there every day I would ask myself, “Why are you here? Why did you (God) want me here?” I preferred places like the Caribbean or Hawaii, with the rain forest’s lush, in-your-face beauty. Eventually, I began to find the subtle beauty in the desert and as I reflected on my outer experience I began to see a reflection in my inner experience. The place inside that I didn’t think beautiful or worth loving slowly became lovable and worthy of my attention. Tucson is the home of the world famous Gem and Mineral Show, my favorite event in Tucson — and, like a rough raw gem that needs to be cut and polished in a rock tumbler, Tucson transformed me. My soul has been polished and its sparkle restored!
When I made aliyah, I arrived on May 3, 2010, which was Lag B’Omer and the celebration of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the man who is attributed with saving the Jewish faith and writing the Zohar, the ancient text from which Kabbalah is derived. When I look out my office window or sit on my porch I gaze right at his memorial where thousands come every year on Lag B’Omer to pray and receive blessings from his soul.