Interfaith Wisdom Circle – 3/20/2016

March 20: 8th Interfaith Wisdom Circle

Opening to spiritual wisdom — a global video conference circle of people who seek to share the sacred and serve the world.

Embodying Spirit — En-spiriting Body
How do you embody spirit in your life? How do you “en-spirit” the body? How do we do this in our communities?

Guest Spiritual Leader:
Rabbi Diane Elliot is a leader in the Jewish Renewal movement and a program director at ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Here’s how she describes herself:

I love to dance, draw, write poems, sing, and stand on the earth. As a rabbi and teacher, a somatic movement therapist and a spiritual director, I seek to inspire people to become clearer channels for Divine Light through awareness and movement practices, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish Sacred text. I enjoy creating safe and nurturing spaces for those who wish to explore spirituality individually and in community.

More about Rabbi Diane..

From the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and the Ba’al Shem Tov

Libby Traubman, together with her husband Len, is co-founder and co-facilitator of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group. Several hundred outreach activities are described at They continue to facilitate face-to-face community-building experiences of dialogue, and sometimes co-produce documentary films that help people to successfully engage. For her community service and global influence, Libby was inducted into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame.
Rabbi Diane Elliot and Libby Traubman:
Text, Dialogue, and Seed Questions

Questions & Comments



13 thoughts on “Interfaith Wisdom Circle – 3/20/2016

    • Some further thoughts on Sunday’s Interfaith Wisdom Circle….

      First, I’d like to wish the Christians in our circle a blessed Good Friday and an uplifting Easter. I so appreciated hearing, in the video he sent for Sunday, Charles’ simple telling of the story of Jesus’ final week “in body,” the essence of that passage for Christians. Very impassioning, very moving. Thank you.

      On Sunday I brought several texts from different layers of Jewish tradition: from the biblical creation story, from the Jewish morning prayer liturgy, and from Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, the great 18th century Jewish shaman and mystic, who revolutionized the Jewish practice of his time. After sharing the texts, I invited us to consider these questions:

      What does it mean to you to be formed “in God’s image?”
      Do you connect to Divinity through your body? If so how?

      I wanted to share a bit more about why I chose this theme and what it means to me. Before becoming a rabbi, as Libby mentioned on Sunday, I was a modern dancer, choreographer, actress, and later a somatic therapist—one who helps people, through touch and dialogue, connect more fully and in very specific ways with the wisdom and healing movement held within the body-mind. I came to this healing vocation through listening to the strong messages of my own body, expressed through pain, illness, injury, allergies, mental distress. These “intrusions” caused me to seek the support to look more deeply into the experience held in suspension in my body’s tissues and to gradually and compassionately more aspects of my “self,” and, in turn, to begin to support others.

      A couple of months ago, when we had a conversation in the Interfaith Wisdom Circle in which we grappled with the question “Who am I,” I was struck by how many in the circle prefaced their responses with something like, “I know I’m not a body” or “I know I’m not my body.” Perhaps what people were really saying was that they feel they are not only a body or that they know they are more than a body. Yet I was troubled by this way of speaking.

      It seems to me that believing “I am not a body,” may easily slip into a subtle disrespect or disregard for this miraculous creation with which we’ve been gifted, the human body–mind made manifest. We in western culture can so easily move into the language of objectification, in which the body becomes an “it,” an object to be groomed, admired, whipped into shape, or conversely ignored and abused (and sometimes both at the same time!).

      Saying, “I am not my body,” on the other hand, might seem to express an underlying assumption that the body is something I own, control, and possess in some way, rather than a joyous, miraculous expression of the Creative Force that somehow gave rise to the complex, conscious beings that we are.

      I recently read Elif Shafak’s wonderful and imaginative novel, The Forty Rules of Love, about the passionate relationship between Rumi and his teacher, Shams of Tabriz. In it Shams tells a story about the servant of a great caliph who has a notable defect: he sees double, but is unaware of that fact. The caliph sends him to the wine cellar to fetch a special bottle of his finest wine. The servant returns to the caliph perplexed. “In the wine cellar,” he says, “I saw two special bottles of the fine wine. Which one shall I bring?” Says the caliph, “Break one and bring me the other.” So the servant goes back to the wine cellar and breaks one of the bottles. Of course, there is then no “other” bottle to bring to the caliph.

      What if body is not separate from soul? What if a human being—indeed each living being—is a miraculous admixture of body-soul-spirit-breath, something that we might recognize as tzelem elohim, an “image” or manifestation of Pure Consciousness/Source/ Life Force Energy—what some call “God?”

      I believe that this is one of the special “vitamins,” as Aryae termed them, that Jewish tradition has to offer. For the ancient Hebrews, apparently there was no distinction between soul/spirit and body. This was why they were adjured in the Torah’s Ten Commandments (Ten Speakings, as we call them in Jewish tradition) not to make any non-living representations of God—because human beings were already “made in the image.” Later, Jewish mystics posited that everything we can perceive is God. As someone has playfully put it, “The world is God in drag.”

      The way I see it and work with it, when I reject at some level, even subtly, the material expression of my “I-ness,” my unique vibratory body-print in the created world, I am actually disowning a powerfully integrated expression of divinity. The struggle with embodiment—the pain and inconvenience, the distractions and challenges of feeding and caring for my body-soul-self—is, for me, my very struggle to know God in the here and now, and to do what I am doing this very moment with “unified body-mind,” to be fully present.

      I’ve spent much of my life investigating the far-ranging effects of disowning the body, cutting off from the body, failing to listen deeply to the innate wisdom of that which we call “body,” and the consequences of those, often unconscious, choices.

      Now I hold the question, can I fully accept this miraculous gift of incarnation, this blessing of embodiment, which allows for relationship with other aspects of God clothed in this world as trees, rocks, animals, birds, building, airplanes, whales, flowers, my fellow humans of all sizes, shapes, and colors? Can I perceive my embodiment as partaking of the privilege of participating in the great project of God perceiving Godself? When I am able to see this,to live this, does it radically increase my capacity for empathy, for hearing, for being present with others in their struggles, their divinity, their joy?

      • Thank you Rabbi Diane. Even though I too practice my spiritual path from Judaism, I often find myself saying/thinking, “I am not the body.” Your story & viewpoint challenge me to think more deeply about this. Who am I? Body? Soul? Hologram of the planet? Spark of God? Speck of dust? All of the above? No answers come. Just a place of deep unknowing. Now, can I be comfortable with the unknowing? I believe that requires practice. 🙂

  1. Palm Sunday Greetings from Rev. Charles Gibbs
    Our interfaith community is honoring the Christian holiday of Palm Sunday by beginning a new tradition. Whenever a scheduled Interfaith Wisdom Circle falls on a holiday of one of our faith traditions, and thereby precludes any of our members from attending, we’ll invite them to record a brief greeting in honor of their holiday! Here is the first, from Rev. Charles Gibbs:

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