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We thought our first issue of 2018 would be a good time to run the text of Shem Center’s guided meditation,’Circle of Respect.’ Shem Center is a local retreat house run by Dominican Brother Joseph Kilikevice in Oak Park for many years.

I was delighted by your request to place the “Circle of Respect” in Wednesday Journal. Here is the copy I give to anyone who requests it. It is being used by many different groups I have encountered from many parts of the world as a way to begin meetings, school days, etc. Sometimes primary school teachers have their kids lead it to begin the school day, finding it a good way to address bullying.

I always begin my presentations with this guided meditation, making it shorter if necessary, but I like to give it the time it deserves, with pauses for reflection that offer people an alternative to the fast-paced and noisy world we live in. I have had people say this was the most memorable part of my presentation because they felt included and embraced with respect. It has to come from one’s heart, of course. I am enclosing the text I use, sometimes with some topical variations gathered from current news reports. 

Circle of Respect

Gather the group in a circle. Using a set of Tibetan tingsha or some other clear sounding bell, invite them to take a deep “belly breath,” and with a second ringing of the tingsha, a complete exhalation. Repeat a few times.

Sounding the tingsha, say, “Breathing in, say ‘yes’ to life, breathing out, say ‘thank you.’ Breathing in, say ‘yes’ to all life-affirming decisions you have made. Breathing out … gratitude. Breathing in, welcome the present moment. Breathing out, make space within to receive the blessing of our time together. Let go of regrets about the past and worries about the future.”

Invite the participants to hold out their left hands with the palms facing up toward the sky, and with this simple gesture, acknowledge the place of our origins, the place of the flaring forth of the original fire some 15 billion years ago. Out of the divine imagination came all the elemental particles that make up creation, including our bodies. We were there in the beginning, gleaming in the night sky and are here now as splendid and radiant second generation stars. We belong to the universe.

Next, invite them to hold their right hands facing down toward the earth to acknowledge our home planet. Here we share life with the diversity of life forms that inhabit the garden planet of the universe. Here we take our place with all other beings.

Then invite the group to connect the circle by holding one another’s hands and acknowledge with this simple gesture, that we belong to one another as well as the universe above us and the earth beneath us.

Darshan (a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred gaze”) is then given to, and received by, everyone in the circle. This respectful, appreciating look comes not only from our own eyes, but also from the eyes of anyone who has mentored us or loved us. In the loving gaze of God, we are all God’s daughters and sons.

While the circle expresses the Creator’s love for diversity, each person has experienced happiness, love and friendship as well as loss, sorrow and grief. We are much more alike than different on the inside. While Darshan is exchanged around the circle, invite everyone present into the circle of respect where all are welcome to simply come as they are, woman or man, young or in their wisdom years, Christian or another path, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered or questioning, wealthy or poor, well or ill — all infinitely deserving of unconditional cherishing and love.

Ask them to slowly let go of hands and to silently welcome one another into the circle of respect as unique expressions of the Creator … never before and never again, in 15 billion years of the Creator’s work unfolding in greater beauty, radiance and splendor, the shem that is in all beings, in all people everywhere.

When using this ritual, please acknowledge its source, the Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality, a place of welcome for the sojourners of all spiritual paths. Br. Joseph Kilikevice OP is the founding director.

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