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.
— JOSEPH KILIKEVICE, OP, FOUNDING DIRECTOR
Circle of Respect Ritual
The Shem Center Circle of Respect is a simple ritual that I have used for years to begin every Shem Center gathering. It is a brief guided meditation that declares Shem Center’s message of inclusivity and welcome. I have used it in groups of just a few people and as many as some 10,000 as was the case during the 2004 Barcelona Parliament of the World’s Religions. It is the preeminent Shem Center proclamation that lays a foundation for recognizing, honoring and holding as sacred the great diversity that is all of creation — and all human life on planet earth.
This simple guided meditation is being used by teaches of children in classrooms in many parts of the world as well as by retreat directors and conference speakers. I have received reports of it setting a tone of understanding and civility helping an audience receive the message a speaker is offering.
Feel free to use it with my blessing, conveying it with earnestness and sincerity. Acknowledging Shem Center as its source is appreciated.
Joseph Kilikevice, OP
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
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 fifteen 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 form 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
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 or
bisexual, wealthy or poor, well or ill, all infinitely deserving of unconditional
cherishing and love.
Ask them to slowly let go of hands and to welcome one another into the circle
of respect as unique expressions of the Creator. . . never before and never
again, in fifteen 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.
Circle of Respect A SHEM Center Ritual (quick reference)
In the loving gaze of God, all are God’s daughters and sons. Guide this ritual with conviction, from the heart.
- Announce, this is a SHEM Center ritual.
- Gather in a circle.
- Use tingsha or bell. Breathe in, say “yes” to life, breathe out say “thank you.” (3X)
- Left hand faces up to acknowledge belonging to the universe and its Source.
- Right hand faces down to acknowledge belonging to the earth.
- Connect with one another to acknowledge belonging to each other.
- Darshan, the sacred gaze of blessing. Notice the Creator’s love for diversity.
- All are welcome in this circle of respect. ALL will be respected; woman or man, young or those in their wisdom years, different faiths, all sexual orientations. A commitment we all make.