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Breath of fire

Judith Fein

November 22, 2001

Thanksgiving is a one-table holiday. Families gather around a groaning board, covered with a white tablecloth. By the end of the evening, there is usually a red wine stain or two. It is a time for intimacy, for being with those who are close to you.

Or is it?

We decided to find out. We decided to make a Wisdom Circle for Thanksgiving. We asked people not to restrict themselves to family, but to reach up and out to the family of humankind.

The only thing that was certain is that Ravijit, from Chile, was going to lead a kundalini yoga session. People were told to wear casual clothes, and to bring a blanket or mat if they had either.

I figured that at the last minute, most people would want to stay in their small circles at home, where it was nice, and warm and comfortable. I figured wrong. There must have been 75 or 80 people at Tribes tonight.

They came from Indiana and India, from Connecticut and Colombia. There was a cluster of Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Christians. We laid ourselves out, quite literally, on the floor, as we did breath of fire. We earned our turkey as we bent and twisted, flexed and chanted.

And then, we formed a circle, honored those who had died this past week, did a silent meditation on what we were thankful for, said a food blessing in about 15 different languages, lined up and ate our way from one end of the long table to the other.

There were soups and breads, turkey and rice dishes, vegetarian fare, cranberries, squashes, brussel sprouts, raw foods, cooked foods, and about 15 dessert pies swollen with pumpkin and pecans.

There is much wisdom in people. Wisdom and heart and humanity. We need to hear it.

After we ate, we gathered in a Wisdom Circle. The subject was: What contribution do you make to America?

Most people were not expecting the question and had to think about it. Very few people spoke about work. They spoke about being open-hearted, bridging cultures, spreading light, volunteering, being a good friend, being less of a jerk, embodying change, being a universalist, not believing in nationalities, being loving and caring, asking questions, bringing humor, bringing consciousness to the workplace, being confused, taking more than giving, listening, learning, believing in Oneness. What they brought to America were inner values expressed in the outside world. It was surprising that almost everyone addressed the question that way.

We closed the circle with plans for the next two meetings: For the first time, we will be led by a Tibetan lama. And then, for New Year's Eve, everyone will bring music (live musicians if possible) from their traditions, and tell us about the music. Then we will dance or sing or chant with them.

There was one curve ball tonight. There were a journalist and photographer from the newspaper and they are putting us on the front page tomorrow. I am not at all sure how I feel about this. It has been word-of-mouth until now. This makes it public.

But I guess we have to trust that this is just another form of expansion and it's all right... When I asked the journalist and photographer to participate, they said they had to stay objective. But, really, isn't this about letting go of that division too? Letting go of our roles and divisions?

A couple came from Vermont tonight. I have no idea how they wandered into Tribes, but there they were, fully participatory. And they said perhaps they will start a Wisdom Circle in Vermont.

There is much wisdom in people. Wisdom and heart and humanity. We need to hear it.

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