Current Update as of June 7, 2002
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
An Introduction to the Diane Elliot's 'Torah of the Body'
By Lorrie Kazan
I signed on as associate editor, one of my first actions was to solicit
articles dealing with both Kabbalah and with Jewish spirituality in
general. My goals were at least two-fold. I wanted to provide access
to Jewish spirituality for our readers and myself.
I’ve found Judaic wisdom to be incredibly enriching, and yet
still relatively unknown and unexplored in new age circles. In many
enlightened groups (including those I’ve met through the Edgar Cayce
Foundation) there’s often a sense that Judaism is the incomplete or
archaic religion and the emphasis is on developing Christ consciousness,
Jesus consciousness, and an assumption (even by Jews) that one must
look to Buddhism or Christianity in order to experience the depths
be more explicit, let me quote Diane Elliot, one of the generous writers
who responded to my call:
spirituality encompasses a broad range of kinds of activities, including
prayer, study of sacred texts, ritual and an ethical way of being
and acting in the world. Kabbalah, an esoteric mystical pursuit, was
historically limited to an elite, partly because it was outside the
mainstream, and also because in order to truly enter the rarified
realms of kabbalistic practice, it was understood that one had to
be deeply grounded in all other aspects of Jewish learning and life.
Hence the stipulation that Kabbalah (‘that which is received’) be
for men only, since women were not encouraged to and later prohibited
from studying; only men over age 40 because by then one would have
ample time to become steeped in Torah learning; and only men with
a wife and children, since presumably, they would help one maintain
a firm footing in the realm of the embodied life.
these times when so many of the mystical practices have become disengaged
from their cultural contexts, people are entering into the study of
Kabbalah without grounding themselves in the full scope of Jewish
law and learning.”
And to Ms. Elliot’s words I would add that we have only to read the works of scholars such as Elie Wiesel to learn of young boys driven mad by entering these esoteric worlds without being fully prepared.
are those who believe Kabbalistic interpretation is what fostered
many of Nostradamus’ predictions.This is something we may delve at
a later date.
dedication at Intuitive-Connections Network is to being on
the cutting edge with intuition and all that pertains to it, and we
are committed to providing a firm foundation of reliable information
from which to build.
leads me to Diane Elliot, someone I believe you should know. She’s
an accomplished dancer, somatic therapist and rabbinic student. Like
a lot of the information I now wish to include, her knowledge and
abilities are so vast that I shy away from reducing them into my words.
the following article, Diane refers to “stories that live in our cells.”
She uses concepts such as “collective nervous system.” Her work connects
us with the sacred in ourselves and in others. She reminds us of the
oneness behind all things.
if we didn’t split off from ourselves, let alone our cells, what truths
they might share with us, how deeply connected, empowered and easily
intuitive we might feel. When we stop rejecting ourselves we create
the space for our intuition to speak, to breathe. We become one being.
attempt to open the body as ground and instrument for Jewish practice,
as holy expression of soul, invariably smacks up against this reality:
for a long time, it simply wasn’t easy or safe or pleasant to inhabit
a Jewish body.
a dancer and a somatic* therapist, helping people experience and live
more fully in their bodies. I
was drawn into this work by my need to find the way "into"
my own body. One might assume that, being born, we are all "in"
our bodies, but I’ve learned that how consciously and fully we manifest
our physicality depends on many factors: how
we’re born and the atmosphere we’re born into; how we’re touched,
held and played with as children; how the people in our lives inhabit
their bodies; how safe it is to move in public; how connected we feel
to nature. Many of us "have" a body that we drag around
and struggle with, never really experiencing the blessing of this
physical crystallization of Mind, God’s creation.
the beginning, we Jews were a people wedded to a land as well as to
God, longing for and finding our way to and losing our holy Aretz
over and over. As Jews spread into the Diaspora following the destructions
of the first and second Temples, we experienced periods of prosperity
and safety but, perhaps more often and terrifyingly unpredictably,
episodes of intolerance, repression and violence. The Holocaust was
the most devastating and unspeakable in a thousands-years-long litany
of hatreds, expulsions, pogroms. Such trauma, such collective and
individual loss imprints itself in our body tissues, in our very cells.
Our collective nervous system has gone into a kind of shock which
often keeps us hovering somewhere above our heads, or perhaps just
inside, in an attempt to protect us from knowing and absorbing these
in this era and this country where there is more safety, more support
and breathing space than our people has ever experienced, it’s time
to ask: How can our souls come to truly inhabit and bless our bodies?
How do we deepen our physical awareness and cultivate compassion for
our embodied selves? As we set out to "heal the world,"
can we find peace within our own skins?
years ago, while exploring the interface between healing and performance
work, I helped to develop a form I call "Active Witness,"
a community-based model for eliciting and containing the stories that
live in our bodies. In this work, a group creates a safe, non-judgmental
container within which an individual can more fully express movements
of spirit, soul and mind through his or her body. Seeing, listening
to, touching, holding, singing to and sometimes moving with one person,
a group can help each of its members open up more space around the
various levels of "story" held within the tissues of their
bodies. We do a version of this all the time, whenever one person
speaks and the group listens. To do it with more of our selves, our
cells, supports a richer
ground of resource and bears more spiritual fruit. Because
“your” story is almost always a version of “my” story, we grow and
facilitated a group for nine months in Minneapolis, following a painful
schism in our Jewish Renewal community. We shared stories of our ancestors,
began to identify in our bodies the old patterns of fear and pain
that had transferred into relationships within our Havurah, and in
feeling them through together, helped to shift them.
recent session of a similar workshop, which I
called The Embodied Soul, began with people moving freely in the light,
airy space of the meeting hall. With background music to help loosen
the mind and focus attention, people opened to the sacredness of space
by simply feeling the carpet, the air on their skin, the sunlight
pouring through the big windows. As we found our sense of comfort
in the room, I guided
people into a tastier, more direct experience of body: “loosen your
bones, move from the
spaces in your joints, let your organs slosh, respond to the pull
then shifted to working with a partner. The “mover” asked for touch
in one area of the body; the “witness” offered that touch in just
the way that the mover desired it. Each
couple worked together for a period of time, sometimes silently, sometimes
sounding with each other. We stopped to share impressions, then exchanged
roles and resumed moving, breathing, sounding.
In the discussion which followed this exercise, one person began to
spontaneously speak of her pain and fear wrestling with questions
of Jewish community and identity, how to do her spiritual practice,
who had the “answers” for her. As the group circled to witness her,
she continued to voice her distress while directing us to apply pressure
on different parts of her body. Words poured directly out of her body.
Gradually, she began to feel and trust the support of this group of
Jews in a way that she’d not been able to before. As her body absorbed
the information that she was not alone, that she was being heard and
not judged, she could contact kol
d’mamma, the place in herself that knew the answers.
the Torah of body, attending to ourselves with the same loving regard
that our scholars have lavished for millenia upon each pasukof
our holy text, we learn a whole new language.
Sh’ma: we can hear the
pulsing of blood, the tension held in the pericardium when we’re scared,
the rush of adrenaline when we’ve got something to say, the churning
of the intestines when our boundaries are violated and we become angry.
Developing a sensate vocabulary in ourselves and then sharing it with
others, we create embodied
community. We support each
other in knowing the comfort of curling up and being held like a baby,
the relief of lying on the floor and surrendering to gravity, the
awkwardness of creeping and stumbling, the exhilaration of leaping
and spinning, the trust engendered by falling and being caught.
propose that such a process, practiced by groups of Jews together
and by Jews with other people (Germans, Arabs, Christians, African
Americans) will help us deepen our spiritual practices and create
the vital communities we all long for. How can this happen? Every
community has resource people – movement teachers, somatic therapists,
bodyworkers – whose work involves helping people to more fully and
honestly inhabit their bodies. Just as we count on rabbis and cantors
and educators to initiate us into the complexities of our sacred texts
and beautiful liturgies, we need to have movement specialists and
body-based healers as part of the leadership team to initiate us into
the complexities of our selves. Offering people some basic body awareness
skills at the level
for which they’re ready
during services, meetings and retreats can help open the door
to expanded levels of being
need to touch the aliveness in each of us that births form. All of
Creation entices us to awaken what has “died” in us, or perhaps what
was never fully born. When, as Jews, we begin to practice meeting
the gift of embodied life with full acceptance, not holding back,
giving expression to what we have learned so well to hold still and
quiet and hidden, then the body will cease being an "it,"
and become instead our holy teacher and God’s ally.
*Somatic is a term referring to the body as experienced from within.
Diane Elliot, internationally respected dancer and choreographer, Registered Movement Therapist and Teacher of Body-Mind Centering®, maintains a private somatic practice in San Diego and Los Angeles and teaches throughout the country. She is active in both Shir ha Yam and the Elijah Minyan in San Diego and is currently pursuing rabbinic studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. She can be reached at 619-683-2602 or e-mail: email@example.com
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