From Cholent to Sacred Circle Dancing

got-cholentI have had a number of religious transitions in my life.  I began in a Conservative Jewish family that was fairly traditional … with some wrinkles.  Saturday mornings I’d run along beside my Dad – who, although he was a short guy, walked really really fast – on the way to the synagogue.  We’d walk home (a little more slowly) and the family would gather around the table to have cholent for lunch.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with cholent, let me try to explain it (you can click on the link if – for some reason – you want the history of cholent).  For general purposes, it’s a pot filled with things like flanken (a Jewish take on short ribs), barley, lima beans, carrots, potatoes, and whatever else anybody wants to put in (or leave out in the case of vegetarian cholents).  Thing is, you have to cook it for about 12 hours so it transforms into a dish that you either love or hate.  Cholent.  

Back to our Sabbath rituals.                                                                                          


After cholent my father would climb onto his bed and have what is called a “shabbes shluff” … the kind of restful, peaceful nap you can have when you’re not torn to be doing anything else at all.  The womenfolk (my mother and various groupings of the 4 sisters) would head downtown, do a little shopping, have a snack at the London Cafe (that’s where I discovered you could have gravy with french fries) and meander home around 5 o’clock to have dinner and make havdalah (a beautiful ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the rest of the week).  That was then, and then I left home.

In the ensuing 10 or 15 years I went from having a totally “unkosher” home to a strictly kosher one.  I’ve gone from going to synagogue every Shabbat (Saturday/Sabbath) to going 4 or 5 times a year plus whenever I travel.  Most importantly I’ve gone from feeling exaltation just because I finally learned the words and could “keep up” during the service to feeling that it’s just rote words I’m saying with little connection.   I am comfortable “in” religion, understood the way that Dalai Lama’s  frames it:    “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness. ”  So, in that sense I’ve always been a religious person, it’s just that I’ve had to seek different paths at different times in my life.

I knew that being a part of a community (a) whose company I could join regularly, and (b) who would provide a space in which I could feel whole … well, I knew that would be something I could enjoy more of once I retired.  So now on Saturday mornings, from 10:30  to 1:oo p.m. you will find me Sacred sacred-circle-dancing1Circle Dancing with a downtown Toronto “circle” (e-mail me if you’d like to join us and I’ll give you details).  This morning I put a beautiful black-and-white photo of Freida in the center of the circle and as we danced – a most beautiful and gently transforming moving meditation, hands held palm to palm as we all became one movement swaying and grapevineing and offering our spirits to the dance – we brought her into the circle.  May she always feel the love of a dance circle.  A Buddhist saying tells us that “thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases by being shared.”   May the candles that were lit as part of Freida’s naming ceremony spread their light and help us all to find a more loving way to be together on the earth.

Sitting together having lunch afterwards we talked of a more caring world, and meditation stools (I’m looking for one), and unity, and struggle.  When I dance my spirit feels more connected; indeed, I feel more connected.  And quiet.  And centred.  I feel the way I feel when I’m hiking in the desert, climbing a mountain, or walking alongside of a penguin.  I feel filled with awe for life’s natural beauty.  I feel truly joyful.  Hhhmmm???   Should I be dancing more?

I can’t help but wonder what other ways women are finding to join communities of spirit when they retire.


8 responses to “From Cholent to Sacred Circle Dancing

  1. Oh, that is beautiful! But – french fries with gravy? No, no – french fries are to be consumed with ketchup!

  2. Ah – in Canada we go even farther than this with fries. Have you heard of poutine? It’s a Quebecois “dish” that’s french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. A long way from ketchup! We also put vinegar on our chips – a throwback to our English roots I suppose.

  3. Sylvia Ihave followed through on the Sacred Dance Circle and found it most interesting.
    Having spent my childhood in a very religious atmosphere I decided about 10 years ago I no longer felt the need for an affiliation with a specific group but preferred to step aside and do some soul searching into what I did believe and perhaps discover a spiritual self. Mostly I have felt I made the right decision (for me) however I do miss the community act of worship and this finds me in a church on a Sunday morning most times, as it will be this week when I am trying to gain a sense of comfort perhaps by going back to what gave me a sense of inner peace when I was younger.

  4. Forgot to add chips are definitely best with salt and vinegar

  5. Donna, I think that you’ve gone directly to one of the key things that perhaps we’re all looking for; that elusive sense of inner peace. Without the distraction of a work life it seems that the presence/lack of inner peace becomes more paramount. In times of high stress – whether caused by financial collapse or horrific bushfires (and my heart goes out to everyone who is suffering) – the comfort of community is indeed helpful. Having “lost” my work community I guess I’m looking for another place to “belong”.

  6. I’ve tried sacred circle dancing and like it (also tried chips with gravy and like that too)! The sacred circle dancing is very spiritual and if you are able to be “in the moment” provides comfort and peace as well. There is also that sense of community Donna referred to. “Dance like no-body is watching” is the mantra of NIA which I prefer because it is more energetic and gives me the pleasant feeling of exultation that comes from a good work-out when the hour is over. It also can be spiritual if you let it. All of it feels good though and when I retire I will certainly seek out the dance!

  7. Hi Sylvia,
    Enjoyed your site. Would you send me details re the Sacred circle dancing Saturdays in Toronto. I dance in London and frequently visit my family in Toronto and may like to come. Also considering moving to Toronto to be near my grandchildren



    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Hi Brenda and welcome. I’ll send you more info on the dance to your own email rather than here. Being close to grandchildren is definitely worth a move if you can do it. Hope to meet one day.

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