Teacher Spotlight: Interview with Judy Mortellaro about the newly forming “Spiritual Circle”

HDY: What inspired you to start the Spiritual Circle?

JUDY: I was thinking about how a lot of people have a spiritual practice, or maybe they don’t have a spiritual practice but they feel as though they’d like to have something deeper in their lives, but they’re not religious and they don’t want to go to a church. I felt like it would be a nice place for people to get together to meet and relate on a more spiritual level.

HDY: Is the group based on any particular religious or spiritual paradigm?

JUDY: No, there really is no paradigm. The first time we met we agreed on two ground rules: One- no proselytizing and two- confidentiality, anything personal shared in the group stays in the group. Also at the first group, we decided some of what we wanted to do and the members requested chanting and meditation. At the second meeting, I brought an old celtic chant to share because I thought the english would be easy to learn and it would be something we might all relate to on some level.

HDY: Since the group meets at a yoga studio, is the group based on yoga philosophy?

JUDY: No, although my practice is yoga, as far as I’m concerned spirit is spirit; however you come to your practice doesn’t really matter.

HDY: So for example, could someone who is Christian come to the group?

JUDY: Anybody can join!  Not only is everyone welcome, but it would be wonderful if people from all/any traditions would stop by to share and see what common ground we can find.   There’s a song called “All Are Welcome Here,” that’s the motto for the group. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are- we’re all connected through spirit. “All the animals, the plants, the trees- we’re all welcome here,” but we just don’t always practice that.

HDY: What might someone expect if they come to the group?

JUDY: First, not to have expectations would be good. (smile) We did start out with some ideas that included chant and meditation and we started doing a check-in with each other. The first week there was a bit of a problem with giving advice, but we’re not there to advise or counsel each other, we’re not there to have a coffee klatch. We can support each other maybe in a quiet, silent kind of way by holding sacred space. If you came in and you were very upset about something and you expressed it, we could just sit with it. So, our third ground rule became not to give advice.

HDY: Can advice seem like criticism?

JUDY: Yes, very much like criticism. Besides, who are we to say what would be good for someone else. If we look inward, maybe we’ll find the answers there.

HDY: Is there a leader in the group?

JUDY: There’s not really a leader; I facilitate it for now because I’m getting it going…..

HDY: If there’s not a specific philosophy or leader- what will you focus on?

JUDY: We’ve talked about the different ways spirit can be expressed through activities; where spirit is working through us rather than ego. One day I brought in some scrap material and needles and thread and we started putting them together on a background without talking. Some of us were inspired to take them home and finish. We didn’t have a plan when we started but as we watched our creations emerge and later shared them we said, “yes, this is what spirit is about.” It came more from deep within….

Last week someone brought a couple of poems to share from Mary Oliver and we meditated and talked about what soul and spirit is for us. Someone suggested that maybe spirit expresses itself through dance and maybe we could dance next week….Possibly some people won’t want to dance and they could just sit- so we’ll try dancing next time, but there’s no pressure to participate.

HDY: How has the group been going so far?

JUDY: We’ve just been getting started in the last few weeks- some are finding it challenging not to give advice. Maybe we can learn together as a group the skill of deep listening and communication. It takes a skill to be able to ask a question without trying to lead someone to think what you want them to think.

HDY: It sounds like the group has the potential to evolve into what the members want it to be.

JUDY: Exactly; within the guidelines of not proselytizing, not giving advice and keeping confidentiality.

HDY: What personal experiences inspired you to start this group?

JUDY: Having been ordained twice now, once as a swami and once as an interfaith minister, I used to gather with others to study and practice. When I returned home, I missed being able to share on that level with that kind of real connection- to be able to just hang out with others and let spirit guide you rather than permitting the ego, labels or appearances to guide you. I want to be able to relate to people and speak about things like spirit without someone thinking I’m crazy….. which a lot of people do (laughter) and that’s ok.

HDY: What’s unique about this group?

JUDY: Its not religion based- its a place to “be”, share and relate to others through spirit no matter what you call it- without preaching.

♥ The Spiritual Circle meets every Sunday at High Desert Yoga from 10- 11a.m. All are welcome!

“….To the winds I cast my fate and the remnants of my fear……..

…..Tears of gratitude I wept                                       I was welcome here…..”

excerpt from “All Are Welcome Here” song lyrics by Miten

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