Guardian Mandala by Julie Hliboki

"Guardian" mandala
© Julie Hliboki

Meditation

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love."

-- Julian of Norwich

What's in a Name?

In the Genesis Chapter 2 Creation story, G-d formed man and blew into him the Nishmat Chayim (breath of life) [Gen 2:7 - 2:8]. Nishmat and Neshama are of the same root. Neshama is the breath of life and it also is one of the Hebrew names for the soul. Therefore, Neshama , like the Sanskrit word Prana is the life force - breath that nourishes the soul. When we breathe in, it is as if we are taking in the outbreath of the Divine. When we breathe out, it is as though the Divine is breathing our exhalation in. Ever connected with the Divine interdependently, the Neshama breath enhances the Neshama soul.

The seeds were planted

The Neshama Interfaith Center story began years ago. In the fall of 2003 Cathy Crosby and I attended a Call to Action (CTA) conference in Milwaukee. We attended a prayer experience facilitated by Brother Joseph Kilikevice, OP, founder of the Shem Center for Interfaith in Chicago. He led us in the Dances for Universal Peace, a simple yet profound experience of the oneness of God and humanity. This touched us so significantly that the seeds of Neshama were planted that day.

We sought the Spirit

On our return to Atlanta we contacted Brother Joseph to see if he might help get us started with a similar center in Atlanta. He encouraged us to seek the Spirit and so we gathered a small group to pray and discern the call that we heard: a place in Atlanta dedicated to respectful dialogue, shared prayer and understanding across religious traditons to foster peace. We met with this group for months until we felt the "Yes, but not yet."

We waited for the Spirit

During the interim, while life happened and we waited, the dream and the call never faded. In March of 2009 we attended the Interfaith Immersion Experience here in Atlanta sponsored by Interfaith Community Initiatives (ICI). It was on this seminal weekend that we met one of the presenters, Rabbi Mitch Cohen. We subsequently became involved in the monthly contemplative interfaith meetings and found ourselves meeting with him, and others of diverse religions, in a setting which included silence and spiritual sharing.

We shared the Spirit

As we became more involved in ICI, we shared our dream with leaders in the interfaith community, including Ben Johnson and Jan Swanson, who were encouraging and excited for our hope for a center. But it was when we shared deeply with Mitch over lunch one day in the spring of 2012 and found that he also had a similar dream growing in him, we believed the time had come.

Will you share the Spirit with us?

We are committed to holding the vision at Neshama Interfaith Center that we have held in our mind and hearts for over a decade and thus our mission has evolved. We seek to be a community for exploration and spiritual growth. We offer diverse opportunities designed to nurture the whole person in a setting where all faith expressions are valued, building bridges of peace.

One river, many streams

We hope that the Neshama Interfaith Center will feed and nourish your dreams for our world.