Transcript: EP 302 – Cultivating Female Empowerment in Interfaith Communities with Sande Hart
Return to Podcast Post: Click here
Read The Transcript Below!
Dr. Taz: Welcome back everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where we’re determined to bring you back to your super powered self. And this time, we’re going to talk spirit; that’s right, your spirit, maybe thinking a little bit differently about it, and I’m up for the adventure. Oh my gosh, so Sande Hart is here with me. Sande, welcome to the show. You’re an award winning leader in the fields of women’s empowerment and interfaith community building, which is a passion of mine as well. You founded the women’s interfaith international grassroots organization SARAH, the Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope the morning of 9/11, an instinct to gather women of diverse faiths to protect all that they consider sacred. You spent the past 19 years as president and the public face of SARAH. You’re engaged in leadership in peace interfaith and so much more. You have so many great accomplishments here. I want everyone to hear the story from you. Talk to us about your journey and how you ended up really being a champion of this inner space, and what is a liminal odyssey? Break it down for us.
Sande Hart: There’s a lot there, thank you.
Dr. Taz: I know, right?
Sande Hart: Yeah. Well first of all, responding to your comment about interfaith cooperation, collaboration, the world of interfaith, that was a calling. That was a call to action the morning of 9/11, where I saw the same thing everybody else was seeing on the news that morning, in California. It was 7:30 or so in the morning, and before my feet hit the ground, I heard, “Gather women.” And I had never heard such a broadcast before. I didn’t think I was spiritually inclined. I didn’t have a whole lot of time invested in anything but my children’s religious upbringing, because I felt like I had to give them something, because I wasn’t really raised in a really strict religious environment, but I wanted to give them some foundation. So we were members of our synagogue, they were going to Jewish day school, they were preparing for their bar and their bat mitzvahs, and here all of a sudden we have this assault on the senses of what happened on 9/11, and my response was, “Gather women.”
Sande Hart: And so I’m like, where am I supposed to find the women? And by the way he’s whispering in my ear. But I said yes, and before I knew it, and a little bit of a story behind it, I found 11 women in my living room of diverse faith traditions. And we called ourselves SARAH, as the mother of all nations. And yet even though Sarah’s the mother of all nations according to monotheistic religions, really open to all women of all faith traditions and non-traditions, secular ethics, what have you. Just really what I was interested in knowing was, who are you and what makes you tick? What informs you in your life, and what inspires you, and who inspires you?
Sande Hart: Because when we get to know somebody at that level, we can really work together at a community level better. Because our ultimate goal is to create a more safe and harmonious community. We became very quickly the mothers of the community. And so being in this realm of interfaith leadership, working around women, doing an awful lot on behalf of women and girls, as a matter of fact everything we do, we always checked ourselves to make sure that we were conforming to our higher and our deepest value systems, and everything, every measurable impact would have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. So that’s how we knew we were doing something right for the community, if we were bettering situations for women and girls.
Sande Hart: Yeah, so that’s my entryway into this world of interfaith, and we’re celebrating our 20 years. And it’s taken me all over the world. It’s opened up so many different opportunities for me personally.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, I’m listening to you, and the missions are so aligned right? Because I’ve lived it, but I also firmly believe that if you can empower women and girls you can change communities right? And if you can empower women and girls, you can strengthen families. And I feel like family and community is really sort of the foundation of what our spirit needs. Really what we need to be able to thrive and do our best, no matter how much education we have, no matter how much money we have, no matter what situation we’ve kind of been thrust into.
Dr. Taz: And then the interfaith thing is interesting, right? Because I am from an Islamic background but went to Christian schools, and ended up marrying a man whose family was Hindu, and Sikh, and Christian all mixed up, right? And so I found myself with like, okay, what do we do with our kids? And my dream, which is not available here where I am, but my has always been can I build an interfaith community? Where I want my children to be as comfortable in a church, as they are in a mosque, as they are in a temple, because the common fabric of humanity is the same, right? It’s a different language, different rituals, different traditions. So I haven’t really succeeded in making that happen, but I’m trying. So, so fascinated by your work, and I would love to maybe potentially be involved down the line. But for everybody who’s listening and watching today, you talk about something called the liminal odyssey. Can you explain that to us?
Sande Hart: Yeah. And one of those things that I found myself, what I found available to me in being in this world were connections and relationships that led to me hearing about this word, liminal. The only thing that I knew was that it was a funky word to say, and that-
Dr. Taz: Liminal.
Sande Hart: Liminal. And it took me a while to get used to it, and that it means threshold, and the place between here and there. The place between crisis and action, the place between dilemma and choice. So for example, the morning of 9/11, here’s this crisis, and I found myself in a liminal space. Of course I didn’t name it yet because I hadn’t heard the word for about 20 more years, but I had a moment of choice, and I stepped into that moment, and I made a decision to say yes, to go gathering women. Liminal is not just the space that we are in at any particular time, and it could be a moment, it could be an evolutionary growth spurt, it could be 30 years, it could be minutes. It’s just the space between here and there where we have a choice. So it’s what we do in that space that matters.
Sande Hart: And when I was writing The Liminal Odyssey, I really set out to tell a single story of something that happened to me in 1982, this wild experience that my friends had been urging me to talk about for about 15 or so years, and I just didn’t have enough of a story to write. I know I’ve had all these wonderful experiences that have come from my work in interfaith, that have come through different avenues through different relationships, but this was the story that I felt compelled to write and felt an urge to, but I just didn’t have enough of a story to fill up a chapter, let alone a book; until I heard this word, and I sat back down and I tried to write this book again. And before I knew it, all of those 11, or I should say 11 more stories poured out of me. So I actually did have a place for those stories, because now I’ve got something of a contemplative framework that was developed because I understood that word, liminal.
Sande Hart: I was able to go into what was happening inside of me, what happened between the call to action and choice, and how did that show up in all of my other stories in my life? Not only did I see them as now synchronistically connected, this really beautiful thread, really gossamer threads. But really well connected. But also, the power of what was at the core of making those stories really miraculous, where I had otherwise thought of them as mundane. That’s a really interesting story, but, eh, you know.
Dr. Taz: So explain, because all of us are moving towards a decision, but you’re able to get into this space before that decision it sounds like, and then make it happen. Am I understanding that?
Sande Hart: You are, you are.
Dr. Taz: Okay. Just give us maybe an example, like an example of what you’re talking about.
Sande Hart: Well to better describe it first, then I will give you an example, to better describe it first, there are certain skills that we can practice that help us prepare to slow down to the speed of awe and wonder, of what’s going on in this moment, rather than react, respond right? So something hits our nervous system, whether it’s some really bad news or a global crisis, how are we going to be in that moment and what choices are we going to make to move into that direction? Some of those practices that we can put into use, if we do them in advance, and I like the fact that you noticed it’s knowing these things before the crisis happens, before that moment comes. Because the key to the liminal odyssey is practicing these skills, those things that help us navigate through the day in advance of needing them, right?
Sande Hart: Most people go running to their bookshelf to pull a book off, right, when something is happening. Let’s not do that. Let’s practice some basic simple skills first. Awareness, right? Practicing awareness. There’s actual practices that we can do throughout the day. Practice questioning assumptions. Practice paying attention to our behaviors and how we typically respond to things, and look at some generational behavioral patterns.
Dr. Taz: Oh my gosh, that’s the theme today. Everyone’s talking about-
Sande Hart: Is it really?
Dr. Taz: Yes, generations and ancestral patterns, and how they influence us. That’s amazing that you brought that up as well.
Sande Hart: Well that means there’s a synchronicity there, and that’s another one, cultivating synchronicities. How important is it to pay attention to these things? So perhaps that’s where our conversation should go, into intergenerational trauma healing, because we kind of move through our world with a certain precept of the way we are, right? Of a filter that we see the world in, and the way we think the world sees us. And this is where questioning is really, really powerful. So to summarize really, because it’s a really big concept, but ultimately it’s as simple as practicing awareness, paying attention to certain behavioral patterns, knowing who you are and what you are here to do, anchoring ourselves in our divine assignment right? And being prepared for anything really.
Sande Hart: So when that crisis happens, when that moment of choice shows up for us to make, it’s part of our personality. It’s part of our operating system, and that comes available to us in a liminal space. And when we do that, we are living in a liminal odyssey.
Dr. Taz: I love that. All right, I’m excited to talk about this next product, because honestly, my daughter brought it to my attention. Most of you know I have some tweens and teens running around this house, and they’re on TikTok, and they were talking about Athletic Greens so much so that my daughter wanted me to order it. So I had to get in on the hype and figure out what all of this was about, and honestly I’m fascinated. This is good stuff, so let me tell you about it.
Dr. Taz: Athletic Greens, with one delicious scoop of the stuff you are absorbing 75 high quality vitamins, minerals, whole food sourced superfoods, probiotics and adaptogens to help you start your day right. This special blend of ingredients supports your gut health, your nervous system, your immune system, your energy, recovery, and even anti-aging. It’s all the things in one simple scoop.
Dr. Taz: So of course my daughter gets me hooked on it, I start taking it, and I actually miss it if I don’t take it every morning. I make it a part of my morning routine because that’s honestly the easiest time for me to remember stuff, and mix it into some water, drink it straight. Sometimes I’ll add some other, my favorite powders to it as well. But I’ve noticed it benefits me just with clarity of thought, I have better energy. Of course my gut and liver health because I’m doing something for my liver when I take it, and I do recommend it. And it’s so fun to watch my teenagers like this, right? Because they don’t like anything, so it is something that they’ll stick to, which is a bonus as well.
Dr. Taz: I love this, and so here are some fun health facts about it. So many of you ask me about taking a multivitamin. This is a great alternative, because you’re getting all in one nutrition in one scoop. Remember the 75 minerals. This is a small micro-habit with really big benefits supporting better sleep quality, better mental clarity, and it’s one of the best things that you can do for your own self and for your own self care. Your subscription of Athletic Greens comes with a year’s supply of products based on science, including vitamin D which is so important, especially when we’ve been talking about the immune system and cold and flu season over the last few months, and really trying to find ways to stay healthy.
Dr. Taz: In fact, the founder created Athletic Greens because he really wanted a one stop, one size sort of fits all option for his own gut health, and was tired of taking a lot of different pills, and supplements, and bottles, and spending money on that. So he created Athletic Greens to really offer an all in one nutritional experience. You don’t like following a really strict plan and you really need, “Hey, I’m just going to do one thing,” this is the way to support the gut, liver, your energy, get those minerals and micronutrients in, because unfortunately our food is not as high in micronutrients as we think it is. So check this out, this is good stuff. They’ve got over 7,000 5-star reviews. It’s a climate neutral certified company. It’s been recommended by professional athletes, and it’s even trusted by leading health experts that support projects protecting growth, including Tim Ferriss and Michael Gervais, who are protecting the rainforest there.
Dr. Taz: And here’s another fun fact about the company. In 2020, Athletic Greens donated over 1.2 million meals to kids in 2020. So right now it’s time to reclaim your health and arm your immune system with convenient daily nutrition, especially headed into the cold and flu season. It’s just one scoop with water, that’s it. No need for a million different pills and supplements to look out for your health. And to make it easy, Athletic Greens is going to give you a free one-year supply of immune supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. All you have to do is visit athleticgreens.com/drtaz, again that’s athleticgreens.com/drtaz to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance.
Dr. Taz: So how would you tell somebody out there who’s trying to wrap their head around this concept? How do I practice awareness, right? How do I reach into some of these tools that you’re talking about? What are some ways that you’ve seen work for folks?
Sande Hart: Oh, gosh. Well, I’ll share with you what works for me, and what I’ve had feedback that has actually.. Well first of all, understand that neuroscience and prosocial psychology that’s supported neuroscience has determined that we can rewire our brains, right? With repetition.
Dr. Taz: Yes, and yes, and yes. Yes.
Sande Hart: So the more a thought travels, the same thought travels over our brain and our mind, the more it creates a slip and slide for thoughts, right? That they just come. We know how to drive the same path to work and pick up the phone and call our mom at 4:00 in the afternoon. Whatever you do on a regular basis, that’s part of your subconscious because you practiced it.
Sande Hart: So practicing awareness, the important thing about practice is to do it in repetition. So what I do five times a day for a count of 25 seconds, for about 28 to 30 days, it’s all it took for me to make this into a habit so now I don’t even have to think about it, it automatically happens. I go into the restroom five times a day. That’s something we all typically do. We typically go to the bathroom five times a day. So there’s a place you go, you step over the threshold into the bathroom. There’s a time to stop and think, and I use body awareness to practice awareness, so you’re really accomplishing two things here. But body awareness, okay, stop in those 25 seconds and think about it. Okay, what’s going on in my body right now? How am I feeling? Where am I holding energy? Oh, I didn’t even realize I had a kink in my neck, or oh, my stomach is either hungry or full, or whatever. Just whatever you feel right now in your body has never stopped feeling that way, you just are now noticing it.
Sande Hart: So practice that five times a day, practicing what’s going on in your body. And it doesn’t have to be the bathroom. Maybe you get in and out of your car. Every time you get in and out of your car, just do this. Whatever you do regularly. And so what happens is not only are we training our brains to be aware when the moment comes, right? Because something magical takes over where our subconscious knows, this is a moment where I should be aware. Not just going in the bathroom or paying attention to your body, but anytime it’s time to be aware, you’ll find yourself coming into an awareness and slowing down to what’s going on, and I just suggest trying it. Just try it, and you’ll see how it works, in all different arenas, not just in your body awareness. But body awareness is another one too, so it’s a twofer practice.
Dr. Taz: I love that, body awareness. Five times a day, 28 to 30 seconds for a month, 28 days roughly.
Sande Hart: That’s it, and watch what you are aware of.
Dr. Taz: Isn’t it fascinating, I’m sure you’ve already thought through this, how so many religions have these ritualistic traditions that kind of force you to do this? Like in Islam you’re supposed to pray, I don’t do this, but you’re supposed to pray five times a day right? In Judaism I know they’ve got their own traditions too, where you have to check out in the day, and it’s already kind of built into the day and to the rhythm of the day, and we’ve gotten so far away from that now. I just think it’s all so fascinating. And I’m curious about your perspective as you’ve done this work with different religions. What is the interfaith component of this journey? Connect that for us.
Sande Hart: Well I really appreciate you mentioning praying five times a day and the rituals here, because what interfaith represented for me is it’s allowed me to deepen the roots of my own tradition. It’s afforded me the opportunity to go, “Oh, I love how Muslims pray.” It’s really a yoga-esque process.
Dr. Taz: It is, very much. Yeah.
Sande Hart: And there’s a reverence involved, and so much more, so I’m getting full body chills just thinking about it. Because I’ve been in many mosques before where I sat in the back of the room and watched women pray, and it’s stunning to watch, and the community that’s created. So I’ve learned how to pay close attention to what others do, and see how that informs me, what is perhaps my Jewish perspective of it, what can I adapt as my own as well? It has, by watching others, it has informed me of my traditions.
Dr. Taz: I love that.
Sande Hart: Yeah, it really deepened my roots in that way. And everyone I talk to who is in our SARAH group, we’ve been together for 20 years. Well, I think we’d all agree to that.
Dr. Taz: That’s fascinating. The SARAH group, does it meet? Are there chapters, is it one organization, or?
Sande Hart: Yeah, it’s changed over the years. For the first probably 10 or 15 years, more the first 10 years we were very active in Orange County as a collective group. Everything we did we went out and did together, and we met every single month, and we met typically in living rooms. And we tried to do that. At first we met in public places just because we wanted to be safe and happy, but once we developed a relationship, we came into each other’s homes. And anywhere from 12 to 100 people, women would show up, and a lot of our events that we did in our monthly meetings were community gatherings too, but our sacred circles were women only, where we came and we sat in a circle. And we always started with an agenda, and we always threw it out. And there was laughter, there was crying, there was silence, there were loud eruptions of cheers. I mean, every meeting was very different. Always good food, especially my middle eastern sisters. I loved to have meetings in my home because they always left behind the best food.
Dr. Taz: That’s fascinating.
Sande Hart: Yeah no, it was really the most important thing we could do as women of our community; show up in our different regalia, whether we were wearing hijabs or however we were dressed, in collars or what have you, rabbis with yarmulkes sitting on a panel together at a university, showing up with our weekend of community service, galvanizing thousands out to hundreds of service projects. We were the mothers of the community, but I think that you don’t have to be a part of a large group of women to show up in your community in that way. In fact, I think every man and woman has not just a sacred responsibility but a privilege right now to show up in that integrity of who we are, living our highest vision of our value system.
Dr. Taz: Have you seen this sort of interfaith movement spread across the country or not so much?
Sande Hart: Oh, it’s global as a matter of fact, yeah. The United Religions Initiative is the largest grassroots interfaith organization in the world. I can’t tell you how many countries they’re in right now. The Parliament of the World’s Religions, I serve on the women’s taskforce of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. That’s been around for over 100 and something years, and the next one’s coming up.
Dr. Taz: I didn’t know, oh my goodness.
Sande Hart: You are going to have to come to the next Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Dr. Taz: I want to.
Sande Hart: In August. Just don’t even question, just get there. It is four or five days of heaven on earth. 400 workshops, demonstrations, rituals. An assault on the senses again, but in a good way.
Dr. Taz: I’m going to have to be there, for sure. But I do want to get back to The Liminal Odyssey before we run out of time, and maybe an example of when that was relevant to something that happened maybe in your life or in the life of someone that you’ve worked with. Maybe give us that example for folks listening and watching today.
Sande Hart: Chapter 12 is actually a really good example, because this book really did write me. And like I said, I started out to tell one story, and it turned out that this experience I had in Auschwitz, I was working on a project at Auschwitz to create a peace institute there adjacent to the grounds of Auschwitz, so we were right there at the death camps. And I had this experience where I saw this beautiful oak tree at the back end of Birkenau, which is the adjacent death camp. This big park area… not a park, but a big grass area. This gorgeous tree, and I knew she had to be about 100 years old, so I knew that this tree had been through the Holocaust.
Sande Hart: And I’m a tree hugger, self proclaimed tree hugger, I admit it and proud of it. And I went up and I laid a hug on this beautiful tree, and I was in a liminal space. I sat there with my arms around her trunk, and I took a breath. And I’m listening, right? Because reverent listening is another one of the skills that I talk about. And all of a sudden I heard what sounded like rain drops behind me, and I looked down, and she had poured rain drops on me. As a matter of fact, the working title of the book was Acorn Rain in Birkenau. And had I not slowed down in that liminal space and recognized the moment of what I was… wrapping, I hug trees all the time. And I usually get an answer like, “Thank you.” But I definitely knew that this was a time to stop and slow down to the speed of awe and wonder what was going on, what did I just experience? This was at the end of our tour at the concentration camp. And what was I to do with all this information?
Sande Hart: And what I got was this seed, which I typically have right on my desk, but this acorn. And I stepped into the liminal odyssey and started examining, what am I supposed to do with this? What does this mean? What’s the synchronicity? Then I started employing all of the skills, because the important thing about knowing about the skills is that they work collectively. They work as a cohesive unit, which means when you are working on awareness and questioning assumptions, you’re also aware of intergenerational trauma, you’re also aware of mindfulness, you’re also presented with the trust frequency. I’m naming off all these skills, but collectively they come at you like a thunderclap. And in that moment, I found my divine assignment.
Sande Hart: So here I was in this moment of, it wasn’t exactly a crisis, it wasn’t a heartbreak or a punch in the stomach from someone who betrayed me, but it was a liminal moment where I learned to slow down, listen, make something of this. Pick up a seed. Anybody else could’ve just said, “So some acorns fell. Big deal.” No, this was momentous for me. This was miraculous for me. And then what I picked up was my divine assignment, and what I’m here to do.
Dr. Taz: What’s your divine assignment?
Sande Hart: It’s to be the sacred gardener of that seed, and to bring everyone to that understanding that we’re all entrusted with a seed that’s encoded in its intelligence and wisdom that can forest 10,000 oak trees with the potential we have resting in the palm of our hand. We are holding that seed. We all have that within us. Only you can do what you can do, only I can do what I can do. Go do that. “Where do your passions meet the needs in the world? Therein lies your calling.” That’s Aristotle, right? So what’s your calling? Go to it. Clean up what doesn’t serve you anymore through awareness, through questioning assumptions. Look at your generational trauma. My books are these stories, and the stories came first. And then each skill started going, “Oh.” Showing up, I went, “Oh wow, this is what was prevalent at that moment.” 12 skills, 12 stories, then took them out of the book and set them aside and go, wow. Collectively they’re their own super skill.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Sande Hart: And I have seen transformation, my husband’s seen transformation. It’s quite remarkable, and yeah, I just come alive, because I know that this stuff works. And it’s easy, it’s just easy stuff, and ultimately it brings you to your joy. It brings you to your bliss.
Dr. Taz: Well that is the hero’s journey, right? You mentioned the hero’s journey. Talk to us about that. Is it getting these 12 skills in kind of our own personal space or own personal wiring? What is that journey, and how does it relate to what you’re doing?
Sande Hart: Thank you. When these stories poured out of me and I stepped back and I said, perhaps this isn’t a hero’s journey. Let me look at the mile markers of this contemplative template, right? The call to action. I knew it was time to get out of dodge and go out seeking for, so I could return back better for my community and my world. Just think of any George Lucas movie, right? That’s the hero’s journey. You meet your mentors, you meet your villains, you think you’ve found the mountaintop and you slip right down, and then you come into your personal evolutionary growth and ultimately return, or what’s also considered a resurrection.
Sande Hart: And so I thought, yeah, yes there are these patterns that resemble that, but my story doesn’t go on a timeline, and I don’t think anybody’s does. I think it zigs and it zags, and I think we can have a journey of the sort in a moment’s time, or in our entire lifetime, or in a week. So the hero’s journey was just missing the mark for me, and then I realized what was missing. What was missing is nothing about the spaces in between. What led us from here to there? Were we really paying attention to those villains, and those alligators, and those mentors who are on our path, really are synchronistically divine. They’re really there to help us reach our divine assignment.
Sande Hart: So the hero’s journey is this template that, for me, wasn’t enough. Not even the shero’s journey, which I went and learned about, isn’t enough. Liminal odyssey is an expansion on that, where you can look at your life not as a journey, that’s why it’s called an odyssey. Because we’re going to the great unknown. We don’t know where we’re going, but we know we’re on our way. That’s what an odyssey provides us, the mechanism to get there. And ultimately, the result is us just showing up in our integrity.
Dr. Taz: Wow. Goodness gracious, powerful stuff. Oh my gosh.
Sande Hart: A lot. A lot.
Dr. Taz: I want to digest this. I really want to get my head and my hands around this, because I haven’t spent enough time. Certainly my personality is not that way. I’m moving a lot, moving very quickly, and so slowing down to the speed of awe and wonder has to be practiced, because it’s not very natural, but I might be missing my divine assignment, right? So-