Dances of Universal Peace

By Glenda | July 25, 2017

Four days in Southwestern Colorado with about sixty other people, chanting, praying, singing and dancing the Dances of Universal Peace, has reminded me of many things I hold dear, all of you among them. I have held you in my heart often as I opened myself to the mysterious expansion of consciousness that occurs when that many people are focused on the highest purposes.

The practice of the Dances of Universal Peace, a branch of the Sufi tradition, is to bring many people into what is most often circle dances, sometimes many circles deep, with individual people holding hands to become part of a larger whole, then moving in simple , meaningful, synchronized patterns, while chanting in unison sacred songs or mantras from various spiritual traditions from all over the world.

The particular dance steps for any one dance, as well as the meaning of the words or syllables that are sometimes sung in their original languages, are explained briefly before beginning, so that the dancers and singers can all focus on a particular intention for the dance. Sometimes the tone is joyful and celebratory, sometimes petitionary, sometimes even humorous, often exuberant, but always respectful, honoring, and prayerful.

The music begins, with drums, guitars, bass, flute, various percussion instruments, etc., all gradually leading the dancers and chanters into a deeper and deeper immersion in the meaning of the particular song. Any one dance goes on for a long time, and gradually the movements and the voices become more and more in harmony and in step, voices rising into strong praise or quieted into subtlety, ascending, descending, transcending, until at last the dance ends, and a period of deep silence is held, followed by a closing, sealing statement, often simply “Amen.”

Observing from the outside as a witness, one sees an almost hypnotic movement, circle upon circle, so beautifully synchronized, with dancers moving in unison, sometimes inward toward the center, then outward, hands often over the heart and then lifted upward to Spirit in whatever form is being evoked, or “scooping up” the sorrow or obstacle or whatever is holding the world back from peace, and then offering it up to Spirit for transformation, for healing, for compassionate awareness. Other movements, so simple, yet so meaningful, when explained in terms of the spiritual purposes of the dance, are beautiful and powerful, filling the dancers with love and with a sense of service, sending out the energy of the dance to the world.

Always, though, any movements are followed by bringing the dancers back to the joined hands, and the joined hearts, as that which is “particular” becomes one with the “unified,” the individual person necessary to the dance and uniquely contributing to it, while also participating in the wholeness of the circle, the dance, and the All One, whatever that means to any of us.

It is this convergence of the meaningfulness of each individual person or action with the important emphasis on the whole, the community, the oneness—it is this at once “horizontal” and “vertical” joining that so appeals to me.

This, of course, has been much of my life work, honoring the paradoxical “Yes, that!” and “That!” and “That too!” of the way it all is, or so it seems to me. The inclusiveness of the Dances, taking in the basic core truths of all spiritual paths, is resonant with the mission statement of the Fellowship of Comparative Religion and of this website, Toward Common Ground.

And it this same “All That!” that shows up for me when I pack the sacred medicine pipe, or join in the communion service of Christian traditions, or chant the many names of god in Pali, or Hindi, or when I sit silently in Buddhist or Taoist meditation—all of these lead me to begin and end my prayers with “Leaving nothing out, named and unnamed, known and unknown, Great Mystery.”

Perhaps the best part of the experience I have just completed at this Dances camp has been the joy that pervaded the people and atmosphere. When one is so focused on the highest good for all, there is, perhaps inevitably, a discovery of the bliss of “seeing the face of God in every face,” of knowing that goodness and kindness and holiness are realities, and that each of us embody them and can share them.

In the course of these four days, I prayed for you, often by name in my mind, as I offered myself to this wonderful experience. I also received many blessings, many hugs, many uplifting words, and in every case I have incorporated you and each of you into those blessings and hugs and uplifting intentions. As always, I have carried you with me into these sacred, precious moments, wherever I am.

My love remains with you as I journey on northward now toward the next adventure. I know that many of you are not in such blissful conditions, but rather are in challenging situations and sacred “bardos” of loss or transition, and so, even though I am on the road away from Earthsprings, I am available by phone, by email, by “heart waves” of energy. We are not separate and cannot be. This I have danced for four days, and I send it out to you again in these few words.

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