We begin the dance with the Invocation:
Hello again! After another week-long retreat right on the heels of the first one, this time escorting Darvesha MacDonald, a Sufi/Buddhist teacher, composer and international dance mistress of the Dances of Universal Peace, from the Indianapolis airport to a midwest dance retreat in Fort Wayne, then back here for a day of R & R before delivering her to the airport again early this morning.
Of course I feel vaguely guilty for not being “up to date” with the latest “news;” vaguely guilty for not even caring that I felt absolutely no urge to “comment” on anything for another whole week; yes, guilty for being quite content, even today, at the prospect of not returning to “the external world” and my commentary on this blog until tomorrow. You do see how my Catholic background, which feeds on guilt, continues to surface?
From Wikipedia “Dances of Universal Peace,” a section called Criticism:
“The Catholic Church has criticized its priests for doctrinal diversity, including participating in and promoting the Dances of Universal Peace. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later: Pope Benedict XVI) dismissed Matthew Fox from the Dominican Order for his activities which include promotion of the Dances of Universal Peace. Since that time Fox went on to become a vocal critic of Ratzinger and his policies.“
I can think of no better endorsement for the DUP than this “criticism” from the higher echelons of the Roman Catholic Church. It reminds me of Edward Snowden remarking that “Being called a “traitor” by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give to an American.”
According to the DUP website:
“[The Founder] Samuel Lewis believed that when people “eat, dance and pray together,” the world finds peace. The Dances continue to be, as Samuel Lewis envisioned them, a way to make life-energy and deep peace a reality for all who come in contact with them, and to bring a joyous spiritual center to those who commit to deepening in them.”
Not to put the DUP and courageous whistleblowers in the same camp, but hey, why not!
BTW: The Catholic Church is not its hierarchy. The 65 or so dancers from all over the midwest who converged in Fort Wayne Indiana for this DUP retreat with Darvesha MacDonald were housed in dorms in the very Catholic College of St. Francis. And a sweet place it is. And of course, there’s the nuns, the incredible nuns, especially the Sisters of Earth, whose extraordinary convergence I participated in last summer in Terre Haute, Indiana. So maybe I’m prejudiced against some of the all-male Catholic hierarchy? Yep, I certainly am. And I am “workin’ on it” — but geez, it’s so hard! And seeing that “criticism” on wikipedia felt, frankly, delicious.
I imagine conservative Catholics think of the Dances of Universal Peace movement as radical because “Sufi Sam”, back in the ’60s, started dancing and singing in his San Francisco garage within the Sufi (the mystical form of Islam) tradition. Today more than 500 dances/songs are performed all over the world by groups of dancer/singers who long to experience of the unity of all religions, including including Christianity, Buddhism, Native American, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Pagan. No one is left out of the One. It’s impossible to separate from what holds and loves us all. We cannot leave Being no matter how hard we try.
Dancing with others in a sacred manner for an entire weekend (two two-hour sessions Friday, three Saturday, two Sunday) has an effect much like the extended meditation I experienced in Thailand: the mind finally lets go, gives up; the ego effaces, leaving one in wonder, in love.
Here’s a little photo essay that I culled from the 108 photos a sweet little 12-year-old girl, I think her name is Suzanne, from Columbus Indiana, took with my iphone for me during the Saturday evening dance session. As you will notice, the evening darkens over time.
These dances begin subtly, and continue subtly, especially with Darvesha as our masterful guide, powerfully and easily deepening us into a personal and group experience of unity with the One.
First, a musician sits down, and begins to play, here the flute.
Then, one by one, we begin to walk, around and round, consciously aware of our breath and our feet upon the good earth. For that session I happened to be first on the floor.
More and more dancers join in walking:
Now, joining hands in a circle, We Begin in the Name of the One (see above) . . .
Tiny, birdlike Darvesha, in the center, all in white, her subtle incantations and rhythms, with delicacy and sureness, hold and guide the rising/falling energies of the field . . .
Closer . . .
The musicians pay close attention, to each other, to Darvesha.
Shelley, who in her other life, serves as an environmental activist listening to and educating those who would like to introduce fracking into her little corner of Ohio, twirls her cares into emptiness . . .
WOW! AS I WRITE ABOUT TWIRLING, CONTINUOUS SIRENS BEGIN . . . SEVERE THUNDERSTORM AND TORNADO WARNING . . . MAYBE I’LL GO DOWNSTAIRS?
SIREN JUST STOPPED. SHEETS OF RAIN, THUNDER, LIGHTNING . . . EVEN SO, “ACTIVE TORNADO WARNING ANOTHER 20 MINUTES . . .”
All clear. Never did go downstairs. Somehow, it’s only fitting that tornados and thunderstorms accompany this report about how the Dances of Universal Peace joyously twirl the heart into opening.
Here’s a particularly artful photo, from this talented young photographer:
Wow, in a post about effacing the ego, I feature more photos of my own “form” than ever before . . . Hmmm. Contradictions abound, eh?
Darvesha, twirling . . .
As the evening wore on, darkening, we finally turned off the fluorescent lights . . .
And, though we kept dancing, it was too dark to see.
We come spinning out of nothingness,
scattering stars like dust.
We rarely hear the inward music,
but we’re all dancing to it
nevertheless. — Rumi