I just spent a weekend participating in a Dances of Universal Peace weekend retreat in Indianapolis with a local group that brings in teachers from elsewhere on occasion. This time, we brought in Anahata Iradah, an international dance leader, teacher, prolific composer and I’d say, world shaker! — who has devoted her life to the dances since the 1980s.
This follows last summer’s retreat, a weekend in Fort Wayne Indiana guided by my own mentor in the Dances, Darvesha MacDonald.
Throughout this retreat, as usual, while dancing with others in these simple circle dances set to music of phrases from the world’s great mystical religions, I was “treated” to an internal parade of internal fracturing ego states as I descended, once again, below the surface play of perceptions and instantaneous, habitual judgments into the realm of pure being and becoming in concert with others equally inclined, and equal. All of us both participating in the same essence while manifesting as utterly unique.
As usual, the group of more or less two dozen was dominated by grey-haired women — all of us gradually, over the weekend, revealing ourselves as utterly precious beings, full of compassion and wisdom. One tall, thin, cerebral-looking young man probably in his 30s who, I sense, feels quite at home surrounded by crones; the others appeared to be women in their 30s and 40s, including two mothers with their teenage children!
The young girl (14 years old?) had the most direct pure, steady gaze that I have EVER encountered in such a young one. It was as if the soul of TARA herself was shining through her clear, beautiful eyes. She and her mother interacted in such a loving, heartfelt, innocent manner! And the tall, handsome young man, 17 years old he told me. “Do your friends know about your coming to these dances?” I asked. “No way!” he answered. At first his face felt frozen to me, but as the weekend progressed, along with everyone else he relaxed into the essence of loving kindness and purity. Such a blessing, to be able to attend these dances with others and polish my own wayward kaleidoscoping “self”!
What strikes me, as usual, what has struck me for all these years (when did I first attend a DUP event? Back in the mid-’90s?) is how that ego does not only follow me around, but shows itself in myriads of different ways, mocking my pretended purity, calling me to task. I both celebrate its continued crafty creativity, and I shudder in awe to sense the larger awareness that holds it, and everything else, everything inside and outside of me — as if there is an inside and outside — HA!
— as ONE.
Here are two videos that Anahata sanctions from the dances. I did not take any personal photos or videos this time, as she would rather curate visuals shown on the internet, something I can totally understand, even though I, personally, tend to be less fastidious.
TARA: “Mother of all the Buddhas, and Mother to all. The Feminine Presence that pervades all things, weaving a web of peace.”
Here’s a trailer for the DVD documentary Anahata edited and saw through to completion, back in 1996: Eat, Dance, and Pray Together. The video itself has updates (I purchased it from her and watched it last night. Fascinating, especially all the historical footage of “Sufi Sam,” the joyous, brilliant, maddening character who started the Dances, and the grandparents of the Dances who influenced him, Hazrat Aniyat Kahn and Ruth St. Denis.)
Who says we can’t create World Peace, eh? WE’RE DOING IT, by dancing, singing, and praying together, all over the world.
And finally, here’s a video from a retreat with the group that meets annually in Utah’s Canyonlands. I attended this camp twice, when I lived in Wyoming. Wonderful setting, great people, and of course, ecstatic dancing.
I believe we can learn through exaltation, through ecstasy, through joy and through love. At the same time we must also keep one eye open, so to speak, on our peace, if we want strength, because strength comes out of our inner peace. A lot of people go and speak against ecstasy and they don’t know what it is. A lot of people speak for it and they don’t know what it is. So I find love should produce a certain kind of ecstasy and ecstasy if it is real will produce a certain kind of love. — Sufi Sam