Let us “eat, dance and pray together:” A Dances of Universal Peace weekend

We begin the dance with the Invocation:

We begin in the name of the One
Toward The One,
The Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty.
The Only Being, United with All the Illuminated Souls.
Who form the Embodiment of the Master, the Spirit of Guidance.


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.[10] 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.[11]

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:


“Sufi Sam”

“[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.

musician tuning up at start

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.

me walking from afar

More and more dancers join in walking:

many walking

Now, joining hands in a circle, We Begin in the Name of the One (see above) . . .

view of line from feet

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 . . .

Darvesha in center with guitar

Closer . . .

darvesha closer up

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 . . .

Shally twirling



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:

AK back lit profile

And another:

AK back lit walking forward

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 . . .

darvesha arms raised

As the evening wore on, darkening, we finally turned off the fluorescent lights . . .

group in gathering darkness

And, though we kept dancing, it was too dark to see.

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

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7 Responses to Let us “eat, dance and pray together:” A Dances of Universal Peace weekend

  1. laurabruno says:

    Lovely! Wish I could have been there, but I found out too late to shift plans. 🙂 Love and blessings, Laura

  2. John Cowan says:

    Ann, I felt like I was there. There is something similar about all Dances wherever they are held. Mary and I went to a weekend retreat on Coeur d’Alene lake and while the surroundings were different what happened there is the same. I do find that chanting and dancing are my forms of meditation, traditional sitting while helpful to slow down the body is much harder for me. Dancing and chanting is on the other hand so much easier for me to let go. Not unlike the chanting of the early Catholic church it pulls us to another dimension. Thank you for sharing this, I wish I could have been there.

  3. molly says:

    wow! Neat pictures.. looked like it was amazing!

    • I’m sure there is a dance circle near you. They’re pretty much everywhere these days. The deepest events are with lots of people, regional gatherings. I met a few people from small local dance circles (usually between 6 and 12 dancers) at the Darvesha retreat who had never been to one of this size before and they were blown away by the energy field we generate and how it impacts us all.

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