Wali Ali Meyer on "Sufi Sam" and the Dances of Universal Peace

Each year in December commemoration ceremonies are held in Konya, Turkey, for Jelaleddin Rumi (Mevlana), the great 13th-century Sufi (Islamic mystic) poet and founder of the Mevlevi (Whirling) Dervish order. Rumi's death in mid-December 1273 (called Şeb-i Aruz (SHEB-ee ah-ROOZ) is considered his "wedding night," the night he departed this earthly life and was finally united in love with the Divine. In 2011, the world celebrates the 804th anniversary of Rumi's birth and the 737th anniversary of his death.

One afternoon when I was still living in Jackson, Wyoming — must have been in the late ’90s — a woman came to our office and said she could only stay a few minutes, because she was on her way to a Dances of Universal Peace weekend in Lava Hot Springs. Instantly, my ears pricked up at the name. “Dances of Universal Peace.” What is that? She told me. I said I wanted to go with her and would she come back in 15 minutes so I could get ready and cancel all my appointments for the next three days. She would.

That was the beginning of my interest in this extraordinary movement that has run underground all these years, spreading its wings worldwide through its many emissaries, all of whom trace their lineage to a single, strange, irascible, deeply spiritual and visionary man, Murshid “Sufi Sam” (aka Samuel L. Lewis), who had traveled through Eastern and Mideastern regions of the world to absorb their mystical depths, and who then, translated what moved through him into rivers of song and dance.

That Friday afternoon in early December, dancing and singing with one hundred others of like mind and heart sacred phrases from all the world religions while holding hands in a subtly deepening communion didn’t just “bring tears to my eyes.” No, rivers coursed down my cheeks as I discovered, finally, my community: those who, like me, long to worship the divine in all beings through harmonizing together in movement and song. That was the beginning. I’ve self-identified as a Sufi, singing and dancing with others, ever since, even traveling to visit Rumi’s tomb and the whirling dervishes in Konya, in Turkey. In November 2011, I traveled to Ohio for a wonderful five day zikr retreat with Neil Douglas Klotz and a group of singer/dancers there.

In March, I will travel to Indianapolis for a three day retreat with Wali Ali, shown in a sweet little video on Murshid Sam below.

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6 Responses to Wali Ali Meyer on "Sufi Sam" and the Dances of Universal Peace

  1. Rich Buckley says:

    Please share with us the feelings and perceptions you experience as you dance through a successful dance in this discipline. To my inexperienced eye, it would appear the successful dancer is meditating and achieving an alternate state of consciousness where perhaps one world subsides and another world awakens. This could represent a method of administering self healing for all sorts of things. Can it be done effectively, privately? Or does one have to muster the courage to participate in group dance?

    • Rich Buckley says:

      I’m also thinking along the lines of Native American rain dance, where I’ve read of related highly successful weather modification. The dancer allows thoughts of cloud formations to mentally appear, thoughts of the sounds of rain to mentally flow, thoughts of feeling and smelling fresh falling rain. By the end of a two hour dance, the weather is modified.

    • Ann Kreilkamp says:

      Yes, it feels like a group trance state, when it’s fully on and in. Or better: it’s an atmosphere within which each of us can let go of the ego and move down/up into oneness. I notice myself, during the first hour or two of dancing during a weekend, mentally judging people around me (“She is too fat” etc.) AND also noticing myself doing this. The contrast between the shared egoless state and the fractious ego (which of course wants to continue in its separative superior/inferior attitude) becomes so obvious! It used to be that this fight between the ego and the larger awareness would last for the entire first evening, and into the next morning. Glad to see/feel it getting shorter and shorter.

      I especially appreciate the partner dances, when we move through a line, greeting each new person eye to eye, soul to soul. This practice I now carry over into daily life, when meeting clerks, people on the street, other strangers. They are no longer strange to me. They are suffering souls. Everybody just trying their best to get by, get along!

    • Ann Kreilkamp says:

      I’d say screw up your courage, Rich, and do it! What have any of us got to “lose”?

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