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.