These Dances do draw me in
And nourish my soul.
~ Dahlia, morning haiku
Nourishment is a good word to describe what the Dances mean to me.
Standing in the center of the circle, playing my guitar, connecting with other musicians and giving my full attention to the dance leader as people sing and dance around us; I am deeply nourished by this spiritual practice of attunement and of singing praises to God in community with others. Community, communion, communication: all derive from the same Latin root, communis, meaning common. And it is this that I love most about the Dances, this sense of belonging, this feeling of common intent and purpose. As my brother, Skip, said to me a long time ago, “Playing music with someone is just another kind of conversation.” I like this way of conversing, of communicating.
I do love to sing, and so to sing my praises, my prayers, is very fulfilling. And these sacred phrases we sing are praises: to Life, to the Beloved, to the Earth, to the Cosmos, to the saints and prophets that have made a path before us, to the many and varied names for the Divine. I also love to dance, and so the simple movements that accompany the Dances are a perfect expression of my need for body prayer, my need to feel the Divine in this physical body.
So much damage has been done in the name of religion, so much tragedy and so much division. I have avoided organized religion my whole life for just this reason. I can’t ascribe to any system of belief that insists on its righteousness, on its way as the only way (not that all religion does this). For years I have been forging my own path of spirituality insistently incorporating the fundamental premises that I believe underlie all religion: God is One, God is Love, God is within us all. For many years I have been reading, meditating, chanting, praying, practicing yoga and qigong—seeking for, and developing a spiritual practice of inclusiveness, tolerance, and acceptance, a practice that will bring me to realization of the truth as I know it, the truth of Oneness: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within”; There is no separation; La ilaha il’allah—There is only One True Being or as my friend Maitreya says, "There is only one of us here."
In these Dances—The Dances of Universal Peace—I have finally found a form consistent with and supportive of my spiritual practice, a form that also satisfies my longing to share my spirituality with others. When we sing and dance these sacred phrases from the many religious traditions of the world, when we sing in the language of those traditions, it’s like “…walking a mile in another man’s moccasins.” As Murshid Samuel Lewis, the originator of the Dances of Universal Peace said, “When people eat, dance and pray together, the world finds peace”. When I sing to the sacred in these many languages of the world, I find the common tongue that connects us all and my heart finds peace.