On the first day of 2018, I joined a circle of lovely souls in sacred movement and song. A friend took me to the New Year’s Day Dances of Universal Peace meetup in my town, and though I knew only a few people there, I felt a marvelous kinship with everyone.
In Dances of Universal Peace (aka “sufi dancing”), I learned, participants make the music themselves, taking beautiful, mystical pieces from many spiritual traditions. We sang (and clapped and stamped), while members of the group rotated duties on guitar, drum, shruti box, and piano.
Not a cell phone in sight. What nourishment for my analog self. A couple songs in, I felt positively incandescent. It seemed like the other participants were aglow as well.
In the intro to one of the first numbers, I learned that the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas has a passage in which the disciples ask Jesus what is required of them. “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?”
Jesus said, “Don’t lie, and don’t do what you hate.” (A succinct mantra for someone who craves authenticity and alignment in 2018.)
Some of the dances were energizing, some mesmerizing. In the sweetest ones, like “May the Lady Bless and Keep You,” we offered each other a blessing through our words and motions. With winter-chapped hands clasped to each other’s, we sang into each other’s eyes.
At one point I started to cry from the intensity of it. The joy of holding space for such a living breathing thing as peace. And how rare it is to really behold someone else’s beauty, and shine one’s own soul fully.
Here’s a rousing one we did, singing to Govinde and Radhe (Krishna and his beloved, whom I blogged about earlier this year). The video is from elsewhere but captures the spirit of Dances of Universal Peace. Note the big smiles. I can testify that it is nearly impossible to keep a smile off your face while singing, spinning, and slapping hands.
Watching this, I’m already itching for the next meetup, which I’m told will be a “Zikr,” a meditative evening: slow movement, singing the names of God. Trancy. I’m so there.
This is definitely an energy I want to keep with me in 2018. It seems more important than ever to find ways to connect with each other and Spirit, and to nurture both body and soul.
How does that look for you? Are you trying anything new this year to increase your joy and resilience? I’d love to know what you’re doing to nourish your sweet spirit.
So awesome, Shawndra! I immediately looked up Dances of Universal Peace in my area and I have the next date on my calendar. Thanks!
Great, Robin! It is totally your jam.
I am almost always at the New Year’s Day dance, but I did not make it this year because I was visiting my Mom in the hospital. I hope to see you at an upcoming gathering featuring the Dances of Universal Peace. I knew we were kindred spirits!
Someone mentioned you! Look forward to connecting with you there.
I open my heart.
In all directions
May all beings be surrounded by love and kindness
May all beings be safe
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be free of suffering
May all beings be happy and at ease.
May all beings everywhere know deep and lasting peace.
May the natural integrity of all worlds and all beings be preserved.
My intention for this year has been revised yet again. Practicing love and kindness meditation is my new intention.
What a lovely invocation. Thank you!