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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eat, dance, and pray together

I engage in a number of different spiritual practices.  I write morning pages (though rarely in the morning), sit for centering prayer, walk labyrinths (especially in the snow), sing chants with my shruti box (though not usually Gregorian or Anglican), and dance. 

I flit from one to another almost daily depending on my mood, anxiety level, ability to focus, need to move, available time, and the brain rats in my head.  The goal is always to feel closer to God and have a greater sense of peace.  Sometimes that means letting the brain rats have their say.  Most of the time it is letting myself be absorbed enough in the activity to lose the distinction of my separate self and to connect with my body, spirit, still small voice, nature, or the wholeness createdin community. 

It is my hope to write about each of the spiritual practices I groove to.  This first reflection will be about the Dances of Universal Peace. 

Simply put, the Dances of Universal Peace are sacred chants the dancers sing from a variety of world religions and faiths while moving to simple folk dance gestures.  Some dances are partner dances, while others can be with any number of folks in a circle. The songs and movements help dancers embody the words while also being vehicles for the dancers to focus on the heart of the intent. 

The dances are also a wonderful way to practice giving and receiving acceptance and love.  At a recent dance circle, I had the post-holiday blues.  The leader started teaching a dance about being open (Ya Fatah!) to do God's will.  It wasn't easy to sing and move to these words.  I wanted reassurance that whatever I was going through would have a happy ending before proceeding … that being vulnerable was worth it.  After awhile I realized holding my blues was draining.  That it was easier to let go of my inner resistance through tears and accept the encouragement and loving support of the other dancers.  I left the dance circle that evening with more peace and contentment than when I arrived.

Not all dances have such dramatic heart transformation.  Some are pure joy.  Most dance circles end the evening with the Kalama.  The tune is pretty catchy and easy to harmonize with if you're so inclined.  The movements are simple  turns to the right and left alternating with hands being raised and lowered in a circle while feet step forward, backward, and bow.  It's kinda like when beautiful words are paired with a wonderful melody. There's a certain perfection in the moment and there's nothing more you want to do but bask in the warmth of its goodness. 

I hope this inspires you to join me sometime.  The Dances of Universal Peace is beauty beyond my ability to describe and must be experienced for oneself.  Please consider this an open invitation to join me at one of the regular dance circles in Minneapolis.  They are on the first Friday, second and fourth Saturdays of every month.  More details about the local dance circles are at www.peacedancemn.com.  To learn more about the beginnings of the Dances and find dance circles in other locales, point your browser to http://www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org/. 

As Samuel Lewis,founder of the Dances, would say:  Eat,dance, and pray together! 

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