|JF at Tribal Visions|
Here's Jen, the fourth of four.
PLM: Tell us about your relationship to the Dances. How and when did it begin? Is there a highlight experience you could share?
JF: The Dances have become the very foundation for how I move throughout my life. The Oneness philosophy of Universal Sufism is at the core of my being and is the basis for my service in the world as an interfaith hospital chaplain. As a Dance leader, the prayers and practices that we join together in circle for, for me, represent the very embodiment of all the beautiful spiritual qualities that I believe we humans aspire toward in our personal lives and collectively for all humanity.
|Canyonlands Dance Camp, Moab, Utah|
|Bernie Heideman and JF|
at Tribal Vision Festival, Taos, NM
|JF leading at Puerto Morelos Mex Dance Camp|
One of the most incredible experiences that I have ever had in my life I believe I owe to the Dances. I was on pilgrimage to Turkey with Dr. Omid Safi, director of the Duke Center for Islamic Studies who had been one of the visiting professors at my seminary, The Iliff School of Theology in Denver. En route to Rumi’s dargah in Konya, we visited a Sufi community that was engaged in a practice of 99 days of continuous whirling, with each day devoted to a different divine name of God. We were invited into the sacred sanctuary of the community and took our seats on the outside of the circle as the musicians were singing/playing zikr and people were whirling. Because of my years of experience with the Dances and Sufism I was very familiar with all of the phrases that were being sung and so amidst my group of 20 or so American students, I sat with my eyes closed and sang from my heart the sacred phrases and performed the movements. To my great surprise, I was tapped on the shoulder and invited to whirl in the center. I do not consider myself a good whirler as I oftentimes get dizzy and after some hesitation and feelings of embarrassment, I whirled in the company of some of the most beautiful and sincere hearts and it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Ya Shakur!
PLM: This retreat is organized in an unusual fashion with Morgan selecting emerging dance leaders to co-create the retreat around a theme and inviting other dance leaders and musicians to contribute to the vision. What excites you to participate in this retreat as one of the curators?
|JF at Wilderness Dance Camp|
JF: There are many reasons that I feel drawn to this retreat and am honored and pleased to serve on the leadership team. I am very excited to work with the Elemental theme as I feel very connected to Mother Earth and the Divine Love of the Universe. I feel the energy of the elements moving through my life and so I’m interested in focusing my own energies and intentions in this way. I have also spent many years in leadership at the national level of DUP and focused on engagement of youth and young adults in the Dances to nurture the legacy and sustainability of the tradition. I resonate with Morgan’s invitation to leadership of Dance leaders from the age group of the ‘Bridge Generation’ which is the age group between the baby boomers and the millennials because I think one of the ways that we (collectively as a community) can help keep our tradition alive is to nurture leadership from each generation and the ‘Bridgers’ (myself, Conie and Saleem) are in a unique position to play a role in the transmission of wisdom within our community since we have deep ties to both at either end of the spectrum, so to speak. I see Morgan’s invitation as an affirmation of the importance of fostering strong leadership within this generation.
I also feel connected to the Midwest, having been born and raised in Illinois so it feels comfortable for me to come “back home.”
PLM: Each curator has selected an element and will be holding intention and vision for it during the retreat. Which element have you selected and what are you looking forward to sharing?
|Singing at the Parliament of World Religions|
Salt Lake City, UT
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