A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful chance to participate in the Dances of Universal Peace International Camp that was held in Yalova, Turkey. It was a 5-day camp where we did a lot of rounds of sacred dances, meditation, and workshops with participants coming from all over the world. And I’m thrilled to share that the dance is coming to Asia in the coming months.
The Dances of Universal Peace is a practice developed by Sufi teacher and Zen master Samuel L. Lewis. It is a transformational practice that invokes an embodied sense of unity, presence and compassion and touches the spiritual essence within ourselves through reciting sacred phrases, music and dance from various wisdom traditions of the world. This practice can be done by a group of people anywhere from five to hundreds, even thousands of people creating powerful resonance and harmonic vibration. You can learn more about the dances at dancesofuniversalpeace.org.
The whole experience of participating in the dances has been really heart-opening for me. In the beginning, we didn’t really know each other, we simply shared our presence without much connection. In a session, we did a number of dances one after another. And by the end of the first session, it felt to me that all of these people (there were a little more than a hundred of us) that I don’t know before are my brothers and sisters. We all come from different cultures and backgrounds (there were 27 countries represented from South America, North America, Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, and Asia), yet it was so easy for us to feel connected, and develop care and love with each other. As a result, talking and getting to know each other at a deep level during meals and between sessions became a very effortless process.
We were lucky to have very experienced dance leaders that have been doing this for decades – some even for 50 years! They guided us on how to utter sacred words (mantras or dzikrs), sing the melodies, and also the dance movements. After five to ten minutes of instructions, suddenly one hundred people are all dancing and chanting together in beautiful harmony. It is magical to see how I can move in rhythm and sing very firmly despite not having much experience dancing and singing. I think everyone regardless of their dancing or singing skills can easily in these dances.
The focal point of the dances is participation rather than performance. It is totally okay to make mistakes and forget the sequence from time to time as the most important aspect of it is how much involvement and devotion we give when chanting and dancing. I tried to give my utmost involvement during the dances and invoke as much devotion as I can within myself. As the sessions go by, I felt that my heart opened up like the petals of a flower in the morning. Opening up to receive as much light from the sun and fully express the beauty within, not being worried about anything that’s coming – the breeze of the wind or the rain. Living in contemporary modern society, I feel the need to shut myself and numb myself from the pain that arises from witnessing all the things that don’t feel right like people taking advantage of others, wasting resources, violence, slaughtering of animals, deforestation, pollution, etc. I’m grateful that through practice that is done collectively in a safe atmosphere, I learned how to open up my heart and put aside the protection when I feel it’s safe to do so. It is an inner skill that I think will be vital for my growth as a person.
The Dances are coming to Asia!
Having experienced the effect of the dances myself, I am really thrilled that GENOA is collaborating with DUP International to hold several workshops in Asia and have more connections with the dances. It is a beautiful and powerful collective tool to build connection, community, and awareness. Something that perhaps the ecovillage movement in Asia could really find fitting. I also think that this can be something easy to overlook as from the outside it looks like we’re just a group of people dancing, not doing anything tangible for the world. But I believe the transformation that is happening within each person through the dances will find diverse and beautiful ways to tangibly manifest in the future. I can already feel this possibility within myself.
We invite you to experience this wonderful tool of unity with us. Please feel free to extend this invitation to your friends and family that might be interested to come along. You can see the dates below. More info will be announced soon, so please stay tuned to our social media channels.
Remember, anyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion, belief, dance, and singing skills can participate in this practice. Let’s build connections and recharge each other with energies of compassion, unity, and harmony. See you all there!
About the Author
Luvian Iskandar, Communications Coordinator at GENOA
Luvian has just completed his studies when he joined GENOA as communications coordinator. As he became aware of the social and environmental degradation in the world, he resonated with the holistic approach within the ecovillage movement in regenerating social and environmental systems. He chose to study the early development stage of ecovillages for his master’s program, thinking that he might be involved in such a project in his home country, Indonesia, in the future. He feels that building bridges across divides is one of the most relevant works today as we need an understanding of unity to overcome the global issues we are facing as humanity. He hopes to contribute to such a cause through his role in GENOA.