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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

The Dances of Universal Peace - A Body Prayer for the World

Dec 16, 2008 05:32PM
From the beginning of time, sacred song, movement and story have brought people together at times of ceremony and celebration. The Dances of Universal Peace, also known as Sufi Dancing, are part of the timeless tradition of sacred dance. By integrating the body, mind and spirit, the Dances of Universal Peace are offered as a “body prayer” and help participants realize the unity of all.

The dances are an expression of the heart of Sufism. Sufism is not a religion, but a mystical, spiritual path that believes in the Divine origin of every form of worship in which the unity of religious ideals is respected. A Sufi is a lover of Truth and regards spirituality as the religion of the heart. Anyone who sees the Divine Presence reflected in all names and forms and offers sincere respect to all forms of worship is a Sufi.

The Dances of Universal Peace were the inspiration of a Sufi master by the name of Samuel Lewis, who brought the dances to the U.S. in the late 60’s. Lewis, also known as “Sufi Sam,” drew from his rich life experiences to create the dances as a dynamic way to promote peace through the arts. From his original body of 50 dances, the collection now surpasses 500 dances practiced by an international grassroots network touching over a half million people.

The Dances of Universal Peace are a multi-cultural, joyous way to reach the spiritual essence within ourselves and others. The dances bring together music, sacred phrases, chants and simple movements representing the spiritual traditions of Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Native American, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Celtic and others.

Akal Dev Sharonne, of Boone, NC, has been leading dances since 1992 at college campuses, healing arts festivals and retreats as well as The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and the Sufi community, The Abode of the Message. As a leader she weaves the energy of the group to create an environment that allows people to experience more of themselves and others on increasingly subtle levels.

"Samuel Lewis said that the purpose of the Dances is to open the heart and increase joy. I know of no other spiritual practice that creates such an experience of peace and joy. Sharing this practice is one of my favorite activities," says Sharonne, who notes that children and adults of all ages can take part.

Using simple music, lyrics and movements, participants join hands and form a circle with the leader and musicians in the center. The leader teaches the group the melody, words and movement for the next dance and typically provides background history about each dance. Learning is quick and easy and within minutes participants are singing, moving and sharing together. After each dance there is a period of silence to assimilate the energy created during that particular dance.   Themes for the dances include both inner and outer peace, healing the earth and global family and celebrating life’s great mystery. Dancers focus on peace and harmony to create a sense of solidarity while celebrating the underlying unity of the Earth’s spiritual traditions.

“The Dances allow participants to move beyond the level of ego and personality, and to see the Divine essence that lies within each of us,” adds Sharonne.

Marie-Claire Rolston of Charlotte recently attended her first dance circle and was moved by this meditation in movement. “Whether dancing with a life-long friend or someone you’ve just met, the experience is incredible! Dancing and voice skills are neither important nor necessary to join this circle of love.”

The Dances of Universal Peace have evolved to meet the needs to rediscover reverence, creativity and a soul-based connection to the world. They have taken on a life of their own, spreading love and peace throughout the world.

Lewis envisioned the Dances of Universal Peace as a way to make life energy felt and Divine peace a reality for all who participated. For Rolston, his vision rings true.

“Joy, singing, movement and unity are all steeped in the deep desire for peace all over the globe,” smiles Rolston.

Experience The Dances of Universal Peace on October 15 at 7pm at the Center for Positive Living, 6101 Idlewild Rd. Ste. 332 in Charlotte. Call 704-531-7993 for details.

Lisa Moore is a freelance writer and Dances of Universal Peace enthusiast living in Charlotte, NC.

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