These are the starting ingredients for the Dances of Universal Peace. Add stepping together in rhythm, going beyond one’s habitual pattern of movement, and we begin entering a space beyond the usual thinking mind. Perhaps, into the child’s experience of simply being alive.
Dance “inculcates the sense of rhythm and enhances our response to rhythm. This is really a response to life. It makes us more living, which is to say, more spiritual” (Murshid Samuel Lewis).
Besides, it’s good for the brain. Scientists have discovered that when we do cross-lateral movements in an easy, relaxed way, we have the potential to grow at least 6000 new nerve cells per day in the hippocampus part of the brain.
Research also tells us that when we look into another person’s eyes consciously, the levels of oxytocin rise, helping to increase a sense of belonging.
Sometimes the Dance recipe calls for a glance, a look into the face of another human. What happens in that moment…when veils of the ego are lifted and the illusion of separateness evaporates? What do we see in the eyes of another? Time is suspended between the beats of the music, the clasping of another hand, moving on to the next set of eyes.
These are not common experiences for most people. Yet going past what we perceive as our usual capabilities expands us. We reach into the unknown and exercise faith, gaining new insights. I have seen this many times in the circle, when a new dancer suddenly “gets it”, a face lights up in delight and surprise.
As we Dance and sing together, we naturally combine the most complex instruments on the planet, the human body and voice. blending our voices, we are bathed in their sound, healed and renewed.
We continue to stretch ourselves, perhaps singing a few words from another language, and together we find our way to appreciation, tolerance and understanding of various cultures and spiritual traditions. These Dances were originally envisioned to help create peace in our world, and to realize the unity in seemingly separate paths.
Moving meditations, recitation of sacred mantra, celebration in song and dance, prayer, and the recognition our common humanity are all part of the Dances experience. As with many spiritual practices, they are potentized by our collective focus and participation. Still they are mere doorways through which we enter our own individual path, however we choose to define our journey. Stirring, as we go, probably never really done.
Margaret Lily Celestino has been leading Dances of Universal Peace for 13 years in the Puget Sound area.