May 2009

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Dances of Universal Peace
Florida Retreat 2011

"Prayer in Movement"

by Sh'mal Ellenberg

We are brought into this life with angel qualities from a divine place that is too easily forgotten as we hit, even as a child, the strides of our day-to-day lives. We become entranced with all the glitter and allure of the world, believing that materialism is all there is. Now, in these times, more and more people are yearning to return to that forgotten place hidden in our souls. The Dances of Universal Peace offer an opportunity to share the joy of life with others as well revive our deepest soul qualities.

Sufi whirling dervish
Murshid Samuel Lewis

From the few Dances that came to Murshid Sam Lewis through revelation in San Francisco during the hippie revolution in the late 60's, there are now many hundreds of the dances in many languages with thousands of people doing them in dozens of countries on most continents.

We are blessed in North Central Florida to have a wonderful dance leader, DiAnahita Kanoy, who is also an adept organizer of larger dance camps. At the end of September 2011, at the Ocala Conference Center in Silver Springs, Florida, two of the country's premier dance leaders, Allaudin Ottinger from Kansas City, and Lila Flood from Hawaii led our retreat.

Lila & Allaudin with DiAnahita in 2011
Lila Flood, DiAnahita Kanoy, and Allaudin Ottinger

We were also treated to a special guest, Habiba Dollard, who taught Qigong and also blessed us with a special quality of dance similar to the Whirling Dervishes. I can only say, she was other-worldly, a bit hypnotic, in how her body took on the aspect of a spinning top being pulled by a cord of the Divine.

Habiba Dollard whirling

It was a wide-eye-opening experience for me to see her whirling with her black skirt, flaring out from her waist like a small parachute. In truth, somehow her physical body is transmuted to represent the spinning of the earth, a planet, the universe or the tiny cells of our bodies.

The Dances are about love, harmony and beauty, and when led by two such expert instructors, the participants leave the weekend with a heightened feeling of love in their hearts. It's an enthralling experience that includes music, singing, dance, food, laughter, love, hand holding, hugging, sharing. One could not ask for a higher way to experience the best of humanity.

2011 dance retreat with Lila Flood & Allaudin Ottinger in Ocala, Florida

I was especially blessed to attend the Dances this week since the son of my partner Batina was almost beaten to death six weeks ago. He had been on life support since the beating and died two days before camp on Rosh Hashana morning. On the first day of the Dances I had just gotten off the telephone with her as she was in a funeral director's office making arrangements for this cremation. I was emotionally overwhelmed after one of the first dances that was focused in our heart center. I tried to hold back the flood of tears, but I could feel the depth of the pain I shared with Batina.

I was fortunate that the Dance Leader, Lila, was right there for me with her hand on my heart offering comfort. Through my tears, I as able to share briefly what had happened to Batina's son. I couldn't have been with a more compassionate group for this emotional release. Off and on through the retreat participants comforted me and offered condolences for Batina. Some felt my emotional release set a tone for sharing feelings at the retreat.

2011 dance retreat with Lila Flood & Allaudin Ottinger in Ocala, Florida

The underlying intention of the Dances, like all spiritual teachings, is to raise the consciousness of the participants and bring us closer to the Divine. Our hearts are not static, they can open wider to love in new ways so that when we leave the Dances or a sacred prayer service, we bring out into the world a bit of what transpired in us, so that a new sense of love consciousness is passed on to others.

2011 dance retreat with Lila Flood & Allaudin Ottinger in Ocala, Florida

When a dance is over we stand in our circle quietly holding hands. We pay close attention to our breath, which is the essence of all life. As in meditation, our breath returns to soft, slow, and lighter than a small bird's feather floating in a gentle breeze. We momentarily enjoy the afterglow that permeates the immediate environment surrounding the dancers. We have silent prayers that the dance energies will continue beyond the limitations of what we know with our senses.

At the retreat an added benefit to the dancers were classes that were offered for us to choose. There was a choir that Lila led, practicing each day and on the last day giving a performance. A Haiku class in the afternoons, taught by an experienced Haiku poet/teacher, Katya, produced poems that were read to the group. A drum class, vocal training, and whirling were also offered in the afternoons.

Haiku recital at 2011 dance retreat with Lila Flood & Allaudin Ottinger in Ocala, Florida

The day following the retreat, Allaudin and Lila along with a number of dancers and teachers who attended the camp, came out DiAnahita's Dancing Peacock Paradise 50 acre home and retreat center, where Allaudin and Lila offered suggestions and training for the local dance leaders.

2011 October 3 at Dancing Peacock Paradise, Ft. McCoy

The combination of loving hearts, beautiful music, sacred traditions, and divinely inspired practices made our retreat a transformative experience. Alhumdulillah!

Our 2011 retreat was deep and rich in harmony and joy. Look at the 2011 Retreat page as well as the slide show of Tom Bergbower's photos on our home page. See all the radiant faces of the leaders and participants, read some of our Haiku, and articles about the retreat by Nuran and Sh'mal.