May 2009


Articles by Attendees

Deepening into the Sacred

2019 Retreat with Maitreya & DiAnahita
April 6-7, 2019

By Baraka Barclay Braden

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

We begin. Having traveled from near and far, we have gathered. It's now time to start the deeper journey. Stepping into the large space of the open room, I feel the welcoming familiarity of the carpet beneath my bare feet. As my eyes lift, I behold the flowing delight of color and pattern, the festivity of dancers’ garb.

The group grows, as one after another we join in, and soon we are spiraling counterclockwise as the musicians play softly in the center. Morning sunshine infuses our space, illuminating the stained-glass heart & wings hung high in the large center window. DiAnahita's clear voice invites us to form a circle.

Standing in this ancient and primal formation, we return to the center once again. Holding hands in our holy ring, we can gaze upon the faces of God in those surrounding us.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

In the unfolding hours together, under the skillful leadership of both leaders, it all grows intricately richer. DiAnahita leads us on a series of absorbing soul excursions, one after another, from walking on “big feet” in the desert with camels to reminding us to listen with the “big ears” of the elephant god Ganesha.

From a variety of perspectives, Maitreya, speaks to us of harmony. With a recurring meditative power, his words invoke the profound mysteries of sound itself. The joy deepens. The pattern repeats. First, pronouncing the sacred words in languages from faraway places, then learning to sing the music, and finally adding the movements, we move and sing together, again and again and again, blending and synchronizing together, in new levels of harmony.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

The day alternates seamlessly between leaders, dancing to a wide array of traditions: Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Hawaiian, Native American, Zulu African, Christian, and Sufi. Every two hours or so we alternate, as well, between locations and activities. The dancing hours seem interspersed with gifts of delight and pleasure: the deliciousness of recurring meals and treats, the visual beauty of the outdoor setting in which we are moving, the kindheartedness and compassion revealed in every face, the lingering vibration of words and movements.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

Outside, we relish the exhilaration of raising our arms in prayer and song to the high trees overhead while feeling the very ground beneath our feet. Later, gazing upon the gleam of the lake just beyond, we gather to sing grace for gifts received and to enjoy a sumptuous vegetarian potluck.

Afterward we join together again for the evening zikr. We continue to immerse ourselves in a feast for all senses. The spacious dance room is aglow in the flicker of candlelight, live music fills the air, in body and spirit we are called to transcend our normal limits of consciousness, to go deeper. Sacred phrases sound the holy names of the divine, summoning us to a deeper realm, reminding us of a deeper essence of being. Tasting heaven on earth and the uplift of sohbet, or spiritual conversation, our hearts fly on wings of gratitude. Savoring sweet desserts and sweet dreams, we will dance and learn together tomorrow.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

Dances of Peace Retreat
at Dancing Peacock Paradise

By Katya Sabaroff Taylor * April 10, 2019

I have been attending peace dance retreats for many years. As well, my husband Rahim and I led Peace Dance circles in Tallahassee for more than twenty years. So you could say I am very familiar with the benefits of dancing, and of gathering with like-minded others to celebrate and to go deeper into our individual and collective spiritual journeys.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

The recent retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise hosted by Diana Anahita Kanoy, was especially endearing, I felt. It was an intimate group, of about thirty people, and fewer yet on Sunday, the second day, unlike the much larger retreats held at church camps that might draw as many as one hundred or more. Because of the smaller number of participants, it was easier to connect, not just during the dances, but at meals, and during free time at the retreat.

Dancing Peacock Paradise is a lovely piece of land, well-tended, with many beautiful trees, a lake with lily pads, peacocks wandering about opening and closing their magnificent tails. It is luxurious to be in such a serene environment, and I could see how everybody allowed themselves to feel the comfort and beauty, to surrender to it, away from the normal distractions of a busy life.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

The two main leaders, Anahita and Maitreya, blended their styles of leadership well. Each took turns teaching the dance, playing the music, and guiding us through the “key” attunements that this retreat had as its focus. We also were lucky to have a cellist, Clare Maher, accompanying us for many of the dances.

Harmony is what we are always seeking, I believe, both within ourselves and with one another. Not just with people of like minds and persuasions, but with all of humanity. This is at the core of the teachings of the Dances of Universal Peace. That we are all intrinsically related to one another, and to the earth itself: the animals, the trees, the birds. Many of the dances help us find that place within ourselves, where we feel “related” to all that lives and breathes, not separate, not cut off from the “source” however one frames it. We can call it “divine energy” or “the forces of life,” or we can call it God or Allah.

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

As we danced, the leaders reminded us to listen deeply, to the words, to the music, and to the collective voices, not only our own. To harmonize with the group, to move together, as one, attuning to the rhythm, the movements, and each other. And then, to allow silence, for all of the sound to ripple on, and to hold the space, the pause, before filling up again with a new dance, a new song.

Dance after dance, is like filling up at an oasis, filling up and spilling, but never being completely empty, just ready to be filled again. And as we dance, we realize we can share this overflow with others, out in the so-called real world, on city streets, in schools, wherever we may go. A retreat is not just a spa time to recoup, it’s a time to recognize that we have much to give of the wisdom we are reminded is always inside of us.

On Sunday, individuals who lead dances in their own communities had a chance to teach a dance. I found it poignant that the people I had come to know, informally the day before, now came forward with quiet authority, to offer something dear to their own dance practice. As always, each person had their own style, their "own way" of teaching, of sharing what was so meaningful to them, and I know we were all deeply touched by what they offered. I know it was an honor for me to share a favorite song/dance of mine: “I open my heart to you.”

2019 Dances of Peace Retreat at Dancing Peacock Paradise

Perhaps because by now our hearts were already so open, our whole beings more relaxed and in harmony, these dances moved us sometimes to tears, sometimes to laughter. Some words have stayed with me: “Healthy I am, Happy I am, I am the infinite within my soul, I can find no beginning, I can find no end, all this I am.” (from Gurunam Khalsa).

We came to the retreat longing for something, hoping for something, something that would inspire us to live more fully as our authentic selves, to connect with others, to learn new dances, to make new friends, to experience the singing and the silence, to journey deeper into our “infinite” souls, and to take these blessings home with us. By the end of our short, full time together, no one was a stranger, and we said goodbye knowing full well we would meet, dance, and harmonize again.