May 2009


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Florida's Dancing Peacock Paradise

'Deeper into the Heart of Love'
with Leilah and Bodhi Be

by Patrick Harrigan

"Love produces harmony and harmony creates beauty, therefore the chief motto of life is 'Love, harmony and beauty'...By love, harmony and beauty you must turn the whole life into a single vision of Divine glory."
-Hazrat Inayat Khan

Southern live oaks with gnarled limbs stand as forest sentinels draped in dervish robes of Spanish moss. Formations of soaring grey cranes are reflected in placid heart-shaped Beauty Lake. The forest's peace is not broken, but deepened and yet elevated by voices and hearts united in song.

This is Dancing Peacock Paradise, an outpost of the Dances of Universal Peace, whose magnetism draws aspiring souls from all across northern Florida to its monthly dance events.

DiAnahita Kanoy

Retired educator and charismatic dance leader DiAnahita Kanoy, has transformed fifty wooded acres into a virtual paradise on earth for peacocks and other fowl, Himalayan cats, and humans alike as her dual mission of environmental stewardship and celebration of Murshid Samuel Lewis' transmission of spiritual awakening through sacred music and dance.

"Ancestors sky people all here today
Hear my heart song. Hear my respect.
Hear my love. Hear my grateful tears fall.
I am truly blessed. You are truly blessed. We are truly blessed."
(inspired by native Indian tradition)
Bodhi Be

Leila Be

Leila and Bodhi

Each autumn, DiAnahita and friends host northern Florida's autumn dance retreat featuring luminaries of the Dances of Universal Peace. In October 2010 it was the much beloved Leilah and Bodhi Be of Maui, whose presence attracted participants--many of them dance leaders themselves--from all over Florida, and even from as far as New England and Canada.

Through her deep appreciation of the power channeled through sacred phrases, music, and dance, and awareness of each person's level, Leilah communicates the reverence and joy embodied in each movement and in each phrase.

Every session--morning, afternoon and evening--highlights a great religious tradition or theme, so the initial morning session was devoted to Buddhist themes of awakening heartfelt compassion, with a later session addressed to spiritual healing:

Ya Shafee, Ya Khafee,
'O Healer, O Remedy'

Each morning began at lakeside with exercises led by Bodhi to awaken mind and body to the currents of energetic grace flowing within and without, and to connect with Mother Nature's healing energy.

DiAnahita Kanoy with Bodhi and Leilah Be 2010

Bodhi accompanied Leilah on drum and led special sessions for drummers to attune to the rhythms of the dance, to each other, and to themselves. Bodhi also spoke passionately of his Doorway Into Light Project's efforts to transform the death process in the belief that death of the body is a sacred and spiritual passage.

'Deeper into the Heart of Love' with Leilah and Bodhi Be 2010

The final Saturday evening--full moon and All Hollow's Eve--brought with it a sense of relaxed celebration. At Bodhi's surprise challenge that "everyone wear a costume", everyone vanished and reemerged in a completely different persona in the first known instance of cross-dressing for a DUP event.

The younger 20-somethings united in musical medleys, while Katya and others gave performance of haikus composed a day earlier. Yet, despite an air of gaiety, the theme of zikr permeated and sublimated the evening into the most uplifting Halloween in anyone's memory.

'Deeper into the Heart of Love' with Leilah and Bodhi Be 2010

The final Sunday morning's session presented itself, naturally, in the form of an old fashioned hand-clapping Southern revival meeting, with Leilah leading at the keyboard. With each day of the retreat, the dances opened the eyes and hearts of all, uniting three generations in an unforgettable experience of unity transcending all differences.

Leilah and Bodhi Be at Dancing Peacock Paradise, 2010

We parted feeling as old friends, our hearts swelling with zest and reverence for all life, each of us looking forward with eager anticipation to the next opportunity to serve, share, and learn.

"Fill my heart, Lord, with Thy love, harmony and beauty."
-Hazrat Inayat Khan

Patrick Harrigan began Dances of Universal Peace in Ann Arbor in the mid-1970s until leaving for India in 1976. In 2009 Patrick returned to settle in Florida where he once again dances and helps to publish