SACRED JOURNEYS – November 2010

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Everyday Rituals & Celebrations

At a recent gathering, I was looking around the room and realized that almost every person present was dealing with an enormous issue in his or her life. Most commonly, it appeared that we were fighting life-changing illness, either directly or on behalf of a loved one.

I have been reflecting on how we face mortality. When life smashes into our realities, we are suddenly aware of what we have to lose. Numbed and despondent, we are likely to feel abandoned and acutely alone, like a lost child in the woods; or we collapse, shattered by the situation. Our first response is to look outside ourselves to that which has been constant in our lives, such as friends or our spiritual beliefs.

If we are to find a way out of this woods, either to our deaths or our recoveries, or to the new landscapes the loss might bring, we need to take stock of where we truly are, and find that greatest of resources, that greatest strength – our inner selves.

In this place of stillness, we are more than the hero(ine) of our own journeys, because it is here that we surrender our swords and become dressed in the wisdom of self. This is the place of self-nurturing that will guide us out of our present experiences.  Without it, we stay lost in the woods, filled with fear, and unable to move forward.

A strong sense of self is something that we can cultivate while we are still young, long before we face our mortality. We find it in the stillness when we are in nature, when we recognize ourselves as distinct from everything around us, and at that same moment strong enough to merge with ‘all that is’ and not be lost. We recognize it in ourselves when we feel equal, valuable, and like we have a place in our communities. It is nurtured through the love of family and friends, or when we express our joys and gifts. It can be explored through art, physical movement, or music. We know it when we find it: it is our truth. As families and as communities, we should encourage and support each other in being able to recognize our unique selves.

I recently found myself at a Dances of Universal Peace event, where the utilization of sound and movement brought each of us into a place of stillness and peace. It was remarkable how good it felt to walk into the large converted church hall, where a group of almost 40 people stood in a circle, holding hands and speaking a beautiful prayer that many seemed to know.

I introduced myself silently by gently separating two connected hands, and experienced at once a deep, warm, loving smile from an unknown woman on the left, just as my right hand was embraced by a strong, warm hand and lifted to the heart of the woman to my right. I entered the circle as an equal, like a long-lost friend who had been found again. In the centre of the room was a small woven rug, on which was a variety of instruments from different parts of the world.

As the event unfolded, a person would move into the centre to teach us a dance that involved both movement and meditation. The melodies were simple and beautiful, and the words were made from chants or sacred phrases in a variety of languages both new and ancient. Many, for example, were Sanskrit or Aramaic.

We were then taught a movement that accompanied each song. We were all the dancers, whether it was our first time or we knew each dance well. There was very little talking until we took a break after a series of four dances had been performed.

Each dance was taught by a different person in the circle, and usually accompanied by drum or guitar. It was also wonderful how many of the participants and dance leaders were men. We moved, we prayed in a variety of languages, we looked each other in the eyes, and we celebrated life and each other. Perhaps most profound was the feeling of integration with the group and with ourselves as individuals. Now that is the kind of world I want to live in!

There are Dances of Universal Peace circles all over the world (, and you can likely find a circle gathering near you.

It might be just the thing to provide you with the nurturing and inspiration you need for the path ahead.

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