Tonight I had a very happy experience: I paid my dues and became a registered, active member of the Leader’s Guild for the Dances of Universal Peace!¬† ūüėĬ† ūüėĬ† ūüėĬ† I confess that I have officially been in training since January of 2012 (yep pretty much exactly a year ago) when I asked Timothy Dobson to mentor me, but have not felt like I could afford the dues until now.¬† (My mom gave me the money as a Christmas present.¬† Thank you, Mom!!!)

I am super, super psyched.¬† The main reason is that I will be able to access the database of Dance write-ups … at last!¬† Up until now I have been gathering Dances here and there … sometimes quickly scribbling them down in the afterglow of a Dance evening, then figuring out the chords later; sometimes exchanging PDFs with other lovers of the Dances; sometimes pestering leaders to tell me the movements, or chords, or the rest of the words to Dances that spoke to me so deeply that I couldn’t go on without knowing how to play them and teach them and pass them on.¬† These methods have given me plenty to work with over the past years, and there are several Dances of the collection gathered in this way that I am still learning.¬† But I have been dreaming of being able to access the huge accumulated body of work that is the PeaceWorks database of Dances.¬† I can’t wait to be able to immediately follow up with learning all the Dances that I feel a connection with, and find new ones to suit specific occasions.¬† As I said: Really Excited!!!

This evening I was going through the folder of Dance write-ups and hand-written instructions (sometimes even hand-transcribed musical notation … though it was tedious, I actually had a beautiful time copying from the original Dance booklets at Hakim’s house in Florida … I felt a connection to the old Irish monks) in preparation for leading some singing tomorrow night.¬† The Sufi Order in Denver just started this new monthly gathering called Heart Song: Sufi Singing and they invited me to contribute.¬† I felt, and feel, incredibly honored and humbled to be called upon, but also deeply thrilled, because sharing this music is my passion.¬† I really just couldn’t believe that they would ask me to contribute to the community in this way.¬† I feel like … I want to do the utmost honor to my teachers by sharing music and leading singing in a way that creates an opportunity for the people participating to really connect with their hearts, to feel a sense of expansion and unity and the joy of praise.¬† I know those are just some of the things that I get out of this form of music, thanks to the incredible spiritual musicians and song leaders whom I have been very privileged to be around.¬† Part of me feels like it’s silly for me to think I could ever contribute anything worthwhile, and that my attempting to do so just shows my naivete, or perhaps my upstart-ness … I want to serve with respect for my teachers and with humility toward those I might lead, but of course I question the purity of my attitude.¬† I’d like to say I know what an idiot I am inside … but sometimes I still surprise myself with new levels of idiocy.¬† In the midst of this internal muddle about “how to be,” when I have a moment of consciousness I just try to get out of the way and let something come through me.

One of the songs I want to share tomorrow night is from the Dance called “Clouds” by Susan Sheely.¬† This was one of the first songs I learned to play, back when I did everything on ukulele.¬† I got to meet this amazing woman this summer, at “The Crestone Experience” Dance Camp.¬† (She actually led a Dance playing the ukulele!¬† !¬† !)¬† I went up to her and thanked her for composing or bringing through this Dance, and this chant, which have given me so much heart-felt ecstasy.¬† The best way I can put it is this: The mantra OM MANI PADME HUM is said to be untranslatable, though it uses actual words that gesture toward the concept of a jewel in the lotus heart; it is also said to contain and transmit the whole essence of the teachings of the Buddha.¬† I feel something similar, though more personal, with this song, with or without the Dance.¬† It is like the song carries the whole essence of Sufism for me.¬† It’s like the song is a doorway into another plane of felt knowledge, of understanding beyond mental doubts, beyond explanations.¬† The words are from a Rumi poem, one of Coleman Barks’ translations.¬† Each line is repeated twice:

This is how I would die, into the love I have for you,

As pieces of cloud dissolve in sunlight.

La illaha illa’llah, La illaha illa’llah,

Hu Allah Hu, Hu Allah Hu

I looked and looked for a video of this Dance online, but couldn’t find one.¬† I remember the first or possibly second time I experienced doing this Dance in Columbia with Hakim (going by Hakima then) leading — as I spun out singing “Hu Allah Hu,”¬†I did feel myself dissolving into the light.¬† As I waltzed with the new acquaintances who would become such close friends, my heart expanded far beyond its previous borders, to include everyone in the room, and the world beyond.¬† That was one of the moments when I felt released from my usual mental background noise, and fully present with the Divine in myself and in everything and everyone else.¬† That was when we Danced in the Unity Church hall, which I loved, with its shiny concrete floor and beautiful, dramatic, glittering felt wall hangings.¬† For me, it was the beginning.

And I remember singing it again with Hakim this fall at Ozark Camp.¬† We were gathered in the Healing Temple, people sitting all around the room on chairs and bunk beds and floor pillows because it was too cold to sing on the porch.¬† It was late at night and everybody was finding their own harmonies.¬† The music filled the room like a golden shimmer; the energy was tangible to a sensitive hand.¬† My chest opened and my heart soared upward and I thought, This is where it’s at for me.¬† Everything I need is in this song.

So it’s with great gratitude and honor especially to my beloved teacher and original mentor Hakim, and to all the teachers that I have had, that I go forward on this path, knowing that I have been blessed to sing with and learn from some truly, truly great leaders, with the real gift for drawing out people’s heart songs.¬† I carry the imprints of these blissful and life-changing experiences within me and I hope that some of the energy of those times may come through what I offer.¬† I think maybe it’s part of my ministerial calling, to lead and share and join in worship music.¬† At least at this point in my life, it’s what I love doing most of all.

Okay, I will leave you with this video — it’s not the same as “Clouds” but this chant is another one that early on had the power to transport me out of my ordinary experience and into a more connected state — like maybe the song is the outlet that I plug my cord into … or is it the chord?¬† Clearly I’ve stayed up past my bedtime writing this, so.¬† Shakur Allah — the quality of Divine Gratitude — when we give thanks, we experience God within us.¬† Sweet dreams!

Heartland Soul Emerging

Well, I think the news from Iowa today proves there’s a soul in the heartland!¬†

Not that I needed persuading.¬† I wasn’t surprised; I always thought Iowa was a cool place, having lived in the states to the north and south of it, driven through it, camped in it, hiked, etc.¬† Really, when I was growing up in rural PA and my wee¬†travel bug was¬†fidgeting in its cocoon, I definitely did not see myself choosing the Midwest, of all places, to live.¬† But Minneapolis¬†lured me in weird and personal ways.¬† Then, once I’d just decided I could live in Minnesota for a long time, my heart led me south to Columbia, Missouri.¬† What?¬† NOT what I had in mind!

But now, two years after coming here, I am digging it.¬† (Moved through “Missouri — it’s not that bad” to “Hey, I actually like it here!”)¬† I’ve had the sense for a long time that Columbia is like an incubator — you can get a hint from the lushness of the green here, and all the people who live in sweet self-built homes with composting outhouses in the woods all around town and have perfectly modern lives at the same time.¬† It’s a place that’s amenable to things sprouting.¬† And I think it has a nice vibe.¬†

This is a journal about me living my life, trying to keep a focus on Spirit while all kinds of crazy shit (pardon my French) is happening all around, and within, me.¬† I’m a universalist, so I look to¬†many¬†sources for spiritual guidance, and I believe Spirit infuses everything there is and everything that is done.¬† And yet my life is still plenty nuts.¬† I wanted a place to write about that, and talk to other people looking for the sweet balance in their lives, too.

Ok, still under construction, but I wanted to introduce myself properly.¬† I hope you’ll come back to see what develops!


Heartland Soul


Not so bad!