Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Life, Our Prayer

A small rug, round and woven in a mandala~like pattern, has been placed in the center of the room. Adorned with a single candle, a vase of flowers, and sacred images, it stands as an altar to the Source, the true center from which everything arises. All is ready.

Sára Rain, a gifted dance leader from Ft. Collins, has come to our mountain community to lead us in Dances of Universal Peace. This form of sacred dance combines simple movements with chants from the world's many and varied spiritual traditions. The heart~felt repetition of words and steps creates a profound stillness, becomes a meditation in motion.

People begin to arrive, faces known and unknown, some having traveled quite a distance to attend. Eager or hesitant, they stream in until we are an amazing 36 dancers strong. We are so many that Sára divides us into inner and outer circles, creating a natural division for chants that are sung in rounds. The words come from traditions as varied as Christian, Hindu, Goddess, Buddhist, Sufi, Jewish, and Native American.

No matter their origins, all are praise. As one dance follows the next, I am indeed brought into stillness, punctuated by a soaring joy. The truth that we are part of something larger comes to us now experientially. Individual personalities recede, as we move together around and around the circle, our voices rising and falling as one.

Each dance was magnificent, but one has stayed with me. I sing the words often, its rhythm a steady heartbeat running through my day, even when my thoughts are elsewhere. The first verse is in English, accompanied by a simple and repetitive sidestep to the left. The minor key melody is hypnotic, a perfect vehicle for the words, “My life is my prayer. As I live, so I am.”

The first line urges us toward an enacted spirituality. Each day and every action is an offering that could rightly be called prayer. It's our choice whether it be a prayer of love or of harshness. The second line reminds us that we become who we are through the accumulation of these individual acts, our moment to moment prayers. Each choice is a strand that cumulatively weaves our character and creates our experience.

Yet there is something more to this line. I Am has long been known as a name for God. With every act, we take the Divine Spark within us, lent us for only a brief time, and extend it out into the world. For good or for ill, the choices we make are expressions of that animating force within us. As we live, so I Am moves out into the world.

This sentiment fills the second verse, as well. Its words in Arabic are, “La ilaha il Allah,” which is often translated as, “There is no God but for God.” Sára, however, shares a slightly different mystical translation: “There is nothing that is not included in Divine Unity.” You and me, those we love and those we find difficult, kind and unkind acts, all we see and every sound we hear...all arise from and are expressions of the same Source.

While the tune for this verse remains the same, our dance steps change. As we sing, we step toward the center, arms raising above our heads, faces turned to the heavens. On a second repetition we move back out, lowering our arms and bringing our hands to our hearts. In keeping with the mystical translation, these movements honor that Source, recognize ourselves as expressions of it, and offer that expression back again, a cycle that continues without end.

In the coming year, may we become more conscious of the prayers we create with our lives. And may the Christ child, nestled in the manger of our hearts, shine out. Amen.

Leia Marie

Here's a link to a video of this dance. Though the words are slightly different and the movement to and from the center is missing from the second verse, the tune's the same. I hesitated to include the link as I think it might seem rather somber. But please know that when you're doing these dances, they are quite moving and joyful.

And here's a link to Sára's website. She's fabulous!

And a link to the Dances of Universal Peace website, which includes a way to search for Dances in your area under the Worldwide Network tab.