Sacred Dance as a return to the root of our Self
Have you ever considered dance as a practice that can support your living at your highest potential and a tool for coming to know yourself, remembering who you truly are?
Dance today is experienced anywhere from fun, sexy and a way to keep fit to entertainment, forcing oneself into a certain popular image, and high art. It’s deeper spiritual dimensions call out to us and can be tapped regardless of the means if we choose to listen, if we believe, if we long for it.
“Come forward, do not stray in unbelief,” says Rumi, “come dancing to divine knowledge … and come, return to the root of the root of your own self.”
A great number of poems by the 13th Century Persian mystic poet, Rumi, loved by so many throughout time, poured forth from him when he was whirling, flowing in perfect rhyme, stanza after stanza as he danced his glorious journey into union with the Divine Beloved.
Dance as a sacred practice is a meditation in movement that is at once peaceful, liberating and passionate, integrating all aspects of ourselves, the spiritual and the sensual. It’s a way to embody ourselves fully in the NOW, transforming what keeps us small, broken and limited to greatness, wholeness and vastness on a level that both surpasses the mind and informs it simultaneously. It is a letting go of the unnecessary that bares us down to our essence, a shedding of the veils that keep us from experiencing what it really means to be alive. And what it really means to be alive says the Dalai Lama is to “Embody the transcendent” – living the infinite in the finite day to day life – in all aspects of our lives. Once you taste the infinite in the context of dance and literally experience how you’re not just a body as an end to itself but as a temple to spirit and that which animates the body, then this visceral knowing carries over and informs your daily living. Many describe enlightenment as the transition from I am a body to I am spirit. In sacred dance, body and spirit are infused, where there is no longer a difference, a separation or malignant hierarchy, and they are felt as one. “The soul is not greater than the body and the body not greater than the soul” writes Walt Whitman.
The sacred dance of Sama or whirling as practiced by the Mevlevi Order or Whirling Dervishes is a journey to embody the transcendent. Sama which literally means to listen is a meditation in letting the chaos of the voices in our head quieten down so we can listen to the voice of the Beloved in our heart. The ceremony of the Sama consists of seven sections, replete with great meaning and deep symbolism. The fifth section which is the actual whirling portion of the ceremony maps out a complete spiritual path in four part known as salutes or Salams. The first salute is the complete recognition of the whirler or Samazen of the existence of the Creator – the testimony that YES the universe has divine origin and not only have I been simply created but created in the image of the Creator. The second salute expresses the Samazen’s recognition of the Creator within all that is created, namely seeing the holiness in all people and all of nature leading to a sense of reverence for all. The third salute is the annihilation of the self in the Beloved Creator. It is union, synonymous with the highest station in Buddhism known as Nirvana. Interestingly, the more one sees the holiness in others and in nature and feels reverent towards the created, the deeper annihilation, the truer the union with the Beloved.
The beauty of the path as outlined by the Sama is that it doesn’t end with union, but goes further. The fourth salute expresses service. True embodiment of the transcendent is to serve the Beloved in the world, to help others reach their highest potential. With the right palm reaching up in an outstretched arm, the Samazen receives the light of grace descending down to her heart which then she gives to the world through love, emanating from the palm of her left outstretched arm facing down … receiving and giving love.
“For how long do you want to reach personal ecstasy?,” says Rumi, “let your ecstasy open others to ecstasy then it becomes thousandfold.”