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Dance

Like drumming and chanting, dancing is an ancient technique for entering ecstatic trance. When you move to the repetitive rhythms of a drum or to the melody of a powerful chant, your scattered thoughts and feelings begin to coalesce, and you enter a state where body and mind attune to spirit. While dancing, you become one with the essence of the music, a state of mind that can ultimately open and expand so that you merge with spirit itself.

Many traditions around the world have known and used dance’s powerful qualities. Native American rituals, like the well-known Sun Dance of the Plains Indians, come immediately to mind. African ceremonies that include dance cover a wide range of purposes, whether it’s a Zulu coming of age ritual, a Yoruba invocation of the serpent deity Da, or the Ewe dance of life from Ghana. The aboriginal corroboree in Australia involves ritual music and dance as well. Tibetan monks perform Cham, the sacred dance of the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, while whirling dervishes and other Sufi orders dance to enter ecstatic trance. Certain Hasidic Jewish sects dance to niggun, wordless songs meant to connect the singer or dancer with the divine. Even early Christian churches participated in liturgical dances, while temple dancers in India still perform Bharata Natyam and other classical dance forms, and Hawaiians incorporate hula into many rituals.

Jalaja Bonheim, who studied Indian temple dance for many years, suggests that any ecstatic practice needs to alternate movement and quiet, sound and silence, extroversion and introversion.[1] Dancing can awaken you to ecstasy, but for spiritual purposes, you need to turn the ecstacy inward in order to connect with your inner wisdom. Containing the energy raised — allowing it to sink into the silence of your spiritual core — keeps you from dissipating it into the outer world, whether as extraneous gestures or unnecessary sound. This in turn allows the energy to be used for divination.

To facilitate your oracle, begin by aligning yourself with the energies of earth and sky. If you forget, however, dancing will usually help you ground and center. When you’re finished, thank the universal energies as well as the music that transported you to your new awareness.

Dance to the Music
Before you begin your oracle, make sure that you’re wearing comfortable clothing that doesn’t constrict you in any way. To perform this divination:

  1. Decide on an oracular question.
  2. Ground and center.
  3. Dance for 15-20 minutes, allowing your body to move in any way it desires. You can either:
    • Play a CD and dance, OR
    • Find someone to drum while you dance.
  4. When you finish dancing, absorb the energy you’ve raised.
  5. Then focus that energy on your question.
  6. Take note of your divinatory outcome.
  7. Interpret your oracle, possibly using free association.

Notes

  • If you can, remember your query while you dance; this may further your divination. If this proves difficult for you, especially once you've reached ecstatic consciousness, simply remind yourself of your question once you’ve finished dancing.
  • Dance until you feel vibrant and alive. Dance sensuously. Dance as if you were making love with life. After about 15-20 minutes, maybe even less, you will begin to feel that you have entered a new awareness, an expanded sense of self. Your divination depends on reaching at least the threshold of this enraptured state. You will achieve this consciousness most easily if you use music that uplifts you. It also helps if the music plays continuously for the entire fifteen or twenty minutes, so that you can dance with no break.
  • In most cases, the alternate state you attain by dancing will allow you to acquire guidance that usually remains inaccessible in daily life. This inner wisdom may come as a sound or a voice if your major divinatory channel is auditory, as an image if you're visual, or as a feeling or movement if you're kinesthetic. Your oracle may arrive while you dance or in the moments or minutes of silence and warm anticipation that follow your ecstatic dancing.
  • Sometimes your first experience of ecstasy may disorient you. If this is the case, try again another day. I think you will find it worthwhile, for as Jalaja Bonheim notes, “In every moment, the real and the possible dance together within the ground of our being, and out of this dance the future is born.”[2]

Dances of Universal Peace
This variation of Dance to the Music involves dancing as well as singing one of the Dances of Universal Peace. Sufi Murshid Samuel L. Lewis founded the Dances of Universal Peace as an American movement in the late 1960s. These dances, set to sacred phrases from the world’s religions, allow participants to attune themselves to a variety of mystical states. Using simple, rhythmic movements based on folk dancing together with meaningful lyrics, the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) combine the capacity of dance to produce an ecstatic state with the meditative properties of Chanting. To begin one of these body prayers as a form of divination:

  1. Shape an oracular question.
  2. Choose a Dance of Universal Peace for your divination.
  3. Ground and center.
  4. Dance and chant the Dance of Universal Peace continuously for 10-20 minutes. You can either:
    • Dance and sing with a recording OR
    • Dance and chant unaccompanied OR
    • Dance and sing with a friend drumming or playing guitar for you.
  5. When you finish dancing, absorb the emotional qualities evoked by the dance, focusing them inward on your oracular query.
  6. Listen in the silence for an answer to your question.
  7. Interpret your divination, with or without the help of free association.

Notes

  • Murshid Samuel Lewis and other DUP leaders originally created the Dances of Universal Peace as circle dances for group participation. However, I have found that I can also perform these body prayers alone as a divinatory request for guidance.
  • A wide variety of Dances of Universal Peace exist. Some create moods of peace and serenity, others aid the dancer in reaching ecstatic states, while still others uplift the singer/dancer to feelings of greater possibility or deeper love and devotion. My favorites include:
    • “Kwan Zeon Bosai,” a peaceful chant to the Korean form of Kuan Yin, bodhisattva or goddess of compassion
    • “Om Nama Shivaya,” an exuberant dance to Shiva, Hindu god of change and destruction
    • “The Heart Sutra,” a Buddhist chant extolling the dancer to go “Beyond, beyond the beyond, blessed be the goer”
    • “Abwoon D’Bashmaya,” the first line of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, a chant which opens the dancer to become a vessel for divine light
    • “Beauty Way Dance,” a chant based on the Navajo Beauty Way Ceremony that affirms that we are full of hozho, a word that can be translated as beauty, peace or harmony
    • “Ama Usum Gal Ana,” a dance representing the serpent goddess Inanna shedding her skin
  • To order instruction booklets or recordings of Dances of Universal Peace, write: PeaceWorks, P.O. Box 1401, Blythe, CA 92226-1401, (760) 922-2551 or look them up on the web at http://www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org/pubs/PW_Pubs_Catalogue.pdf.

Spiral Dance
Spiral dances usually involve groups of people, either as a part of traditional folk dancing or as an element of ritual. Used in a ceremonial setting, they can raise powerful vortices of energy for healing or other specific purposes as well as for divination. Dancing an individual spiral can also awaken an oracular mindset. To begin:

  1. Devise a divinatory query.
  2. Decide whether or not you want to dance silently or while chanting. If you choose to chant, select an appropriate song to sing.
  3. Ground and center.
  4. Begin by dancing in a large circle in a counter-clockwise direction.
  5. After a few minutes begin to spiral slowly into the center of the circle.
  6. When you arrive at the center, change direction and spiral out of the center in a clockwise direction.
  7. When you arrive at the circumference of your circle, spiral back into the center again, continuing in a clockwise direction.
  8. When you reach the center this time, stop and tune into your inner wisdom.
  9. Interpret your oracle, possibly with free association.
The World is Your Oracle
by Nancy Vedder-Shults

Nancy's forthcoming book, The World is Your Oracle, compiles hundreds of divination methods, from ancient oracles to modern-day techniques. The excerpts published here will describe a few of the ways to access the deeper layers of our minds and broaden our sense of perception.
A good oracle puts us in touch with ourselves. It lets us discover our motivations, feelings and thoughts about the question we're exploring. And it connects us with the atmosphere or environment surrounding that question — making us aware of the water we swim in, but usually don't notice.

To receive inner guidance, all we need is to open ourselves to what our body/mind tells us, what our emotions display, and what our unconscious knows. In this way, we can begin to hear with our inner ears and see with our inner eyes. Using these mystical senses — what we might call the sense organs of the unconscious — we perceive holistically, noticing relationships and patterns rather than isolating, classifying and judging what we observe. Once we have gathered this wisdom, we can then use the rational mind to interpret what we have learned.

We live in an interconnected world, a web of life. Each segment of that web reflects the whole just like fractal designs or holography. That's why the patterns we discover through divination give us information. They mimic the relationships of the whole at a particular moment in time.

Notes

  • You probably want to dance at least ten minutes. You can vary the pattern of the dance in a number of ways: by beginning and ending in a clockwise motion, by spiraling into the center more than twice, and by changing the size of your circle. I describe the essential parts of the dance in the preceding instructions.
  • My favorite chant for this kind of divination is “Spiraling Into the Center” by Lorna Kohler. You can find it in Circle of Songs[3] edited by Kate Marks and in Songs for Earthlings[4] edited by Julie Middleton. You might also consider other chants contained in these songbooks. Both of them include three songs that I have enjoyed while dancing the spiral: “Round and Round” (author unknown), “Now I Walk in Beauty” (author unknown) and “We are the Flow” by Shekhinah Mountainwater. Depending on your question, “I Found God in Myself” by Ntozake Shange and “Earth Spins Around” by Madge Strong (both contained in Songs for Earthlings) might also prove appropriate. Of course, you can always combine a spiral dance with an oracular request to a spiritual guide (God, goddess, angel, saint, ascended master, etc.) and sing your appeal for help as you perform a spiral dance.

Notes

  1. Jalaja Bonheim, The Hunger for Ecstasy: Fulfilling the Soul's Need for Passion and Intimacy (Rodale Books, 2001), p. 216
  2. Ibid., p. 44
  3. Circle of Songs: Songs, Chants and Dance For Ritual and Celebration, compiled by Kate Marks (Lenox, Ma: Full Circle Press, 1993)
  4. Songs for Earthlings: A Green Spirituality Songbook, compiled and edited by Julie Forest Middleton (Philadelphia, PA: Emerald Earth Publishing, 1998)

Graphics Credits

  • sunset dance, courtesy of Eric Vallin
  • dancer, courtesy of Malinda Welte
  • dancers, courtesy of Dawn M Turner
Copyright / Terms of Use: Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without the author's or artist's permission. Other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.


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