Communion of Beings

Communion of Beings

Communion of Beings

by Dunya Dianne McPherson

After Hand Dances

I perched on a chair near my computer to teach a group of thirty four Dancemeditators elaborate hand articulations. I like to call these ‘Sufi Mudra’ though there is officially, or traditionally, no such thing. In Classical Indian dance, mudra is a term for a symbolic and narrative gestural vocabulary. Mudras can also be lifted away from the stories of Krishna and Rama and employed as conduits of spiritual energy. In contrast, Sufis eschew movement stories, danced representations, and symbols in favor of poetic abstraction, a finger pointing at a significance or apophatic rhetoric aiming a shaft of light at what isn’t to show what is. I could say ‘Hand Dances’, which would be simpler, more Dancemeditation-y, and is what I usually do say, but this morning I didn’t actually say anything, rather I thought it. It called itself ‘Sufi Mudra’ helping to transport us out of ordinariness, though hand dances are rarely ordinary and often magical. Hands, along with lips, occupy roughly 60% of our brain’s motor cortex which sits like a head band at the top of our brain. A lot of brain devoted to the hands.

Today’s dances were particularly mudra-like, detailed, fingertips meeting thumb tips, the ornately configured hand swirling to rhythms and melody. The music of Sushaala Rahman’s ‘Ghost Gamelan’ conducted us along. After a while, I gave a cue for everyone to close the eyes and continue on their own. I also closed my eyes. As each person sank into their individual depths, the collective energy swelled and surged around and through me, a tidal wave full of the feel of them. I was in a flood of basira—inner vision. 

A Room of Quiet People

For over 30 years I have been practicing in rooms with people and so naturally understand this collective inner vision as a spatial phenomenon. Basira happens in a room. And here I hesitate about the word—so often words are information and not knowledge. Years and years ago in my early Sufi training, I stood with my teacher at the edge of the Workroom after the evening session. More than a hundred of his students sprawled on their blankets, laughing, talking, stretching, waiting for dinner to be ready. I asked him about how the Work worked. At that time, the Work was miraculous to me and I had absolutely no idea how the miracles were wrought. He smiled into the people-filled space, not looking at me, and murmured, “Basira.” He whispered its meaning and other things I can’t remember anymore. I may initially have thought he was weaving threads of an exotic mystique, being a bit hocus-pocus, in a good way, because I couldn’t grasp this spark of information that immediately bypassed my head to lodge in my heart, beginning its long, leisurely, shimmering unfolding.

The Sufi way is robed in poetry, and poetry can be employed as a coded language. In our current time, language is heavily coded while also seeming to have lost connection to what is real. Back in my Sufi beginnings I may have felt this as well. Were my teacher’s words real or fantastical? Was this a secret or a fairy tale? My mind often spun, but what did not spin, what was stable and clear, in fact clearer than most previous life experiences, was that ping in my heart center. The murmuring occupied a strange frequency—the way dogs can hear what a human can’t—that woke a sleeping internality. It has taken me many years to see that such perceptions and connections, though invisible, are quite real, just as microbes and black holes, though not visible, are real. The gift was given ahead of what I could comprehend and the knowledge it contained came with effort and persistence. I think it is the energy unexpectedly flooding my solitary room that now prods me to write about how this understanding in particular continues to grow.

Seeing Inside

Basira is seeing inside of others from inside one’s self. Here is the metaphor I have liked: each person sits on their mat, side by side with closed eyes and attention directed inward, alone but in one another’s company; each person is an individual well reaching down into the same aquifer. Our presences sink beneath the common floor, down and down into the Earth until finding the underground sea of pure, cleansed, rock-filtered water. It is not a telepathy, which connotes the shape of thought, but rather a sensing of sheerly-contained consciousnesses. I think of luminescent jellyfish, called ctenophores, that are fragile translucent globes divided from their surrounding ocean by the finest veil of cells. When humans are in their depths, their separating edges become diaphanous.

From time to time, people ask me about the Sufi way of teaching, its instruction accomplished without words and with closed eyes. Instead of observing and interpreting outer behavior, teaching and guidance come from going within to connect to oneself and to practitioners. A Buddhist friend likens this to what they call ‘the mind the room’. The deeper the teacher goes, the deeper the students can go, and the depth of the students determines the depth of the teacher’s dive. There is an accompanying trust that develops in a practicing group. Our individual deepening—deepening always feels so very individual—is, as well, a contribution to the collective depth, and it is really this collective depth that energizes and accelerates individual growth. We each receive the collective power. For many years, the wells and aquifer have been my perfect metaphor for the connection amongst us that doesn’t rely on conversation or eye contact. Basira, inner vision, has lived in a room of quiet people.

This morning, when the warm waved sluiced over me, I discovered what I hadn’t yet understood. I was alone in a room, not with others, but at that exact same moment thirty four other people, each alone in distant homes hundreds maybe thousands of miles away, moved to the exact same music and focused their attention inwardly. Once again, I describe the communion of basira, inner vision, as water—a wave, a flood spilling across the Earth, washing everywhere, rolling through walls, finding us in our rooms, not needing a window or a door. I was buoyed up and swept into the currents. No floor, no geology, just brine and oxygen. Later, when the music ceased, the others lay on their floors and I lay on my floor. My heart and inner arms and palms glittered and buzzed in the dark.

Alone, Together, and Alone Together

In childhood, when I first began to note that my inherent nature was a mystical orientation to existence and to my existence, I found this difficult to trust. This ‘it’ was easy enough to perceive, coming as a vivid night dream, a heart opening, otherworldly cross-sensing, a visitation, or perhaps as stretches of entrancing, timeless, creative, unitive presentness, but because I couldn’t make these vibrant experiences happen, I feared that they were hallucinatory one-offs. It didn’t help that they almost never came in the same form. However, over the years they continued to appear again and again with much the same sort of message. I began to trust. I began to understand that these experiences were essential to me. At length, I found a teacher and was able to cultivate access to this Otherness. A lot of people don’t need a teacher, but it helped me. It helped to be guided and to be with a community of other seekers.

Sometimes I question living so much in my interiority, not that I mind being alone with things that are precious to me, but I am spiritually lonely if what is real and visionary is never echoed or shared with others. I need some sort of human confirmation and I prefer if it comes from the living, as well as words of the dead. Yet even after so many years, especially when solitary practice is all I have, I can suddenly doubt it all. I can be a helpless, yearning child again worried that ineffable experiences are merely a thin, narcissistic whimsy of my psychology. And what would be wrong with being a fantasist as long as one could function in relation to others? I put aside people who impose dangerous dreams on others without a reality check as to whether these notions are socially viable let alone acceptable, because I am certain that my inner dimension produces little exterior action and harms no one. I rest easy with that. As a friend pointed, perhaps I am prey to loneliness when not connected to my depth, depths that are often difficult to reach alone. That’s true. Loneliness is not only what happens when I am separated from people but also when I’m severed from innate communion.

Mystics may seek where most others don’t normally go, but that doesn’t mean they are hermits. There is, I suppose, always a bit of this quandary for the mystic—ineffable conversance clashing with a desire for spiritual conversation. How does one talk about what lies beyond the intellect? I find it odd to desire the company of other seekers to explore my most interior realms, but they lighten my efforts and deepen my depths—that quick catapulting inward together and an unfathomable intimacy inside the timeless Moment. More than parallel experience, it is a communion banishing loneliness. To have one’s depths nourished by the depths of other beautiful humans transcends the inevitable and often petty tensions of personality. It isn’t exactly sociable, but it is enduring and sustaining. This is why basira is such a fundamental capacity to know and cultivate, and why the warm flood engulfing me, expanding my knowledge about this communion, was such a welcome affirmation.

Cecilia emailed me what she’d written just after class.
“Dancing with you today, opening the arms and the chest area front of the heart and back of the heart, had me experience something exceptional. Energy starting flowing out of my heart area. Swirling out into the room. Then out in the arms, hands. Hands flowing, moving. The energy was light. Effortlessly moving around. The little puffs and clouds of energy flowing out of my chest were just wonderful to experience. I haven never experienced it this way before…I’m a Lotus Qi Gong practitioner since many years. I have stood on the Lotus together with my Sufi teacher with my arms stretched out for an hour being carried by the Qi. I have moved with him, experienced the Qi flowing. But not soft, and cloud-like, like this. It’s my energy. It’s such an humbling experience to experience my energy like this. Soft. Gentle. Moving. Cloud like. Just there. This is ME. My creativity. My creative energy. I’m falling in Love.”

I am delighted that you are with me and appreciate your sharing these writings friends. Thank you!

My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America, a nonprofit organization helping people realize their human and spiritual potential by honoring their body and its movement ways using evolutionary Sufi Dancemeditation practices. Thank you for your gift. It’s tax-deductible! Contribute Now

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Janice Harmon
Janice Harmon
3 years ago

Thank you again for a captivating rendering of what my heart knows. From the moment I met my Sufi Psychologist, I started to notice unexplainable connections and I longed for more. She liberated my heart & mind and now everything I do offers up it’s uniquely sweet, limitless, yet connected experience. How grateful I am to have found your Spark through a Dance meditation class years ago! 💖

Grace Baird
Grace Baird
3 years ago

Dunya, this is a stunningly beautiful piece. You’ve laid bare the mystic’s heart in such a profound and personal way. The Dance Meditation you teach very much brings about a communion of souls. Self imposed barriers simply melt away in such an ecstatic and natural way, and the Beloved smiles back from so many shining eyes. Gratitude!

Last edited 3 years ago by Grace Baird
Karleen Koen
Karleen Koen
3 years ago

We talked about much of this today……threads or much of this could go in the book…..Karleen