Sojourn the Inner Heaven: Movement Meditations for Awakening – Book

Sojourn the Inner Heaven: Movement Meditations for Awakening – Book

Our body needs more than a hot bath, a massage, a walk, and a workout.

Part instruction, part contemplation, part practice companion, this beautiful and lucid guide from Dunya Dianne McPherson, choreographer/dancer, Shattari Sufi adept, pioneer in embodied mysticism, and Founder of Dancemeditation™, helps us embrace our body as an intimate, safe home and a realm of wonderment. The Dancemeditations—deceptively simple—are potent allies which unwind the tensions and treacheries we all carry in our flesh, and offer a way of moving to wake inside our being. 

Rather than working out, we work in. By experiencing the body ever more gently and deeply and subtly, winning its trust, our body flowers from inside its own intelligence. Our body becomes a communion. Our body becomes a poem. 

This is dance as a passage to the Beyond…to the Mystery…to the non-ordinary within, which is essential not only to a fulfilled life but to the most basic life.

This guidebook for meditative movement practice includes instruction, inspirational anecdotes, and contemplations, with beautiful photographic illustrations. A  companion for those who have a Path and for those who seek their Path.

What a wonderful book! Poetic, personal, tender, imaginative, insightful, and mindful. It describes a process, explores it, and then, masterfully, explains how it can be accessed.
—Elisa de la Roche, Ph.D., actor, writer, artist, educator

Guidance from a true master who reveres in every cell of her body the precious dance of all living beings.
— Mary Abrams, MA, RSME, Founder of Moving Body Resources, NYC

"No matter how much you already know, you will learn more in this book.”

The body is where we exist and where we heal and evolve. Sojourn the Inner Heaven offers simple, beautiful, and effective ways to do this. This practical and embodied guidebook initiates healing without being expressly therapeutic, invites creative unfolding without being performative, and pursues the mysteriousness of inner quest in movement. Written with a common sense and grounded warmth, McPherson’s accessible tone keeps both novice and seasoned practitioners company.

Rooted in McPherson’s in-depth, extensive knowledge of dance and movement practice, Sojourn the Inner Heaven is specifically for:

  • those wanting a journey into their body
  • those wanting a non-agenda, nonjudgmental inner-facing embodied journey
  • those wanting to heal their relationship with their body
  • those with trauma
  • those wanting creative embodied exploration
  • sitting meditators seeking presentness in movement
  • practitioners of embodied healing modalities—massage therapists, body workers, and trauma counselors—who wish to explore an meditative moving embodiment for their clients and for themselves
  • movers from 5 Rhythms, Ecstatic Dance, Conscious Dance, and the many off-shoots who seek greater individual depth
  • practitioners of Continuum, Feldenkrais Method, Contemplative Dance, Body Mind Centering, and Authentic Movement who may enjoy a sister discipline
  • yogis ready to find flow and sensation
  • tai chi practitioners ready to let chi move in improvisational ways
  • anyone who simply likes to dance and move into relaxation


About the Photographs

PART 1: Abode
Making a sanctuary to support our exploration. 

1 Place
2 Regularity, Duration, Music
3 The Lure, Patience, Invitation, Inclusiveness, Open
4 The Movements
5 Body

PART 2: Four Rs & the Larger Arc
The process, progression, and scope of a life-long embodied meditation project. 

6 Relaxation
7 Receptivity
8 Reciprocity
9 Rest
10 The Larger Arc

PART 3: Dancemeditations
Movement meditations and thoughts about them.

Section One: Movement Mantra    Dancemeditations for Diving Deep
11 Movement Mantra: Repetition, Evolution, & Momentum
12 Movement Mantra: Breath Dances
13 Movement Mantra: Rocking and Rolling
14 Movement Mantra: Whirling

Section Two: Time & Forces    Dancemeditations for Knowing
15 Slow Movement
16 Space, Gravity

Section Three: Dreaming in the Flesh    Dancemeditations for Excavation & Exploration
17 Imaginal Realm
18 Narrative Realm
19 Orchestral Body
20 In Witness & Inner Witness
21 Abstract Realm

Reading List

Praise for Dunya Dianne McPherson

Sojourn the Inner Heaven

“What a wonderful and rare opportunity it is to peek into the intimate quotidian experiences of a master artist and teacher! Dunya examines her process using a microscope with a poetic lens, guiding our deeper understanding and giving us a road map for embodied enlightenment and spiritual bliss. No matter how much you already know, you will learn more in this book.”
—Elisa de la Roche, Ph.D., actor, writer, artist, educator.

Sojourn is a gracious offering from the heart-body-soul of the author’s lifelong devotion to all the ways “our flesh rewards us with its native inventiveness”. Her poetic descriptions, effortless practices, and generous invitations expand the definition of meditation, serving to free the mind of doing so that one’s breathing, moving body awakens with what is ready to be explored and discovered in the great mystery of being alive. Read, breathe, sense, feel, dance, attend, rest…guidance from a true master, one who reveres in every cell of her body the precious dance of all living beings.” 
— Mary Abrams, MA, RSME, Founder of Moving Body Resources (NYC) & International Teacher, Author of Consciousness as Embodied Movement: Discovering intimate & more effective ways of living together

“As I started to read I felt the expansion of awareness that I feel when arriving and settling in a Dancemeditation session. Dunya has articulated the magic and merger of body mind spirit that is so big and palpable and mostly out of reach. This is beautiful!”
—Celeste Yacoboni, curatorial editor of How Do You Pray, Minister of The Walking Way 

“This book has been an inspiration for me. The meditations carry us through layers of body self into the mystical realm. This valuable guide, both poetic and practical, helps us savor embodiment and hold a sanctuary for the self.”
—Katie Wells M.F.A. in Dance, Faculty at Radford University, Founder of Interweave

I love Dunya’s Dancemeditation workshops. This book is a wonderful companion to this work, giving examples of practices and reflecting on the process and experience. I enjoyed it.
— Monica Miller, author of Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion

Skin of Glass

“…profound ideas, expressed in startlingly evocative language.”
—Roger Copeland, author of Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance

“Dreamy, deeply searching, and so smart kinesthetically…She journeys through organs, bones, muscles, delving into an other realm of thinking. A wondrous and thought-provoking excursion.”
— Janet Mansfield Soares, Professor of Dance Emerita, Barnard College, Columbia University

“McPherson succeeds in the almost impossible task she sets for herself: putting into words what is wholly nonverbal dance, and describing what is utterly indescribable mystical experience.”
—Ruth Vincent, author of Elixir and Unveiled, Changeling P.I. novels

“Memoir, prose poem, erotic journey, mystical discourse and cultural commentary Dunya’s brave book also launches a new genre of writing from the body. It is a book sorely needed by a culture disembodied…”
— Mary Bond, MA, author of Your Body MandalaBalancing Your Body, & The New Rules of Posture 

“She offers insights and inspiration on every page.”
—Christopher Pilafian, Lecturer, Department of Theater & Dance, University of California, Santa Barbara

“A mystical page-turner! I read ‘Skin of Glass’ in two days all the way through, wishing, as I read, that there was a way I could inhale this book…”
—Jenna Woods, author  of  The Dancing Cymbalist

Author bio

Dunya Dianne McPherson is a pioneer in the field of embodied mysticism and the founder of Dancemeditation™. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Juilliard and a Masters in Writing from Leslie University. She trained for two decades with Sufi Master Adnan Sarhan and did significant study in Middle Eastern Dance with Elena Lentini and Anahid Sofian, and in yoga with Shri Dharma Mittra.

A critically acclaimed dancer and choreographer, Dunya Dianne McPherson has been described by Jennifer Dunning in the New York Times as “…a modern day Isadora Duncan…approaching Ruth St. Denis…a vibrant performer…an unusual and talented choreographer.” Carman Moore in the Village Voice called her, “…killer creative choreographer…”, and Elizabeth Zimmer in Dance Magazine, has said “…she evoked something essentially female, essentially powerful…the pure, solid dancing has never seemed so welcome…”

Dunya Dianne McPherson

She was awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowship, as well as commissions which include Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Dance Uptown, Barnard College, Victoria College of the Arts, Santa Fe Performing Arts Center, and she is the recipient of numerous grants including the CETA Artists Grant.

She has been a faculty member at Barnard College, NYU, and Montclair State University, and the Chair of the Modern Dance Department at Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia. Artist-in-Residencies include Swarthmore, Hunter, Oberlin, Amherst, University of Texas, and Princeton University.

She has been a featured presenter at major healing arts centers including: Kripalu, The Contemplative Studies Institute at OSU, the Netherlands Mystik Festival, and for the late Claudio Naranjo’s Institutes in Mexico, South America, and Europe. She was a Featured Presenter at the global 2020 Embodiment Conference.

Dunya’s first book Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh. a memoir of her journey of dance and mysticism, is admired and beloved. She is a contributing author to several books on healing and spirituality. Her new guidebook and practice companion is  Sojourn the Inner Heaven: Movement Meditations for Awakening

Take a Look Inside

Dance is a wind blowing through the cells, a river carving the body into curves and cadence. We swim unaware in an ocean of space until one day, dancing, we wake up drenched.

Part 1 Abode

Making a sanctuary to support our exploration.

Some of us come to mystical seeking drawn by an inscrutable yearning—a whisper, a shout, a persistent gnawing. We yearn for what we don’t know. Others of us fall into it by accident, not knowing until we are there that this exceptional yet wholly natural beauty exists. So, we come. We pass into the Mystery and know we are home. A taste may become a practice. A practice may become a Path. The Mystery nudges us to fashion a nest—a place and time for rummaging in the treasures of being-ness. Our abode.

Our seeking may be accompanied or solitary, infrequent or regular, but its situation has specific attributes. An abode is safe. It is sequestered. It is uninterrupted. It is not obligated. It is intimate. As phenomenologist, Gaston Bachelard, wrote in his beautiful treatise, The Poetics of Space, “There does not exist an intimacy that is repellant.” The surroundings are its bones. Its time frame, mediated by music and quiet, is the auditory enclosure. And then, there is the invitation—the self invites our Self. A part of us must hold out its hand inviting our totality to the dance.

Of course, despite the call in my heart, I also forget or hesitate or resist. I am continually entangled in phenomena. Sufi poet, Jallaludin Rumi, remarks that phenomena steal our essence. I must work my way back again and again to my abode where I nest my seeking. I’m sure I am not alone in this. What can we do? Will power, as we have all probably experienced, is not terribly effective. It is practically useless against the confluence of friction that accumulates to prevents us. Friction is often our downfall.

Such a little word, but it deserves our notice; we will need to outwit friction to make it easier to be in what we love, to enter the heart of our Heart. What is friction? Simple things. Having to move too many things out of the way in order to put down your mat. Having to dig up what to wear each time; a lot of practice sessions have gotten lost as we hunt through our closets. Not having helpful music at the ready. This sort of thing. Removing friction is not in itself very deep. It may even seem trivial, but I like to think of it as a bridge over the moat. We really need that bridge to get into the castle. Time spent on our abode, minimizing the ‘friction’ between wanting to do what we want to do and doing it, is a powerful ally.

We each will find our own space and way. It is part of learning who we are and what we need, and this will change as we change. I like to think of my abode, which over time has developed and refined itself, as carved out of purity. Here are a few things to consider.


Chapter 1 Place

I found a nest in the skeleton of the ivy
A soft nest of country moss and dream herb.
— Yvan Goll

A sanctuary space embraces you. It fits you. I’ll borrow from Bachelard his description of a bird pressing her breast again and again along the inner wall of her nest, making a nest that is the shape of her. The room needn’t be overlay large—no bigger that the full kinesphere, the space our body takes up when arms and legs are fully stretched in any direction. Clean is important. A clean space with a clean rug or mat that is warm in winter and cool in summer allows our body to fully relax. A dedicated area for your use alone—a separate room, a cabin, or a portion of an art studio or creative space—is extremely helpful. Good ventilation is important.

Always have a simple sound system ready—an iPod, or a phone (in airplane mode so you are tempted to check it). Find the most comforting set of ‘vestments’ to use just for practice made of natural fabrics in colors that soothe you with layers to adjust temperature as the body cools or warms. In short, something you look forward to putting on. Leave a clean set in the practice sanctuary to avoid the what-to-wear procrastination and don’t wear these particular ones for anything else. In addition, a journal for noting your experience at the end can provide a harmonious transition back from wordlessness.

A home studio is an opportunity to weave together our practice and our daily life, while having a practice room outside our home leads us through a larger world context when coming and going. Each choice has benefits and challenges, and if our practice persists through time, we will very likely experience both settings.

For those of us initiating regular practice during a nomadic phase, all these parameters exist ‘on the road.’ I once did a six week cross-country drive, sleeping in the guest rooms of friends or in the back of my small SUV at campgrounds. At one park, I spread my blanket on a picnic table because the ground was too rocky. I didn’t miss a day; my blanket and clothing were my abode.

Amazon Customer Reviews for 'Skin of Glass'

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star 100%

Life changing.
by Laura
This book is just beautiful. It changed the way I see my life, the way I dance and the way I meditate, it deserves 6 stars. And Dunya is an amazing human being and the kind of person that makes a difference to other people.

by Jennifer L.
I bought this book 2 years after beginning a regular 5 Rhythms practice and seeking more books about conscious movement and somatics. I devoured this in days, mesmerized by McPherson’s way of turning movement into prose. As both a writer and a dancer, I am envious of her talent in describing even the most subtle movements with such commanding language. The way she writes about the human body is utterly fascinating and captivating, and it is hard not to roll my spine and rock my pelvis along to her words. They are the words of someone so at home with her body, so familiar with every tendon, vein, and cell within; some chapters have such a deep and sensual feel that they read more like erotic literature, a kind of “kinesthetic pornography,” perhaps.
Comment: 2 people found this helpful.

The ecstacy of nothing
by Joyce
Dunya is disarmingly honest and so intimate with her own body that she wakes you to your own, raising the question: how can we live as such strangers to our bodies? A professional dancer who became a Sufi, Dunya found a dearth of writings on dance as a spiritual path. Deciding to fill that void, she expected to write a collection of essays on that topic, but her body, she says, wanted to tell a story — things that hadn’t been spoken of, things that had been forgotten. This story begins with a little girl in New England who was a natural dancer. She began dance training at ten, was admitted to an art conservatory at fifteen, and to Juillard School in New York City at eighteen. For the next ten years she danced, taught, and choreographed in New York and Australia. The world of professional dance, although it pays attention to training the body, often bypasses its basic needs by stringently avoiding weight gain and ignoring pain and injury. Dunya finally had an injury serious enough to require a break from her successful performance career. During that period she encountered a charismatic Iraqi Sufi Master who became her mentor for seventeen years, gave her the name Dunya, and introduced her to a different kind of dancing, dancing with the Divine, dance as prayer. This experience gave Dunya her vocation. She has since created DanceMeditation and has taught its methods to many others. The gift, however, was buried in a complicated system of male dominance and sexual manipulation which Dunya had to sort out to create a female version of the Sufi tradition. She has now been a Sufi teacher for twenty years. She describes her teaching thus: “I close my eyes, always looking at emptiness, and students follow me as I move and breathe, drawing us into the simplicity of moving and breathing. . . I respect them by trying not to believe what they imagine me to be, a difficult task since I was once mostly a reflection of others. . . Perhaps my students, wanting something for their money, aren’t so sure why they pay me for providing an expensive Nothing. I haven’t much to say in defense of this exchange except that Nothing is hard to come by.” Having attended some of Dunya’s retreats I can personally attest to her genius at leading one into the ecstasy of Nothing.
1 comment: I found this commentary most “on the mark” of what I know of Dianne; Dunya. I was fortunate to be invited to an event with Dunya and teacher, Master, Adnan Sarhan. This was numerous years ago – but remembered as no longer than yesterday. I was fortunate to train with Dianne in college as one of her students. Dunya is and has always been inside of me…. I look forward to working with her again after returning from sabbatical – Dunya is a wonderous (re)treat and movement forward.

Skin of Glass
by William E. Elder III
An amazing true story of a woman becoming a star ballet dancer and then changing to trans-dancing as part of her health and spiritual (Sufi) journey.
Comment: 2 people found this helpful.

Gripping, beautifully written stories
by Ramona
‘Skin of Glass’ is a collection of gripping autobiographical stories. This book is well-written, with lots of vivid details that help the reader feel as though she’s sharing Dunya’s experiences. There were times when her writing made me laugh, and times when it was serious. Those from a ballet background can relate to her vivid descriptions of dance classes. Dunya is candid, and has shared so much of herself in this book–what a lovely gift. She shares details about her career and her intimate personal experiences. Parts of this book serve as a jarring reminder that we can be victimized by authority figures. Much of this book is about meditation’s relationship with healing, and the relationship of love and healing. Readers with a strong interest in meditation and archetypes will find this book thought-provoking. Also, those who are open to experiencing Dunya’s unique writing style, which includes lots of kinesthetic descriptions, will enjoy this book. Dunya’s students will find Skin of Glass helpful in their practice. For college-age and mature readers.
Comment: 2 people found this helpful.

Great read!
by Tod
An intriguing look at a spiritual path based on movement and dance. Dunya’s prose when describing her meditations is both beautiful and inspiring. A book full of truth, mystery, motion, and love.

Deep within the Skin of Glass
by C. Jorgensenon
Dunya Dianne McPherson’s book, Skin of Glass, is an eloquent and perceptive tribute to the life and body that “partnered one another…teaching me how to control less and accept more.” Dunya’s journey reads and feels like a very sensual and visceral dance initiation spiraling down to the cellular level of a life in memory within the body. An inspiring and osmotic ride with a fabulous dancer.

A Woman’s Search for a Unified Self
by Kathleen A. Graham
Dunya’s ‘Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh’, is an edgy and exquisite, evanescent and eternal, account of a woman’s search for a unified self where body and mind, spirit and soul coalesce in Divine Communion. I wanted to stretch it out and savor every morsel but couldn’t resist devouring the whole delicious book in just a few days.
–Le’ema Kathleen Graham, Snake Priestess, Visionary Sacred Dancer, Yogini, Teacher and Author
Comment2 people found this helpful.

Spiritual Study Companion
by Ann Galkowski
As a student of dancemeditation and embodying spirit for many years, I have been at a loss as to how expression of my journey and experiences can take shape. Dunya is able to effectively and beautifully capture hers in this book. In so doing she encourages my process of spiritual embodiment, which is my path. As a student I find it supportive as it describes and transmits to me aspects of both individual and group process. As a bodyworker and having practiced various forms of meditation, I am delighted as to how her desriptions cross over into describing my experiences of spirit in other forms. Deep and mystical, it will be a study companion for me for some time to come.
Comment: 4 people found this helpful.

Beautiful and compelling
by Marjie
Dunya does a beautiful job of translating the language of the body into a written form. This is a moving book to read, and one that may likely make you want to move. Honest, brave, insightful and very smart on many levels, this book communicates both literal thoughts and a compelling energy. Many spiritual quests overlook the body. This one goes right into the depths. Well worth taking your time to savor the language.
Comment: 6 people found this helpful.

"A mystical page-turner."

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Karen Donovan Goode
2 years ago

I look forward to reading your new book! Congratulations on the launch 🦋