“When you turn to your partner for the next part of the dance, don’t make a meal of it. There’s another partner waiting to greet you. The Divine in them and wants to bless the Divine in you,” Allaudin (aka Sandy) instructed at the Dances of Universal Peace.
By the time the song was over, I had danced with half the people there–everyone that was going in the opposite direction around the circle. A few I knew well, but many I didn’t. The dance invited me not to play favourites but to treat each partner equally and honourably.
A similar “dance” happens every Sunday as we pass the peace in church. I turn to each person, look them in the eye, shake their hand or hug them, and we say to each other, “The peace of Christ be with you.” I don’t scoot around to my favourites. For this dance, we share God’s reality that we are all favourites.
This feels so counter-cultural in a world where we choose special people to receive Christmas cards, gifts or invitations to dinner. We collect BFFs on Facebook. The unstated message is that we are somebody if we have at least one best friend.
I don’t. Not counting Fred of course. Many of my friends enjoy best friends, but I’m not their BFF. I felt a little melancholy about that until I remembered that God gives me everything I need. If I need a BFF, God will assign me one. Years later, although I have very good friends, I still don’t have a special one that rises above the ranks of the others.
When I attended my first Dances of Universal Peace, I looked around the room of strangers to see which ones I might connect with. Without a second thought, I categorized people into those I thought would be more interesting (or, if I’m honest, more interested in me) and the others who would be ignored. But the partner dances didn’t bow to my ego or listen to my worries about fitting in. They didn’t ignore anyone.
We were all part of the dance. God was incarnate in each of us, and together we sang and clapped, stepped and twirled that reality.
They are all God’s favourites–every single one of them. Could they be mine as well?
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. . . . Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. –Matthew 5:45, 48
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Dances of Universal Peace are embodied prayers. When I pray with my body something good happens at a deep level that I don’t understand. It makes me curious about what else I have been missing out on. A friend sent me this link to an On Being podcast in which Krista Tippett interviews Bessel van der Kolk about how trauma lodges in the body. It was fascinating to hear how movement can bring healing in ways that talking doesn’t. Both Tippett and van der Kolk had high praise for yoga. Another friend put me on to Yoga with Adriene, and I’ve started the 30 Day Yoga Journey. Adriene says, “Yoga offers up a way for us to see a world that is working for you instead of against you. Yoga reminds me that everything is connected so we must live, act, breathe with awareness.” I feel like the Spirit has led me here. What wonderful love mischief.