Dances of Universal Peace

A crowd of people in a circle, meditative music, simple dance movements, and mantras from a wide variety of world faiths all meld together… Attending a Dance of Universal Peace is an unforgettable experience. In hundreds of dances across the globe, people around the world gather in spiritual centers, churches, schools, therapy groups, and even prisons to participate in this event. There is usually no audience; everyone, regardless of skill, is encouraged to join.

By blending sacred phrases, scripture, poetry, and the beauty of nature, participants are able to strengthen their connections to each other, the earth, and their own spirits. In other words, the dances bring them closer to universal peace, step by step.

Samuel L. Lewis, known by many as Murshid S.A.M. (the title being Arabic for “guide”), was an American Sufi who introduced the Dances of Universal Peace on June 24, 1968 in an attempt to unify people — to lower the arbitrary veils that separate us. This year, nearly 150 events were held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dances.

Each year, the scope of the movement grows to include new areas and people. How have the dances evolved in recent years? How has the current political climate affected this movement? Let’s dive into the issue:

Finding Peace Amidst Geopolitical War Games

Lewis’s home country has changed a lot since his death in ‘71. Trump’s administration, increased racial tensions, the Me Too movement — the face of the politics in the U.S. has changed drastically in the past several years. Due to a wide variety of factors, from food and water scarcity to America’s national security policy, the country has been politically fractured.

In spite of these divisions, people have sought ways to call for unity and harmony. Dances permit communities to demonstrate their tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the face of an intolerant administration. In a manner, these events are a form of passive protest. Rather than responding to discrimination with violent action, participating in these dances signals that peace is always an option.

Of course, political unrest isn’t unique to the U.S. In recent years, the Dances of Universal Peace movement has gained traction around the globe. In areas like Russia, Turkey, and many Latin American countries, political unrest has spurred people to find an outlet. Dances of Universal Peace work as a valuable collective healing practice in these troubled times. The Dances allow people to find common ground and connect with each other on a deep level, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

When Murshid began guiding students in dance, he started with only a few students. As the movement he started has expanded, it has grown to encompass thousands. The global expansion of this movement is a product of the fact that many people have become discontent with the arbitrary lines between nations. Globalization in the business world and technology have also facilitated this mindset, as they have opened new lines of communication and exposed us to new cultures.

How These Dances Create Peace and Love

Recent years have shed light on why these events have worked so effectively. In our individual journeys, we must commit to self-love, and attending a Dance of Universal Peace is a great step in that direction. There are many reasons why they improve our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Dancing and music are powerful tools for improving our holistic health. As Murshid S.A.M. once said, “(Dance) takes us beyond ourselves, bringing an initial taste of the state of non-being, which is really a balm for the soul.”   However, as recent research has proven, it can also heal the mind and body.

The physiological changes that occur within us when we engage in these activities can improve our mood and overall well-being. Listening to music and dancing can increase the amount of dopamine in our brains, a neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel happy and rewarded.

Dance and music also affect our bodies in many therapeutic ways. In fact, it may even be helpful for treating disease. According to an article on Medical News Today, “Dance and music therapy is being investigated for its potential use in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and autism.

Finally, these events allow us to create and strengthen social bonds. In recent years, specialists have found that socializing improves our holistic health, even reducing our likelihood of developing dementia. There’s no question that the life-long bonds that these dances create have led to healthier, more social lifestyles.

Given these insights, it’s no wonder that Samuel Lewis’s movement has grown into the worldwide phenomenon it is today. As this movement continues to expand, it will doubtlessly open dialogues, forge new social connections, and improve our well-being. In addition to helping us find inner-peace, it will continue to inch society closer to worldwide peace.

Are you interested in attending a Dance? Let us know in the comments below.


This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

How Human Rights Contribute to Peace

people holding heart together

After a long day at work, many of us have the privilege to go home, take a hot shower, cook dinner, and sleep in a warm bed. For those of us who live a life of relative comfort and have our basic needs met, it can be hard to imagine what life would be like if we weren’t so lucky. What would the day look like without these basic things?

We might sleep outside on the street, hungry or even sick. Things as simple as consistent access to food and shelter are not a given for many people around the world. Without access to basic human rights, feeling at peace is unlikely to happen.

Peaceful people make up a peaceful society, and peaceful societies make up a peaceful world. Since scarcity often leads to conflict, societies that support their citizens by providing them with healthcare, education, food, and shelter, are generally more peaceful and prosperous than those who don’t.

What Is Peace?

Understanding what peace means is essential if we want to understand why it is so important — especially if peace is something we take for granted in our day-to-day lives.

At an International Day of Peace celebration organized by Peace Revolution Cameroon, participants from various countries weighed in with different definitions of peace. The word was defined in many ways, including “the respect for life and fellow human beings” and “freedom from disturbance.”

Peace might mean different things to different people around the globe, but it’s clear that without peaceful individuals, we cannot have a peaceful world.

Most Peaceful Countries

According to 2017 data released by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the United States ranks 114th out of 163 in a list of the world’s most peaceful countries.

“Data highlighted a declining level of trust in the U.S. government, as well as growing social problems such as income inequality, heightened racial tensions and rising homicide rates in several major American cities,” writes Megan Trimble in “The 10 Most Peaceful Countries in the World” to explain why the US ranked so low.

Which country tops the list? According to Trimble’s U.S. News article, it’s Iceland — a place where discrimination is illegal and citizens have access to universal healthcare. Iceland is widely regarded as a leader in human rights. The United States, on the other hand, demonstrates that it values capitalism over the well-being of its citizens. The success of Iceland and the problems in the U.S. clearly show that human rights are deeply linked to peace.

Challenges

There are many barriers to peace in today’s world. The unrest in the United States is a great example of what happens when a country doesn’t protect the basic human rights of its citizens. In the fight for peace, protest signs are as common a sight these days as birds in the sky.

Social workers have defined 12 major challenges that need to be overcome to create a better world. These challenges include making sure that everyone has access to healthcare, helping homeless individuals find dependable and affordable housing and food, and ensuring that all people have equal opportunities to pursue education. Let’s take a closer look at these challenges:

1) Access to Healthcare

In some countries (including the United States), healthcare is a privilege, not a right. Money, location, mobility, and availability can all be barriers to receiving medical care. As the need for chronic care increases, the elderly are especially vulnerable to lack of care.

Discrimination also impacts access to healthcare. Low-income communities often have limited access to healthcare facilities. Given the racial makeup of such areas, this is often a form of discrimination in and of itself. Healthcare providers could discriminate on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, economic class, religion, individuals with pre-existing conditions, and more. In areas where there is a dearth of medical professionals, this lack of choice poses a serious problem for minorities.

2) Access to Food and Shelter

It’s hard to achieve peace of any kind when you are hungry, tired, and don’t know where you’ll sleep at night. Food deserts and lack of affordable and accessible housing options are huge barriers to health and peace worldwide.

3) Access to Education

Education is one of the best ways to improve your personal options for success. But because of money, discrimination, and availability, not everyone has access to education. Oftentimes, lack of education means lack of job opportunities. In turn, that can lead to additional struggles like financial stress and trouble affording food and housing.

Solutions

Healthy bodies and minds are a part of the foundation of peace. Without them, people cannot thrive. So what do we do? To have a peaceful society, we must turn these challenges into solutions.

Positive change can take place in the very sectors that are often barriers, including classrooms, medical buildings, law offices, and social communities. Getting involved in any of these areas is a great way to help create a healthier and a more peaceful world.


This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.