The Mystic Festival was amazing.
Musicians, whirlers and mystic movers from Iran, Pakistan, Moldavia, Iraq, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, India, France, and — with me — the USA presented (which meant performing or teaching, thus very little talk except the wonderful storyteller) beginning at 10am and finishing with a zhikr late in the evening. The day was punctuated with two beautiful meals.
The festival took place in an enormous hall on 30 or 40 large Persian carpets with brocade cushions for sitting and an absolutely state-of-the-art amplification system (this was heaven for me!) The sensitive instruments and beautiful voices, both the resonant and intimate speaking voices as well as singing — needed to be amplified for the 200 to 300 hundred people that filled the hall.
The morning was devoted to music including Ustad Mahmud Sabri of the famed Sabri brothers (who arrived predictably late and pushed the whole program into strange timing; not that I really noticed. The day seem to have its own place in time). After lunch, a Gurdjieff movement session was followed by the lovely Sanjana Band (Bombay/ Amsterdam.) By the time I took the stage to introduce Dancemeditation as Sufism, perform, then teach, the hall was packed. The performance felt remote to me; the mood of the room was heavy, though my dancing was freer and lighter than usual. But performance softened us, allowing us to grow accustomed to one another.
Then the class began…Hundreds of people breathed, stretched, shook, danced, the energy building and building until we were all rhythmically swinging our heads up and down in unison and shouting ‘hayy’ ‘hayy’ ‘hayy’. We leaned into the work, pushed it forward, swallowed it, and burst into flame. No holding back. No judging. Only the joy of shared ecstasy. I danced at the foot of an enormous wave, then it crashed around me and filled me. This meeting of illuminating hearts in a place beyond the ordinary remade me. When we all open out hearts together, offering them freely to one another and to the Eternal Divine, we receive far more than we ever give.
We finished with a long beautiful singing and moving ‘Allah’, something I’ve been reluctant to teach in America during the Bush era. In Holland, now, it was perfect. No fear of Allah there. It felt delicious. The sounds washed through my subtle inner chambers while my fascia slid through the heat of motion. When I looked out, I saw a sea of limbs, faces, hair, swaying, open mouths, closed eyes.
The day continued on with great happiness. I curled up at the edge of the carpets and watched, sometimes closing my eyes and drifting to sleep while music and voices in many languages wove around me. Having that much energy washing through me seemed to tire me in one way and fulfill me completely in another.
To be continued…