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Grappling with Deity

I’ve taken a break from working on Dancing into the Deep, my book on Dancemeditation, because I’ve come up against the problem of declaring myself. Nonfiction tends to require taking a position and if I don’t explicitly state one, I have to at least know it, or let the reader know my ambivalence. A book about striving into one’s interiority implies the reach for something greater than the self, and the typical assumption is that ‘greater than the self’ implies god. I feel coerced by these assumptions. I resist. This terrain has historically been claimed by mystics, but I find myself drifting beyond even that obfuscating purview. I might not need god. I don’t need a religious god. Maybe there is only the self then, boom! the Moment, with no intercessory deity needed. In any case, I try to sort what I think.

In my recent practice sessions, I’ve assayed the altered Sufi states. It is very satisfying and then afterward, as always, I wonder about these states. I return to the ordinary state refreshed and less dispossessed as a human. I have reconnected with the sourcefield. There is nothing wrong in that, but my mind, having given itself up during forays on the mat, has to reflectively justify its truancy. I volley back and forth between giving the states more gravitas than they deserve by saying the visit to the sourcefield is god, then conversely thinking that the sourcefield is, possibly, just a pleasant escape—a bit of self-generated opiate. I have no problem if it is the latter, but I don’t want to write about it as if it is the former. I don’t want to make it into god. God has often been accused of being the opiate of the masses and a delusion. I have always considered it a manipulation. Really, I am just tired of being yanked off track into some morass of manipulation.


End of God
The other day I passed the village church. Two of three enormous 100-year-old beech trees were being cut down to facilitate construction on the church’s parish house. As well, the twenty-foot long lower limbs of the remaining tree had been lopped off. I stopped and patted the felled trunk segments. Such power and presence vibrated in the wood beneath my palm. They must have been more than two feet in diameter and smelled sweet as I bent close their toppled, fleshy flanks. At that moment, I loathed religion. Cutting down those trees—those massive dignitaries, those divinities, if divinity even exists—obliterated any shred of respect I might have nostalgically harbored for the Christian church’s god. A few days later during an attic purge, I read some of my letters (I couldn’t stomach them all) to my parents written in my Sufi Camp years. I am so touched that my parents, suffering me, kept them but I found them nauseating in their cult-head tone. Like a sword slicing, I crumbled and tossed them, done with the Islamic god as well. I am in a shift, a juncture where I am queasy about god, period, even one of my creation. I only bow to the trees.


Writing brings such fundamental questions about the ground of self. Good. I move on the mat to feel how I feel, to know how I feel, to feel how to know; I write to discover what I think and to question what I have championed. I spent many years as a sort of ‘Sufi missionary’ despite distrusting missionaries who I see as paternalistic meddlers. Of course I didn’t think of it as such; I was just teaching. Actually, all teaching is missionary work, passing on what one has been taught, though often not what one has actually learned. I’m not proud of my missionary attitude, but to my credit, for the most part I kept my mouth shut and kept my spiritual mulling to myself, letting everyone else do the same, while sharing the rich and real meditation forum. I never have any doubt that time on the mat helps me—and anyone—be clearer and make clearer choices. It is a modest claim. It isn’t a shiny god. It isn’t salvation, a promise of happiness, or a release from pain. It is merely clarity. Or just an opportunity for clarity, an even more modest claim.

Where does this leave me as I write about my cherished practice? Right now I cling to the title, Dancing into the Deep, as a shipwreck survivor to a broken spar of flotsam. Of course, if I follow that metaphor it may be that the fragment of wreckage will save my soul; my title may allow me to discover why I am writing. No human cargo, alone and battered by the stormy sea, relishes seeing the ship sink, but that’s where I am. Somehow I’ve got a grip on Dancing into the Deep and I’ve got to follow where this wild sea goes.

Illustration: pastel by Margi Lucena



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 (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.






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    1. Dear Dunya,
      I love reading your writings. This one sends waves of contemplation through my mind and heart🙏💖 thank you.

      June 17, 2018
      • Carly, thank you 🙏🏻

        June 17, 2018
    2. Dunya. Dunya. I needed this. I am at such a low point. Thank you for your honesty.

      June 17, 2018
      • Oh dear…
        Really, no matter how disorienting, honest is all we have.
        Much love to you, Vajra.

        June 17, 2018
    3. Amen!

      June 17, 2018
      • Ha! ❤️

        June 17, 2018
    4. Deda #

      Dunya Darling,
      What a lovely grappl-Ing.
      Truly all we have is our direct experience.
      This reminds me of a quote I just recently read by Tom Robbins in Skinny Legs And All (might be time for me to re-read that one!). If you’ll indulge me:

      “Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.”


      June 17, 2018
      • Pretty good quote. 😀

        June 17, 2018
    5. Charlotte Hussey #

      Recently watched Christopher Thompkins’s interview on a summit site. He is a Sanskrit scholar translating very old Tantric texts, some about the body and movement as spiritual practices of the 10th C. He talked about how in “The Means to Liberation,” or “Moksopaya,” a text he is translating, yoga was not regimented into sequences of rigidly prescribed postures, but was much like the improvised dancing !! The moves were “spiraling movements shifting from circular movement which are wide and [then] concentric.” The aim was to embody utter passion imbued with the very fluidity which is the essence of the world/universe.” One of the key words that appears over and over again in his translations is, surprise, surprise, undulation, as for example in this phrase, “one’s undulating movements are overflowing with sublimity….” The quotes are all from Thompkins handout accompanying his presentation. Also he discusses how the text explains how different emotional states were healed by different movements, mostly done by first enacting and then releasing the emotional condition. For example, a release technique for a deep depression was dancing with a sword!! This is all is so confirming that letting energy naturally flow through our body, ping ponging, etc., is a very healing path!!!

      June 18, 2018
      • Charlotte, this sounds like the work I trained in–Shattari. (A Sufi lineage originating in Persian then migrated to India 1000 years ago, so about the same time as the texts this scholar is translating.) The curvilinear dance, and breath, and fluid oscillatory stretching (a moving, improvisational yoga) I use was opened in this learning. Not so much the emotional part, though that is interesting in such an old text. What an interesting discovery, that read!
        I’m always relieved (and excited) when guidance leads away from regimented routines into spatial and temporal open-endedness, and the possibility of aligning with trajectories, gravity, and momentum more easily felt if the practitioner is not bound.

        June 18, 2018
        • charlotte #

          Yes…if I remember correctly from Thompkin’s talk, he speculated that these original spontaneous, trance-induced moves done by a teacher were mimicked by his/her students who gradually wrote them down and systematized them into postural yoga sequences.

          I am taking a Kriya yoga meditation course at the moment, and it has opened my eyes to how systematized ancient practices can become, how their complex traditional approaches can feel like a heavy weight at times. Also so many of them were developed by and for men. The other (somewhat shamanic) approach, which takes more courage and self-confidence, is to simply channel the divine in spontaneous ways that occur to you. Being somewhat plunged into my Kriya course, I feel rebellion brewing inside and a longing to figure it out for myself. As a women in her early 70s, I have another pull which says, “it is time to learn how to die and traditional yoga can teach you this.” So as you question earlier, is this latter urge about seeking some opiate, some assurance that somebody, a tradition or whatever knows what the hell is going on??

          June 27, 2018
          • How can anybody know? We all go there and do not come back. But I propose that we can intuit and perceive from within the bodyself the guidance we need. Asking deeply, and listening deeply is what path cultivates. Mostly, listening deeply. Personally, I have never felt in doubt when in my full embodied depths.

            June 27, 2018
    6. I think what you’ve just written here “justifies” the book, clarifies the book. You are writing about deity. You are clarifying yourself and beautifully. And I Bow Only to the Trees is a great title…….

      June 18, 2018
      • Karleen! That is a good title…in so many ways. Maybe ‘Dancing into the Deep’ is part of a subtitle. Who knows…But I’ve got it on tap now. Thank you!!!
        Love to you ~

        June 18, 2018
    7. Kate John #

      Thank you for this, Dunya. I love the way you use language as a means of exploration into the unknown and unknowable. It’s very inspiring for me, often feeling stuck and imprisoned by language. Expressing vulnerability and non-knowingness is the way.

      June 19, 2018
      • Kate, thank you.

        June 19, 2018
    8. Anastacia Rose #

      Yes, trees! Only trees, sister Dryad. 🙂 I love reading where you’re headed here. It’s liberating.
      And, a heart-felt, “ah!, no!” upon reading about those 100 year old beeches being cut down. Such wisdom and beauty gone.

      June 20, 2018
      • Thanks for the appreciation, and for sharing in the sadness. Dryads…what a good moniker.

        June 21, 2018
    9. Wendy #


      July 8, 2018
      • Love to you, Wendy!

        July 8, 2018

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