– come and dance with us in Edinburgh!
by Fateah Alice Saunders (Oct 2013)
Some of you may recall previous mention of the Salisbury Centre (SC) in Edinburgh where, over the years, there have been attempts to establish a regular DUP group, first by Saadi, Kamae and myself, soon after we moved to Edinburgh from Dorset in 1999 and later by me when Saadi and Kamae had to drop out due to their extensive travelling. Often there were snags and difficulties which seemed to stem from the Centre itself and were unavoidable – the way it was run, changes of staff, internal disagreements etc. etc. After many years, from a personal point of view as a DUP and Sufi teacher, I began to find it more rewarding to turn my attention to other parts of Scotland and overseas.
Following yet another year of such troubles, and after considering various options including that of selling, the SC trustees finally came to the decision, in the summer of 2012, to close. A generous donation enabled them to retain the building for at least 6 more months to allow a quiet time of re-visioning and trust in the Cosmos to reveal what future steps to take. Volunteers and well wishers (among them Clare Cummings) were recruited to spring-clean and clear clutter in preparation for a closing ceremony in July 2012, in the form of a celebration of past and future – 40 years of service and a looking-ahead with hope and optimism.
It was at this stage that I became involved with the SC again. To my surprise and delight I was asked to lead an hour of DUP at the closing ceremony, and it slowly began to dawn on me that the trustees valued the Dances partly because of my long association with the Centre, and partly because one of their number at that time was Malika Evans.
During the week before the ceremony, things suddenly began to move fast and in a new direction. A room in the roof-space was opened up for the first time in years. Full of discarded clutter and rubbish, it was discovered to be the original meditation room. Even more exciting was the news that papers had been found stating the vision, intentions and decisions of the first trustees. And more exciting still was the discovery that Hazrat Inayat Khan had been an important inspiration to the original trustees, and they had even taken the decision to begin all events at the Centre with the words of his Sufi Invocation.
Seizing the opportunity I enquired if I might include some simple Sufi practices with DUP at the closing ceremony, and found this suggestion welcomed with open arms.
The last Sunday afternoon in July 2012 will always remain in my memory. Crowds of people filled the building. The trustees had invited as many people as possible with previous involvement with the SC during its 40-year life. People were greeting each other with joy and excitement, maybe not having seen each other for 10, 20 or more years. Someone had returned from the US especially for the event. Another had come from Sussex. Two of the original trustees were present. There was a buzz of lively conversation, full of support for the decisions of the current trustees, and full of positivity about the future.
Congregating upstairs in two large and somewhat squashed concentric circles in the group room, we were led in meditation by one of the trustees who started the proceedings with – the Sufi Invocation! Happily I joined in, as did one other.
Then came a wonderful sharing of stories, memories and hopes for the future, followed by the time allocated to dancing. We started with HIK’s healing breath practices, then a few Dances, ending with one containing HIK’s words “Thy Light is in All Forms”. Although I’d invited people to sit at any time if they preferred, it was heart-warming to see everyone without exception stand and join in everything, no matter how white their hair or how dependent on a walking stick. A sense of purpose and unity pervaded the whole afternoon. I felt real joy in being part of this – and renewed hope in my heart that the SC might somehow become the Sufi centre in Edinburgh I had hoped for and dreamed about for years.
In the weeks and months following the closure ceremony, e-mails gradually began to arrive from the SC about new happenings. The trustees, realizing that the vision of the original trustees had become lost over time were keen to restore that vision, and to offer the SC once more as a haven of meditation and spirituality in the busy city of Edinburgh. They re-started the daily early morning and late afternoon drop-in silent meditations and I was given the opportunity to commit to one of these as a leader. Initially glad to accept, I was soon confronted with a problem: the trustees had developed their own, slightly-altered version of the Sufi Invocation, and expected me to say this as a prelude to the meditation sessions. Believing Hazrat Inayat Khan had asked that his words be not changed, I felt unable to comply, and turned down the invitation.
However, still feeling positive and hopeful about future developments. I didn’t want to isolate myself from the SC, so started going to some of the early meditation sessions as a participant (saying HIK’s words under my breath!), rather than a leader. I’ve also become an associate member, whose job it is to meet with other associates 3 times a year and give guidance to the trustees about various matters (in my case Sufism).
In early summer, during long discussions with one of the trustees, I sounded out the possibility of leading DUP at the SC regularly again – and was told the trustees would greatly welcome that, seeing it as a connection with the Centre’s roots. To me, this seemed like a once-and-for-all opportunity, so I sent a plea to local Ruhaniat Sufis and long-time dancers, asking people what commitment they could make to regular sessions – if any – and appealing for support. The response was excellent – really positive. And so 5 sessions were held on Thursday evenings, well-attended and ending with enthusiasm for continuing after the summer break.
So there was further discussion with one of the trustees, when I enthused about DUP sessions as a long-term commitment in which several members of our Sufi community were interested, and that I wanted to involve two of my DUP teacher colleagues in the leadership. The trustees had kindly kept free Thursday evenings from September on, so that we had the choice of weekly, fortnightly or monthly sessions on the same evening as in the summer. And, to support the group’s continuance, the trustees were happy to reduce their hourly charge so we would now be paying £30 per night instead of the previous £40. On the spur of the moment I asked if a regular Sufi meditation session would also be acceptable, which resulted in my being offered the free use of one of the meditation rooms twice a month for a Sufi Healing Hour, in which I’m including the Healing Ritual of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
All of this started in September, during the second and fourth weeks of the month – Sufi Healing Hour on Wednesdays and DUP on Thursdays – and dates have just been confirmed for January through to Easter.
Details can be seen on the Salisbury Centre website: www.salisburycentre.org
On Thursday evenings Jenny Williams, Dominic Ashmole or Fateah lead the Dances – additional music is sometimes provided by Sarah Bonner-Morgan drumming, and Clare Cummings playing flute.
Both these ongoing events are supported by the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace: www.eicsp.org
Someone commented to me only the other day: “This feels like community now”.
It does to me too – and I believe it’s the sense of purpose, the feeling of commitment – that together we can provide something that people seem to want and that we are visibly taking pleasure in our own growth and each other’s abilities. Its wonderful to know at last that, even if no-one else turns up to dance, there are enough Ruhaniat Sufis living in Edinburgh to take hands and form a viable dancing circle.