In step with everything being so different in the last twelve months, this year is marked by the event of the first virtual Leaders’ Guild Retreat the Guidance Panel has ever organised. Whether it will also be the last remains to be seen.
After nearly a whole year of no camps, dance groups or other weekend retreats, there had grown a deep yearning to connect again for a lot of members of the LG, to see each other and to reach out, albeit in a virtual but no less heartfelt space.
Thus from Friday the 28th in the evening to the afternoon of Sunday the 31st of January we met in a zoom room for a retreat under the aptly named theme “Resilience in Troubled Times”.
We had invited contributions from all mentors of the LG as is traditional for our in-person annual weekend, but also with the possibility of offering standalone sessions throughout the year for those mentors who could not join us.
Within this time frame we had 5 sessions with each module being held by one of the GP with an opening practice, chant or dance.
In the mentors’ space we were gifted with one or two beautiful dances, a meditative practice and a sharing space. Also a lovely rounding off by other leaders with contributions of poems, songs and dances.
The GP also arranged for a longer sharing session on Saturday evening, where we split into 3 groups to discuss the themes of the Dances in a pandemic, inclusivity within the Dances and cultural appropriation.
Not to forget an impromptu lunch meeting for informal chatting!
Some of us had already become seasoned zoom surfers, while for others it was their very first virtual experience, but I think from which ever place on the spectrum we came, we could draw something from the well of richness, creativity and love thus shared in this little bubble of togetherness.
It was altogether so wonderful see each other, to make sure we are still “there” even without touching, to share our experiences of the past year and especially to see those of us who cannot normally make a physical retreat.
Our 2020 retreat was again, a very enriching and inspiring event. This time in Yorkshire at the Briery Retreat Centre Ilkley; a very nice venue with two beautiful group spaces, comfortable beds and lovely food!
The theme of the retreat was the Walks; we delved in with sessions on centres, elements, planetary, tasawwuri and wazifa. It was a precious opportunity to be reminded of and deepen in these powerful and useful practices and how they can enrich our dance leading and lives.
We also had time to dance! Everyone had the opportunity to lead and it was a beautiful, heart warming mix of our different styles and energy.
Our international participant, Ernesto from Mexico, now living and dancing in Istanbul, gave an inspiring talk about the ‘DUP Beyond Project’ an initiative to bring the dances to under-privileged countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. It was very interesting to get this wider perspective.
The energy swelled as the full moon shone down on us, and there was a real sense of fullness by the end of the retreat; inspiration for our dance leading, new and deepening connections with each other, ideas for new ways to work with the dances and ways we can collaborate and support each other. And perhaps above all, a real appreciation of being able to come together in person, hold hands, eat, dance, pray, and enjoy our loving community.
Our heartfelt appreciation and thanks were given to Guidance Panel members and Administrator who are now stepping down from these roles, Jilani, Shamsia, Shamsuddin and Stella and for their years of dedicated service to the Leaders Guild and for making this retreat possible.
An unexpected end was provided by Storm Ciara, as she swept across the country disrupting our travel plans; lifts were given, beds offered, and we all flowed beautifully with our predicament!
Some words from participants..
I enjoyed the morning practice and all the dances and I felt very safe and free
I loved spending time with everyone
I loved experiencing the depth of attunement of the leaders and dancers, feeling part of a spiritual dance community
I got a deeper sense of how the Guild can support leaders
I loved the co-creative programme- lovely balance of including us all
The full programme covered a useful range of DUP aspects.
Company, openness, awareness, connecting
Support from peers
Gaining confidence in leading,
Lovely place and facilities
Thank you all so much for all the energy and love you brought to the weekend !
Love and Peace
Come and join us (Sarah Bonner-Morgan and Jenny Williams) as we lead a day of Aramaic chant and simple devotional movement as part of the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace (MESP).
Over Friday evening and Saturday all ten Beatitudes will be taught and ‘tasted’ combining the sounds of the original words as they were spoken with the refreshing and expanded translations from Saadi (Neil Douglas-Klotz abwoon.org).
Links to hear the words and melodies below.
Come for all or part of this journey to experience the essence of these Blessings; the life force that continues to bring healing. We will travel deeply into the sounds and vibrations of the original Aramaic language and there will be spaces for silence and reflection.
On our journey through the Beatitudes we are encouraged to reestablish our breath as central, give space for any confused or mourning parts of us to feel heard, soften our bodies and hearts back into natural rhythm, reunite our inner conflicted and warring parts and allow our natural compassion and joy to radiate back into the world. We come home to ourselves.
You are welcome whether you have experience of this work or you are brand new. We suggest if this Beatitude cycle is completely new to you, that you start with the first three Beatitudes on Friday evening – otherwise follow your heart and come when you can. Feel free to bring food to share for lunch if you are coming on Saturday and perhaps a blanket and/or cushion for quiet sitting.
Facilitators: Sarah Bonner-Morgan and Jenny Williams.
Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Dates: Friday 20 March and Saturday 21 March 2020.
Attend all sessions: £40/£32 (concessions)/£12 (students)
Friday Evening: 6pm-8.45pm (registration 5.30pm) £10/£8/£3
Saturday Day: 10am-4pm. (registration 9.30am) £25/£20/£10
Sat Evening: 4.45pm-7.30pm (registration 4.15pm) £10/£8/£3
Jenny Williams is a Church of Scotland minister currently working in Drylaw Parish Church in Edinburgh. “I have been involved with this Aramaic work for over 20 years and have found it inspiring; supporting my faith, and discovering new ways of expressing ancient truths. It links with my interest in healing, neuroscience and my childhood passion for dance.”
Sarah Bonner-Morgan teaches the Alexander Technique in Edinburgh. “I found my way to the Sufi path via a love of poetry, dance and music and deepened my connection to the Aramaic work of Neil Douglas-Klotz through his visionary Inter-Spiritual Leadership Training (AILP) which I completed in 2013.”
Here is a link to the EICSP booking page:
Or for a Registration Form:
Contact: Neill Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0131 331 4469.
Here is a youtube link to Saadi singing the Beatitudes as a taster or to get to know the melodies and sounds of the words before the workshop .
The Aramaic words of the Beatitudes (and the Lord’s Prayer) with the contemporary and multi-layered translations by Neil Douglas-Klotz can be found in his book Prayers of the Cosmos: