By Kathleen McKevitt – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
If you’re interested in doing something fun, beautiful and interesting that has a shot helping to usher in a more peaceful world, the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) is one such opportunity.
Founded in the 1970’s by Samuel L. Lewis, who believed the combined experience of eating, dancing and prayer would grow and touch lives in every corner on the Earth, DUP almost has.
The organization has spread to every continent but China, with over 1,200 dance leaders. And, according to those affiliated with the organization, it’s growing.
Lewis was born in 1896 and died at 75 years old. He was considered an American mystic and was also known as Murshid, which in Arabic means exalted teacher.
He was born to rather infamous Jewish parents. His mother was Lenore Rothschild of the famous international banking family, and his father, Jacob Lewis, was vice president of Levi Strauss manufacturing company.
Instead of growing up an elitist, his interests were in religion and spirituality from an early age. And while he studied mathematics at Columbia University in 1916, he was greatly influenced by Hasrat Inayat Khan, a now famous Indian Sufi teacher and author, and went on to study Zen Buddhism, Sufism, and Christianity in far-reaching locations, for most of his life.
Lewis claimed after a heart attack in 1967, he heard the voice of God tell him he should become the spiritual leader of the hippies. Today, when asked if people now participating in Dances of Universal Peace are mostly older hippies, Sky Mijida, dance leader, laughed and said, “People who frequent DUP are priests, scholars, doctors, nurses, scientists, farmers and children of all ages who just believe there is a way to peace and peace is an inside job.”
Jan. 5 in Tecopa, Calif., roughly 40 minutes from Pahrump, and under a bright yellow tent, a collection of dancers from California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada came with violin, guitar and drum and 30-plus dancers to move and sing words of peace for three days.
Majida, also regional leader for the western region of DUP in the U.S., said the dances have the effect of getting the racing non-productive mind out of the way to allow affirmations, prayers and thoughts of ease and peace to become one’s reality — if for only three days.
But, after practicing the eat, dance, pray routinely for many years, Majida believes the activity has a lasting effect for her and for others who participate. “We take this into the world and hope it continues to make a difference,” she said.
When asked if this organization was more for hippies and yuppies, Majida said the opposite is actually the case, with youth finding DUP not only fulfilling as a kind of family experience and opportunity to do something that matters, but entire young families are also finding that it works for them either instead of or in addition to a religious practice.
People who have never associated with Dances of Universal Peace can attend for the first time, learn the dances and music, and from that point join a group near them or create one in their home location.
From southern Arizona to Canada and from California to New England and all parts in between, Dances of Universal Peace are occurring.
The next closest venue for people from Nevada is Lake Cachuma, near Santa Barbara, Calif., during Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend Jan. 19.
Majida said, “People generally travel across state lines for dances. They come to meet new people, to learn the dances, to associate and to do what they can for peace — theirs’ and the world’s.”
There are DUP organizations in Pahrump, Las Vegas and other nearby locations in Nevada and Utah, all of which can be found on dancesofuniversalpeace.com website.