Sultana's invitation promised an "unforgettable journey initiated through dance, music, art, poetry, ritual, mythology, affirmation, meditation and prayer...in the breathtaking beauty and majestic embrace of Maui."
|Maui, February 1998: yours truly with my Guru, my mentor, my lifelong friend,|
MIMI in her Egyptian Priestess attire complete with the wings of Goddess Isis
who along with the inspiration & protection of Goddess Hathor,
I enjoy oso many blessings
Sultana and Safiya Al-Nour offered classes in dramatic and elegant dance as a healing art . The special guest teachers included world-class performing artists: Omar Faruk Tekbilek, heavenly mystic and master musician; his lovely wife Suzan, who shared authentic Turkish dance with us; Aisha Ali, who offered North African Tribal Dance as well as lovely choreography to "Raks Tahia," music composed for the legendary Tahia Carioca; and Mimi Janislawski, who has traveled a unique path to her chosen career as an exponent of Bharatanatyam.
THE SUPREME MOST INFLUENTIAL
In the beautifully transformed space at the rustic oceanside property of Camp Keanae, nestled high on the cliffs above the Keanae Peninsula, participants found the main dance space a glow with candlelight. Sultana welcomed us, opening the camp with a beautiful prayer ceremony. A traditional Hawaiian ancestral welcome followed thus blessing the space as a sanctuary of love and light.
We then gathered together for a superb meal in the dining hall and into the night we enjoyed music by a campfire light.
Resting in the bunk of our cabin I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the shore line washing a healing sound over me. It rained almost every night which I found to be personally symbolic as well - all part of a cleansing ritual, washing away the high speed pace of the nineties lifestyle, slowing me down to listen to the creator within.
At that morning's class Mimi Janislawski, our Classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance instructor, began teaching us a flower offering with great attention to our posture and focus. As I practiced the exercise my focus became a beautiful red ginger plant and I was flooded with appreciation feeling the glorious natural wonder of Maui all around me.
Following Mimi's class Sultana led a relaxation and stretching session accompanied by Don V. Lax, a violin virtuoso, whose presence also graced this retreat. Their divinely inspired collaboration touched my heart strings bringing tears of gratitude to my eyes.
That night at dinner I had the good fortune to be seated next to Suzy and Faruk who were talking with Mimi. Faruk told his tale of being a professional musician during his youth in Turkey but that when he came to the United States could only play his music on weekends while working to support his family as a presser in a taylor factory. At first it seemed oppressive but then he got the coat pressing down to a 9/8 rhythm! Put the coat this way was "1" then flip it over "2", this side "3" and so on. The big machine had an F tone and other machines other tones that he vocalized with. This is when he began to realize what a gift from God he had.
anywhere and everywhere.
After dinner we were blessed with a heartfelt scholarly lecture presentation by Patricia Rife, University of Hawaii professor, on the spiritual life and times of Jelalludin Rumi, the 13th century mystic/poet whose escatic turning towards Allah was the inspirational founding of the "Whirling Dervishs" in the Mevlevi Order. She explained the five very different Sufi orders and how their practices all relate to the Quran and Islamic practice of zikr - chanting prayers to God. Slides of historical woodblocks and lithographs of the dervishes in Turkey and the Middle East complemented her insightful talk in praise and remembrance of Rumi's wonderful "enlightment" by the dervish Shams of Tabris. We were encouraged to read Rumi's 13 volumes: "Come, come, whoever you are!" Patricia is a pioneering female Sufi who has broken through traditional barriers in her own spiritual quest.
The next morning while having breakfast we were treated to a whale swimming merrily along in the waters just beyond the Keanae peninsula. It was a bright sunny morning with a gentle tropical breeze wafting through the palms and ti leaves. We delighted in her greetings! On an excursion outside the camp another participant witnessed a whale rolling on her back slapping her flippers, then rolling on her tummy slapping her tail and then twirling up in the air! Everytime Blue Mountain of Ahimsa Sanctuary Farm played his pennywhistle she jumped up to see who was playing for her.
Day Four's morning class with Mimi began with our watching and following as she presented her choreography to Hymn to the Goddess, excerpts from The Saundarya-Lahari Tantra by Sri Shamkara-Bhagavatpeda (8th Century).
radiant as moonlight luster."
So beautiful, so cosmic and so expertly taught by this woman - the manifestation of excellence who has perfected her performance art and mastered her craft of teaching.
At lunch Darryn Songbird, one of the camp's participants and a fine musician and storyteller, told a lovely tale of the Goddess and Buddha and Mimi spontaneously interpreted it through mudras and pantomime. For those of us who had quietly gathered around it was quite a magical moment.
That afternoon a gentle breeze blew as the musical strains of Priyo's guitar caressed the wind. The guitar music was then blended with Don's violin and it just really could not have been more heavenly: A beautiful view, pleasant temperature, and the music of two masterful musicians swirling all around me. I succumbed and went into the otherwise vacated space. I danced with a free spirit allowing the music to flow through me and all around me.
Every night the campfire glowed. Mystical flute melodies, pulsing dumbecs, and ringing finger cymbals rose high above the cliffs creating an experience that will be forever imbedded in my heart/mind.
Being in Maui in the company of master dancers and musicians touched me very deeply and most profoundly. Coupled with the sound of the waves and the tropical breezes I felt as though I was floating in the cosmic ocean.
It was at this retreat I made friends with the lovely Mirayah Delamar who along with her husband and children had just relocated to the Maui and I have had the privilege to behold their Maui Sacred Earth vision she and her husband held in their hearts become a reality! A lovely dancer named Shakina displayed her artful batiks in our dining hall, where I might add we had one delicious dinner after another. On my last day at camp one of her pieces symbolically found its way to me - a woman rising from Maui's turquoise waters swirling amidst hearts and stars under the crescent moon.
Participating in an event like this provided the opportunity to internalize the music and rhythms. Connecting to these traditions steeped in antiquity I advanced to deeper levels of self-expression.
Sultana Al-Nour gathered together so many beautiful, talented, generous people, I consider it an honor and a blessing to have been counted among them.
*Romeo and I became good friends and remained connected over the years until his untimely passing in October 2014 ....I am blessed beyond measure to have counted Romeo among my dearest friends. I am comforted to know his light now shines amidst the stars.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory
and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment,
and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you
and hold up my lamp