Impressions from the Charlottesville Joint Camp

Hello, my friends,

Last weekend was the Mid-Atlantic Sufi gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, jointly sponsored by the Ruhaniat and the Sufi Order. Perhaps 120 people, including 20 kids and teenagers, attended. The location was a campsite in the woods, somewhat comparable to the Abode campsite, though more built up. Asha Greer of the Ruhaniat and Rabia Povich of the SO were camp directors.

All the sessions were led by local leaders, with no one imported from the outside. Well, you could count Latifa Till, who coordinated the dances and led many of them, with a grace and graciousness outstanding even by Ruhaniat standards, as imported from Venus, Saul as imported from Pluto, Yasmin from the fifth angelic plane, Munawir from Uranus, Zarifah from the heart of the world, and Asha from Earth, and so on. Clearly the local leaders had a chance to step forward with Other Major Leaders from other areas not being present.

Here’s an example of what we did. Taking Murshid’s teaching on the Five Aspects of Prayer, from Volume 9, which Pir Zia has been stressing so much, we worked with the writings, meditated on them, and did dances that expressed them. The idea was to combine the approaches of the SO (sitting?) and the Ruhaniat (moving?). I loved this plan so much; it was truly a cute idea. There was lots of music, which I’m sure Murshid would have enjoyed.

A high point for me was the Zikr on Sat. night. This included a standing, moving, singing Zikr, somewhat similar to Zuleikha’s choreographed versions, with clear influence from Sherif Baba and Pir Shabda. It was started by Yasmin but then Latifa and Asha also were directing it somehow. This one piece lasted, say, 45 minutes and to me felt like the culmination of 1400 — or is it 14,000? — years of this sacred practice.

A large majority was from the Ruhaniat and Dance Network, and they provided virtually all the many volunteers needed for such a camp. The cooperation seemed to be flawless, though from day 1 of the planning a key question was how much dancing to do, with the Sufi Order wanting more time for classes and meditation, the Ruhaniat wanting more dancing. One person especially dedicated to the dances told me that three hours without interruption creates an atmosphere that is incomparable. I think I under stood that just from the long Zikr/Dance we did.

Saul and I led a men’s class together. Those of you who know us may not think we are the obvious pair, but we are very close and it went well. (I think Saul is what my father could have been if he “would be what he should be,” while my father was like an extroverted version of Saul). Saul does men’s classes with chants and walks and practices and no discussion, while mine are based on the observation that men, out of courtesy and respect, don’t feel able to talk freely when women are present — so we just talked. He led half and I led half. Details are not available.

I very much enjoyed the subtle differences in attunement between the two groups and the value of the interchange. We have much we can learn from each other. And I remain convinced that the main difference is that the Ruhaniats, as dancers and walkers, know how to keep two feet on the ground, while in the Sufi Order we like one foot on the ground–at most.

Love and blessings to you,

Washington, DC, USA