Maryam Mermey’s Healing Arts Blog

Heart Fire

Winterberries

Winterberry Photo by Akiba Mermey

 

Heart Fire

Heart fire in winter

Nature's creative genius

Daring to arch, bend, reach... and

inspire 

 by Maryam Mermey

 

 

Wings of Light and Shadow

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Photograph by Akiba Mermey

Wings of Light and Shadow

Fueled by illumination 

of early morning sunlight,

 to lift into sky,

called by its Nature

to open heart, spread wings 

and rise in the music,

  of light and shadow, 

the mysterious dance of flight...

by Maryam Mermey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chihuly's Blown Glass and Paintings

Chihuly at Schantz Galleries lisa vollmer photography 7370

Blown Glass By Chihuly at Schantz Galleries - Photograph By Lisa Vollmer

 

Chihuly at Schantz Galleries lisa vollmer photography 8089

Paintings By Chihuly at Schantz Galleries - Photograph By Lisa Vollmer

 

Blown Glass and Paintings

Last summer on our way to visit my Mother, we went to the Schantz Galleries in Stockbridge, MA. We were awed by the inspiring exhibit they had not only of Chihuly's blown glass but of his paintings! It turns out that his creative process is to make a spontaneous painting as a way to launch him into making a piece of blown glass. We were equally wowed by both his paintings and blown glass. What an incredible example of how one art form can ignite another artistic expression into being. I can only imagine the realizations he may have had giving birth to these amazing creations...

Heron Fairytale

 

Heron

Photo by Akiba Mermey

Heron Fairytale

Akiba took this photo at Torsey Pond in Readfield, Maine in the early morning. This image transports me to the realm of fairytales where one life form can change into another. There is a fluidity of life and spirit. The soft early morning light and golden, red hues create a warm glow. Beauty awaits us...

 

Divine Beauty

Divine Beauty

Last summer, my husband, Akiba and I went on a pilgrimage to Portugal. The brief film Pilgrimage journies through images of innocence, strength, receiving, giving, sharing, gratefulness and peace to culminate in an image of life~giving beauty. It is our hope that these images help to refresh your spirits as they did ours. As we approach Thanksgiving, may we all walk closer to the Divine Beauty described in the Native American song and dance, May I Walk With Beauty. 

May I Walk With Beauty from Dances of Universal Peace ~ the Native American Tradition ~ Divine Beauty ~

  1. ‘May I walk with beauty before me’ – Walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with arms outstretched in front of the body with upturned palms.
  2. ‘May I walk with beauty behind me’ – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with arms outstretched behind the body with palms facing down.
  3. ‘May I walk with beauty above me’ – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with arms lifted to the sky.
  4. ‘May I walk with beauty below me’ – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction as arms lower to the sides of the body with palms facing the earth.
  5. ‘May I walk with beauty’ – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with a sense of heightened beauty.
  6. Variations may include other movements expressing Divine Beauty.

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Divine Peace

Stained Glass Window of Dove

Photo by Maryam Mermey 

 

Divine Peace

Singing and dancing

in circles,

we find

our way

home.

by Maryam Mermey

 

Asalaam Aleikum is Arabic and means hello and peace be with you. The Asalaam Aleikum song and dance represent the Muslim Tradition and are part of the Dances of Universal Peace. In these turbulent times, this song and dance can help us find the Divine Peace living in our inner most home. When troubles come our way whether it is on a personal, professional and/or global level, singing and dancing Asalaam Aleikum even if it is by ourselves, can bring us to the inner sanctum of peace. Once we touch this peace, it is as if a dove flies out from our hearts as a prayer for those in need.

Asalaam Aleikum from Dances of Universal Peace ~ The Muslim Tradition ~ Divine Peace

  1. ‘Asalaam Aleikum, Aleikum Asalaam’ – Standing in a circle, raise arms as walk into the center of the circle.
  2. ‘Asalaam Aleikum, Aleikum Asalaam’ – Lower arms as walk back to the perimeter of the circle.
  3. ‘Asalaam Aleikum’- With arms lifted, spin in place to the right.
  4. ‘Aleikum Asalaam’ – With arms lifted, spin in place to the left.
  5. Repeat sequence with ever increasing joy!
  6. Variations may include stepping to the right with each repetition so as to spread Divine Peace from every possible angle. If the group is large enough, the dance may be done in concentric circles.

 

Divine Gratefulness

Norwegian Fjord
Photo by Maryam Mermey (Norwegian Fjord)

Divine Gratefulness

The focus of this blog article is on Divine Gratefulness as expressed in the Christian hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo. Many moons ago, I was stirred to choreograph a dance to the first verse of this hymn, which is part of the Dances of Universal Peace. To this day, every time I sing this song and do the dance, I feel a fjord of gratefulness open up in my heart; gratefulness for the connection to the heavens above and the earth below and the joyous beings in the circle! Gloria in excelsis Deo means praise be to God on high. It's a mysterious process how listening to the angels and the mountains sing to each other can make us feel there is a pathway through even the most difficult times. At the top of the photo above, there is an angelic presence in the form of clouds. May this angelic presence watch over all of us as we find and refind Divine Gratefulness for that which is coming into being and that which is passing away...      

Gloria in excelsis Deo choreographed by Maryam Mermey ~ From the Christian Tradition ~ Divine Gratefulness ~

  1. ‘Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing ore the sky’ - Walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with hands cupped by the ears and extending the arms in a V.
  2. ‘And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains’ - Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction with arms coming together to form a mountain peak with finger tips touching and coming apart in a pulsing motion radiating outward as an echo.
  3.  ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ – On the word “Gloria” spin to the right with outstretched arms and palms facing up, in a spirit of receiving, exuberant gratefulness. On the phrase, “in excelsis Deo” spin to the left with outstretched arms and palms facing down, in a spirit of giving, exuberant gratefulness. Repeat sequence 2x.
  4. Variations may include additional verses with movements expressing the emotions of Divine Gratefulness.

The focus of the next blog article is on Divine Peace as expressed in the song and dance Asalaam Aleikum from the Muslim Tradition.

 

Divine Receiving and Giving

Canadian Geese

Photo by Akiba Mermey

 

~ Divine Receiving and Giving ~

"From You I Receive, To You I Give", was composed by Joseph and Nathan from the Jewish Tradition. The song inspired the dance described below and is now part of the Dances of Universal Peace. Sacred Dance is a way to refresh our spirits by returning to our Divine Innocence and playful nature, which in turn fortifies us and gives us the Divine Strength to protect our true selves from harm. It is a powerful experience to stand before another human being with arms outstretched and palms facing up in a receiving position and then to turn palms facing out in a giving position. There is a sense of reverence for the Divine presence standing before us. I find this to be one of the holiest experiences of being a person. We realize this exchange of essences is what we all long for and it has nothing to do with our place in the world but everything to do with soul sharing. In the ecstasy of communion across all barriers, we join hands and rejoice that this is truly what feeds the soul. Then we spin to the next person and repeat the song and dance until we have experienced the bliss of Divine Receiving and Giving with as many people as possible. 

 

 "From You I Receive, To You I Give" from Dances of Universal Peace ~ The Jewish Tradition ~ Song by Joseph & Nathan   ~ Divine Receiving & Giving ~

  1. ‘From you I receive’ – Stand facing a partner with palms turned up in a receiving position.
  2. ‘To you I give’ – Continue facing same partner and turn palms outward in a giving position.
  3. ‘Together we share’ – Take hands across and walk in a circle in a clockwise direction.
  4. ‘From this we live’ – Let go of hands and spin to the next partner and repeat the sequence. If time allows, repeat this pattern until everyone has partnered with everyone in the group.
  5. Variations may include making individual movements expressing Divine Receiving and Giving.

Divine Strength

Waterfall

Photo by Maryam Mermey

Divine Strength

The intention and purpose of Divine Strength is to help fortify our spirit and unite our bodies, hearts, souls, and minds in the mighty effort to be true to ourselves and fulfill our callings. Sri Ram Jai Ram is a Hindu chant to which a dance was choreographed (see below) and is one of the dances of Universal Peace. Sri Ram Jai Ram means victory to Ram, the Hindu God of Strength. Like all strength, it has to be tested. According to Hindu mythology, when Ram's Beloved Sitha was kidnapped by an evil god, Ram placed his faith in Divine Strength to help him persevere through many trials and tribulations until he was finally able to rescue Sitha. There are times when we too to go through painful and at times excruciating circumstances, in order to embrace our true selves. The song and dance Sri Ram Jai Ram starts out gently streaming through our bodies, hearts, souls, minds, and spirits until the streams flow into a waterfall of energy, which cascades through our whole beings as individuals and as a group. As we return to the place of stillness from which the song and dance began, we bring our hands to our hearts. This gesture helps to assimilate the spiritual power, which lets us know that we can do whatever it takes, to embrace our true selves.

Sri Ram Jai Ram Dance from the Hindu Tradition - Divine Strength -

  1. Singing ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’ 4x – Walk in a circle in a clockwise direction with arms swinging naturally.
  2. Singing ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’ 4x - Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction as take hands and continue to allow arms to swing naturally into and out of the circle.
  3. Singing ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’ 4x – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction as cross arms in front of the body and while holding this position, take the extended hand of the person on either side and continue walking.
  4. Singing ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’ 4x – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction. In one flowing motion, let go of hands as lift crossed arms overhead gradually uncrossing arms until they are reaching to the sky and lower the hands behind the backs of neighbors and join hands. Everyone is holding hands behind each others’ backs or if arms do not reach, arms may be around each others’ backs.
  5.  Chanting “Ram” – Continue walking in a circle in a clockwise direction while holding hands behind the backs of neighbors or with arms around. Feel the presence of individual and collective Divine Strength. Can also be done facing the center of the circle with the right foot in front, rocking back and forth stamping on the right foot when chanting Ram. As the chanting gets louder so does the stamping until a peak is reached and then the volume of both sounds gradually softens until barely audible.     

May change movement phrase with each phrase of Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram (rather than singing Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram 4x before changing to the next movement phrase) once the movements are familiar. 

The next article will focus on Divine Receiving and Giving inspired by a song from the Hebrew Tradition. 

Divine Innocence

Milkweed
Photo by Akiba

Divine Innocence

Tis A Gift To Be Simple is a song and dance, which comes from the Shakers and is part of the repertoire of Dances of Universal Peace. I have shared this song and dance with all ages from the very young to Elders and it always evokes Divine Innocence. By Divine Innocence, I mean the kind of purity seen in the photo of the milkweed pod bursting with pure innocence and celebration! Divine Innocence is the birth of the new born soul, which can happen throughout life. As human beings, when we are hurt, it is our innocence which is hurt. Our innocence feels betrayed in some way; whether it be in a relationship with others, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with work, community, the world, and/or the Creator, it makes sense to return to the place which has been hurt for healing. Returning to Divine Innocence through singing and dancing these childlike movements offers refreshment to the weary soul and guidance on how to restore our Divine Innocence. "In the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, "The sage is the one who keeps the child's heart and mind" (Cohen, 1997, p.75). This is also reflected in brain research that music is not just confined to one area of the brain but has centers throughout the brain. When singing and dancing are integrated with a focus on Divine Innocence, the right half of the brain is singing in concert with the left half of the brain as images and emotions dance together with words and purpose. 

The following paragraphs go through the psychological and spiritual guidance offered by the words and movements to Tis A Gift to be Simple. Emotional and spiritual health are really one and the same as psyche originally comes from the Greek and means soul, life, and breath and singing and dancing are wonderful ways to invigorate the whole psyche. In the first movement phrase we are simply swinging our arms while holding hands in a circle, which many of us did as children but as adults there is a consciousness of how liberating it is to be connected with others in the joy of moving in rhythm together. It is a gift to kneel or bend our knees and sense the humility and relief of being part of something so much grander than ourselves, Mother Earth. In bringing the palms of our hands together at our hearts, we can feel that we are part of the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

In the second movement phrase, the swaying motion is a soothing motion as when a Mother sways from side-to-side holding her baby and is known to offer balance to the emotions during distress. Opening the hands and raising the arms up and out in a V shape not only gets the blood circulating by bringing oxygen and nutrients to the heart and lungs, but it lifts our spirits and helps align us with the souce of Divine Innocence.

In the third movement phrase, sometimes there is so much joy people spontaneously begin to skip. Whether we are walking or skipping, when we bow forward we are bowing before our Divine Innocence, and this may mean clearing the way to this purity by offering forgiveness, asking for forgiveness or both. This may be the most difficult part of returning to Divine Innocence but it is vital to the next movement and stage. We can only bend back in exaltation to the extent we have bent forward. Freeing our conscience, allows us to be fully open to Divine Innocence infusing our hearts.

In the fourth and final movement phrase, we feel the exhilaration and revelation of feeling one with Divine Innocence. We spin or turn in harmony with the universe.

  1. ‘Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we want to be’ - In a circle hold hands and walk in a clockwise direction swinging arms into and out of the center of the circle beginning with the right foot. On the word “down” turn and face the center of the circle and either come to a kneeling position on the floor or if this is not possible, bend the knees and bounce placing the hands in the prayer position at the heart.
  2. ‘and when we have come down to the place just right, we will be in the valley of love and delight’ - While swaying from side to side in time with the rhythm of the song, on the phrase ‘love and delight’ open the hands and lift the arms in a V.
  3.  ‘When the true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed’ - Resume walking in a circle in a clockwise direction freely swinging the arms, (not holding hands) and on the word “bow” gently bend forward and on the word “bend” gently bend backwards.
  4. ‘To turn and turn it will be our delight, till by turning and turning we come round right’ – Turn or spin to the right with arms outstretched in a V.
  5. The whole dance may be repeated with skipping, jogging, walking slowly etc. or with combinations of movements and at different tempos.

The next article discusses how the song and dance Sri Ram Jai Ram from the Hindu tradition, inspires the embodyment of Divine Strength.   

 

References:

Cohen, K., p.75 (1997) The Way of Qigong. New York and Toronto, Canada: Ballentine Book Published by The Random House Publishing Group.

 

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Sacred Dances

Exaltation
Photo by Akiba Mermey

 Sacred Dances

Expressive Arts Therapy and Spirituality was the name of the workshop I offered as part of the "Creative Health 3rd Annual Conference for therapists, medical professionals, and caregivers to learn about the uses of Creative Arts Therapies in healthcare" put on by Maine Music and Health. This is the first of a series of blogs on the Sacred Dances we shared in the workshop and their divine and healing qualities. Today's blog is designed to give an overview of the workshop. Each of the following blogs are dedicated to the particular divine quality offered by each dance and its contribution to the journey of healing. There is a Jewish story that after taking much time to earnestly search through the bounty of Jewish laws, the essence of Judaism  can be expressed in these three laws: 1) Self~reverence, 2) A tender heart, and 3) Beneficent Deeds. These profound qualities also beautifully and powerfully express the goals of emotional and spiritual wholeness and the intention of the progression of Sacred Dances chosen for the Expressive Arts Therapy and Spirituality workshop.

I'm grateful to my husband for the use of the above photo, as it perfectly expresses the energy of exhilaration generated by the 29 people who participated in Sacred Dances from diverse spiritual traditions. The photo shows the illumination and awakening I saw in people's faces and countenances as they embodied the divine qualities in the series of dances and added their own spirited movement improvisations. The Sacred Dances come from the Dances of Universal Peace as a way to both honor and bring together people from different faith traditions through the universal language of dance. I can attest to the power of these dances to make soulful connections among people from religions which have a history of conflict. After I graduated from college, many moons ago, I went to Israel with a performing group called Pageants of Universal Peace and we did these dances at holy sites with Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druids, Sikhs, Shepherds as well as people from other beliefs and walks in life. The far reaching expressions of joy crossed the divide of distinctions and differences and there was peace in our Sacred Circle.

The following are some quotes from people who participated in the Expressive Arts Therapy and Spirituality workshop:

"Uplifting & energizing! A great way for this busy graduate student to reconnect with my body." Lisa Jade

"- A truly worthwhile experience - I liked your mix of different faiths. I got a lot out of the experience." Greg Stanen

"The workshop you did yesterday was wonderful !
I think you could also see that everyone in the group was "glowing", smiling ...during and when they left.
Your talent at making people feel valued and welcome is very evident.
The dancing was lots of fun..." Nancy Lagin

The focus for the next blog is the Sacred Dance, Tis A Gift To Be Simple from the Shaker tradition and how it inspires the quality of Divine Innocence, the first step towards healing.

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Norway Miracle

This is a rainbow as seen through a train window in Norway in the summer of 2014. It reminds me of the following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Around us life bursts with miracles.
If we live in awareness,
it is easy to see miracles everywhere."

2014 07 20 16.43.17

© 2007 - 2018 Maryam Mermey and The Transformative Arts