Beloved Ones of God,
In the ongoing work of the biography on Murshid Samuel Lewis, for the last month I have been enmeshed in March of 1925 when he took a 12-day solitary spiritual retreat on land in Fairfax, California belonging to Murshida Rabia Martin. It was one of the major turning points of his life.
Going into this retreat, on the positive side he had been prepared for this by several years of practice in meditation learned from his Buddhist teachers Rev. Kirby and Nyogen Senzaki, and by instruction from Murshida Martin. He had also received a powerful blessing from Hazrat Inayat Khan in 1923 when he took initiation from him.
However, on the negative side, he had been physically sick, in great pain, and doctors had not been able to help him. The atmosphere in the family home where he lived was extremely tense, like a war zone. For several years his parents had refused to speak directly to each other. His presence was resented. He believed he was having a physical and emotional breakdown and wanted to go into the woods and die. When he consulted Mrs. Martin she offered a space on her land, gave him a diet and some spiritual practices and a volume with translations of the great Sufi poet Hafiz of Shiraz.
In the course of this retreat, from the moment when he fell from exhaustion as he reached the destination, it was a time of shedding stress, opening to the beautiful views of Hafiz and seeing beauty about him. He had a series of tremendous inner breakthroughs, including a visitation on several occasions of Khwaja Khidr, the legendary immortal Sufi guide, who gave him the blessings of poetry. After this he began to write and kept up an amazing pace for the next 46 years. Further blessings came in the form of music and dance.
After the retreat Samuel Lewis' health was fully restored. His attitude toward himself was transformed and positive, as he found a grand reservoir of goodness within, which he could share. One short poem expressed his transformation with a childlike image. He called it "The Maypole":
"What a source of happiness the maypole is: What joy it brings to children! No competition here, but each for all and all for each, all pulling together. Grab a ring, let’s start, hold on tight and run!
Just a little and then you swing up in the air and out into space, going ‘round and ‘round, up and down, every now and then touching the earth, every now and then rising upward toward the sky.
Self is forgot—you are not several souls joining in a game, you are part of one whole. If but one of you try breaking this charm, ‘tis broken and ‘tis known by all. So all keep in harmony, swinging in rhythm.
Come, brethren, let’s join in the Maypole of Life. Forget yourself and seize this ring He has given to you. ‘Twill bring you peace and happiness inconceivable. We are going to start—come and join us, rising and falling together in the Cosmic Dance!" --The Diwan of Samuel Lewis, March 17, 1925
Some forty-five years later at the Garden of Inayat, a Sufi Khankah founded by Murshid Sam along with a group of his close disciples in Novato, CA, he choreographed a grand ceremony of the Maypole, using long colored banners on a tall decorated pole. His many students were all invited to participate in this circling way of joyful merging into oneness, holding their banners. They did numerable dances honoring the world's spiritual traditions.
By this time, Murshid Sam had found a fresh methodology of group practice to launch the cosmic dance of unity in the world. He called it the Dances of Universal Peace. Throughout the 45 years that had passed, he had never forgotten about his poem.
Love and Blessings,