Spiritual Directors International

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SDI Multi-faith Pilgrimage: Experience Indigenous Ceremony, celebrate with Sufi Dance, and explore a Sacred Hindu Temple
Monday, 24 April 2017
8:15 a.m.–6:00 p.m.


Please join us for a pilgrimage to build connections within a community of understanding. You will be guided through sacred sites, embodied historical reflections, and engaging spiritual practices. The 2017 SDI Pilgrimage Day will offer participants a retreat day as an interior pilgrimage as much as an exterior pilgrimage. We aim to arrive to a place of more deeply understanding how we and those we journey with experience the Divine. Information and activity will be interspersed with periods of silence.

Together, we will explore three distinct expressions of spirituality: Indigenous, Sufi, and Hindu. We begin our journey by grounding ourselves in this place called Toronto (Iroquois name) on the shore of Lake Ontario, with an Indigenous Sunrise Ceremony. In an open space of wood and light, we will learn about indigenous history, spirituality, and healing. After we feast, we will be invited to learn about and engage in the Sufi Dances of Universal Peace. Finally, we will visit one of Canada most unique Hindu Temples made entirely of hand-carved marble and stone.

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Pilgrimage USD$175

Cost includes transportation and midday meal.

Details of the Pilgrimage

Our morning will begin with a journey to Lake Ontario, in Toronto’s beautiful Beach Neighbourhood, where we will be led in ceremony by an Indigenous Cree Elder, Blu Waters; Anishinaabe Pipe Carrier, Reverend Evan Smith, from Toronto Urban Native Ministry*; and Evan's Oshkaabewis (ceremonial attendant), Jess Swance. Together, we will connect with the elements and the directions by participating in a Sunrise Ceremony, a traditional way of welcoming the morning.

Following that, we will travel to the New Beach United Church, one of the greenest church buildings in the city with its 180 solar panels. In this sunlit space, the group will participate in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, a powerful, experiential journey through the history of the many and varied indigenous nations of Canada, so that we can begin to embody the deep significance of the spiritual practices we share together.

The Canadian KAIROS Blanket Exercise was developed in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which recommended education on Canadian-Indigenous history as one of ninety-four action recommendations for reconciliation. The Blanket Exercise participants take on the roles of Indigenous peoples in Canada, standing on blankets that represent the land. In this way, we move through periods of pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization, and resistance. A facilitator will direct the movement of participants as narrators read historically accurate quotes. Through this process and a debriefing circle, we will develop an embodied understanding of the impacts of colonization. From this place of deeper awareness, we will be invited to join in sacred traditions of the feast.

The group will be led in ceremony to begin a traditional Anishnabe feast, provided by NishDish, a First Nations owned and operated catering company. As stated on their website, “for the Anishnabe, food is ceremony and conscious celebration brings us more than nourishment of the body.”

They describe their meals in this way:

When the community comes together wiisnid (to eat), no matter how humble the food is, it is our feast, and we give thanks for what is provided. This is the most basic way to share, support each other, and inspire learning. We ask our Elders to say the opening ceremony prayer. We greet our ancestors, smudge together, smudge the food, and create a spirit plate for our ancestors… We drum, we sing, and we dance in celebration of our lives and show thanks for all that is provided to us. Most important of all, we baapid (laugh) together.

During the lunch break, we will create an altar to honour the Divine in its many expressions. Participants are invited to bring an object or image to place on the altar, for example, pictures of lost loved ones, teachers, sacred objects, or items that want energizing.

In the early part of the afternoon, we will collectively gather together in the Dances of Universal Peace, a spiritual practice rooted in the Sufi tradition, that also draws on the sacred phrases, scripture, and poetry of the many spiritual traditions from around the world. Pilgrims will be invited to participate through movement or stillness. The dance/walking practices blend chant, live music, and evocative movement into a living experience of unity, peace, and integration. Through this communal process, we can deepen our connection with those of diverse faith traditions with a vivid awareness of the unity we share in the ultimate experience of the Holy.

Habib, a member of the Sufi Order of the West, will lead the dances with his drumming. Habib has led Dances of Universal Peace since the mid-seventies. We will join in three dances including a First Nations dance about walking a path and setting dreams in motion and a Hindu dance of adoration. We will conclude with a blessing dance based on the words of Inayat Kahn, who brought Sufi teachings to the West: "Thy light is in all forms, thy love in all beings."

As we enter the final leg of our pilgrimage, we will be invited to explore Canada’s most unique Hindu Temple, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. A Mandir, H.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj explains, is a place “of paramount peace … to realize God.”

We will slip off our shoes and walk in silence in recognition of the sacred nature of these buildings, the Mandir, and Haveli. The Haveli's architecture begins with hundreds of figures of musicians, poets, and dancers carved into the portico, welcoming all visitors in a traditional Indian manner. We will observe and experience Hinduism inside the peace and tranquility of the sacred Mandir and Murtis (image/statue in which the Divine Spirit is expressed).

Participants will be provided with procedural expectations for this visit and have access to an informative exhibit on site (see: http://www.baps.org/Global-Network/North-America/Toronto/Mandir-Info.aspx).

We invite you to journey to a place of deeper connection with one another and the Divine through our collective engagement in these multi-faith rituals within some of Toronto's most unique sacred spaces.

*Toronto Urban Native Ministry (TUNM) is unique in Ontario. Working out of the Council Fire Native Cultural Centre and the Toronto Christian Resource Centre, it blends Indigenous tradition with Christian spirituality, so that they can walk together in harmony. TUNM also participates in sacred gatherings of Indigenous people, performing baptisms, weddings, funerals and Sunday services to sharing circles, spirit namings, and feasts. Importantly, TUNM facilitates the reconciliation process between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples

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