Musician, Mother, Mystic
I wish I could show you
when you are lonely or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being.
Photo: 2019: Extinction Rebellion Jilani leads 1000 people in 8 circles in a Dance of Universal Peace in London.
Jilani Cordelia Prescott is a highly accomplished leader of Sufi practices and Dances of Universal Peace (also known as Sufi Dance, or mantra dance). She is a classically trained musician with wide experience of creating depth and safety in groups. She has been leading groups for many years, which have been much appreciated for the nourishment, expansiveness and insights they bring.
She says: – “I’m a mother, musician, mystic; leader and mentor of the Dances of Universal Peace; guide and companion on the path of Universal Sufism or spiritual freedom. I have found such personal peace, joy and healing on this path of spiritual liberty through music, mantra and movement and now sharing these practices with others brings me great joy and fulfilment. My visions and hopes are to help as many people as I can to find happiness and peace through being more fully, truly and joyfully themselves. Moreover, along the way to share joy, peace and love through ‘Eating, Dancing and Praying Together’ (following the advice of Murshid SAM, the Sufi Master who birthed the Dances of Universal Peace in San Francisco back in 1968, around the time of my own birth!).”
Jilani is mother to three young men, and also a member of the Sufi Ruhaniat Teaching Circle. She works through deep loving connection, to help people to find a stronger sense of inner and outer peace. Using chant, movement, and other practices as a framework and container, she facilitates circles of people to be more fully alive, to feel safe together, to share love, deep connection and joy, and to touch a sense of the sacredness of all life.
She has been actively involved in the environmental movement, sharing dances and practices as a way for people to strengthen their connection with Mother Earth and with each other, and also as a way to work with intense and difficult feelings such as grief, loss, anger, powerlessness and despair, which can arise as symptoms of climate anxiety. She led a Dance of Universal Peace at the XR October Rebellion Opening Ceremony in London in 2019, with over a thousand people dancing in more than eight concentric circles, experiencing the joy and power of moving and singing together as one. She has also used singing and dancing during XR’s actions to help reduce intensity and bring deep and radical peace in situations where tensions are increasing. She is inspired by this by the creator of the Dances, Samuel Lewis, who said he would like to see “a peace demonstration where the protesters demonstrate peace.”
During the pandemic, Jilani was keen to support those who were isolated and afraid, by offering Dance and Sufi sessions on Zoom. She led (with the support of her musician husband Salik) three sessions a week during 2020-2022, reaching people from many different time zones across the globe and bringing them together in sharing joyful song, breath and movement. It has been wonderful to experience the subtle yet powerful connections that have been made, and to witness the real loving friendships that have grown in these groups, between people who have never met in person. Despite this, she is very happy to be returning to leading dance circles again in person.
Jilani first met the Dances of Universal Peace at a friend’s wedding in the early 1990’s. It was some years before she encountered them again, at Dance Camp North in 1997. There she made friends with a number of Dance Leaders and shortly afterwards began to play her viola to accompany the Dances. The Dances quickly became an important part of her life, but it was not until 2005 that she considered becoming a Dance Leader herself. Faced with the prospect of losing a regular opportunity to Dance, the only solution seemed to be to take on the Dance Circle herself as a new Leader.
It was only after she had been leading Dances for a while that she realised how perfectly they answered a dilemma she had tussled with for many years. Jilani had trained as a classical musician and teacher of violin and viola, which she loved and which gave her much pleasure and fulfilment. But she was also drawn to the path of Healing, and had done training with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers, in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and as a Reiki Master. She felt pulled in different directions, and unable to work out which was the path for her. Finally she understood that the Dances of Universal Peace and the Sufi path offered the opportunity to use and synthesise all of her skills, weaving them together into a rich and beautiful prayer rug.
Jilani undertook training as a Dance Leader with Tansen Philip O’Donohoe, from 2007-2009, and was certified as a Dance Leader in May 2008. She was rapidly in demand as a teacher, and has been invited to lead retreats and workshops all over the United Kingdom, and also in France, Spain, Germany, Morocco and the USA.
Jilani says: ‘It gives me such joy and pleasure to share these wonderful, joyful healing practices, with the beauty of melody, harmony and rhythm, and inspired by respect for all spiritual and religious traditions. Through the Dances I met my Sufi guide, Muiz Brinkerhoff, who has deepened my experience and understanding by sharing Sufi practices and teachings with me. Through him and other teachers I have personally experienced the power of the “Pathway of the Heart”, as Sufism is sometimes called. I have felt unexpected levels of love and joy hold me and cradle me as I move towards greater understanding and acceptance of myself, and more inner peace. I have been honoured to be included in the teaching circle of Sufi Ruhaniat International since 2016, which has empowered me to work with individual students or Mureeds.’
Jilani also completed the Abwoon Interspiritual Leadership Programme training with Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz in 2007-2010. This course gave her the ability to share the wonderful work and insights of Saadi, who has produced revolutionary and inspirational meditations in Dance and Chant using his scholarly and mystical understanding of Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic. These include the Aramaic Prayer of Yeshua, the Beatitudes, the Genesis Meditations, the Inana or “I Am” statements of Yeshua, and the Native Middle Eastern Dance Cycle, as well as many other Dances and meditations.
Whilst she was still training as a Dance Leader, Jilani found that fellow members of the training would come to her for advice and help with their Dance Leading, particularly from a musical point of view. It was always a pleasure for her to supportively share what insights she had, and so it has been a natural step to become a member of the Mentors’ Guild for Dances of Universal Peace International, working with Dance Leaders who approach her and ask her to mentor them. She has also led two international training programmes for Dance Leaders alongside her friend and colleague Gulzar Christina Lausevic.