I was invited to be a part of a spiritual ‘bonhomie’ a while ago at a close friends home. As we finished our group meditations and settled down for a chat, a wise one came up with the idea of whirling. It’s not everyday that you come across someone who offers to teach you to whirl. I jumped at it. “‘Whirling?!’did you say?” I asked him happily. “Sounds like a Mercan Dede!”
With a soothing Oud playing in the background, Sachi and me couldn’t wait to get into the experience. Barely a couple of minutes into it and I was flat on the ground. Head spinning, bile at the back of my throat, spluttering and knocking into furniture. Sachi and the other kids present, were still beautifully twisting. Their expressions serene and a soft smile on the corner of their lips. I was dumbfounded.
Apparently the smooth, almost liquid moves aren’t as simple as they seem to be. Our teacher smiled knowingly as I put my thoughts across. “Whirling teaches you focus, to a point of a meditative state of being. That in turn helps you channel to higher dimensions. With one foot firmly planted on the ground, you use the other foot to propel yourself counter clockwise ( that is towards the direction of your heart). Your arms spread across, to stabilize balance, Your eyes, not closed but hazy and unfocused, almost in a trance. Find a comfortable speed to be consistent with. Fix your sight to a spot on the floor and there you go! The first couple of times are difficult. You will be distracted, stumble, worry about losing balance, tripping. You might see stars and even puke. Its all normal. Keep on. You will get there.”
I have witnessed a whirling dervish do his act a couple of times before and each time I have been mesmerized like a snake swaying hypnotically to a charmers music. After the first few minutes, I have experienced what I would describe as ‘being washed over by a wave of peace and harmony’. There have been times I have felt like an intruder…,like I was walking in on someone in the midst of his conversation with the Divine. Almost voyeuristic.
Whirling, I suppose, is the dance of the universe. We have been whirling for ages. Through lifetimes, through innumerable forms. Through the circle of Life. The universe rotates, Our Gaia does a beautiful hum while she turns around her axis. An egg gave us life, we are made of cells, chakras are vortexes of circular moving energy.There are tiny circles in our irises and on our fingertips. A circle comprises of everything, yet comprises nothing. Are we not made of circles? We ARE everything we would ever need. We ARE nothing-ness. The American Indians knew this. They viewed their whole world in terms of circles. Their houses were circular and were grouped in circles. They danced in circles and saw the circularity and cyclical nature of all things. Many other cultures have recognised the power of the circle and used it for healing, celebration and spiritual expression.
Mandalas (Read here about the Mandala Project http://www.mandalaproject.org) almost always contain one or more circles. The Japanese Enso ink paintings are known to be emotional balms.(Read more about Enso http://zenpaintings.com/article-enso.html)
Ever wondered why ‘going around’ themselves is one of the most basic forms of dance a child recognizes? And enjoys? Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are still connected, sans their Ego, to where they came from…
There remains no doubt in my mind that whirling is a sacred dance and a spiritual expression. Yet, unlike most other experiences to do with the spirit, it’s a bit difficult to explain how. The best is to try it and feel it deep down to the bones. For those who are new to whirling, I suggest finding an empty space to practice. If you are going to try this at home, Please make sure you move away all your furniture. I take No responsibility for bumps and cracks. Children can practice whirling as well. Just 3-5 minutes of whirling everyday is akin to prayer or meditation practices. In fact children, the younger they are the better, find it easier to ‘maintain’ the dance.
Some beautiful Sufi Music by Mercan Dede, the famous, World musician: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNXa3-XTj-c&index=6&list=PLIlJdAJ7mMSLuEEV3m5hs5KUJtoTGtQg8
Note: Whirling is an ancient devotional dance associated with the very mystical Sufism. It originated among Turkish Sufi communities in Persia in the late 1200. I hear that some these dervishes, (Dervishes belong to the Mevlevi Order and are more famously known as the Whirling Dervishes) were followers of Rumi, and were amongst the most advanced Sufis of the time.
The concept of Whirling is considered a spiritual exercise, wherein its supposed to help you abandon your ego and achieve union with God.