“You were born with wings.
Why prefer to crawl through life?”
Have you ever encountered bliss
by spinning around
I remember moments from my childhood, particularly when I was dressed in a ballerina’s tutu, standing in a field of grass, when I felt overcome by the desire to twirl. I relaxed my arms and closed my eyes as my feet shifted in a rhythmic pivot through the cut grass. The air gently massaged my skin and love flooded my being as I took continuous steps of letting go.
Often times in our culture, we are trained to stay safe. Elders discourage us from this action by saying, “You will become dizzy and fall and hurt yourself!” Choosing safety sometimes means giving into our ego’s desire to survive. But, through the action of spinning, we tap into an even greater aspect of adventure and surrender to a greater loving force.
“Close your eyes,
fall in love,
As the most famous love poet in the world, a thirteenth century man, Jalal-ad-Din-Muhammad Rumi, commonly known as just Rumi, found poetry, music, and dance as paths to connect with God, or the Divine. With roots in Islam, he expanded and taught the universality of all religious experience with the goal to achieve ultimate union. Similar to the message of the great prophets Buddha, Muhammad and Jesus, he imparts that through the journey of life, if the seeker turns towards the truth, grows through love, and abandons the ego then, he or she will find truth and arrive at peace. Then, the seeker can return from the spiritual journey with maturity and love to serve all of creation without discrimination of nations, classes, races, and beliefs.
During his path to find this enlightenment, he started whirling as a type of dance. It is believed that as he whirled, his followers would record the poetry that sprang forth from within him. Rumi himself whirled for thirty-six hours unceasingly and finally fell, because the body could not spin anymore. But when he opened his eyes, he had transformed into another man.
“Stop acting so small.
You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
“Life is a balance between holding on
and letting go.”
He introduced spinning our body in repetitive circles as a conscious process that connects us with the dynamic continuum, embedded into the mysteries of the universe, in the form of the spiral. We see the sacred spiral in hurricanes, tornadoes, and even our own genetic information (DNA). It’s a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. Science has shown us that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. A human's very existence depends on this movement as in the revolution of the atoms. Through this action of whirling, we join with the Life-Force energy that connects everything within the entire universe.
“Do not feel lonely,
the entire universe is inside you.”
Since then, Rumi’s Sufi culture performs spinning by people who call themselves Whirling Dervishes. Through this spinning, they seek to reach the source of all perfection. In these ecstatic moments of spinning, they abandon the ego’s personal desires, tune into the music, and focus on the divine within. Dervishes whirl with the right arm directed to the sky, ready to receive god’s beneficence and left hand turned toward the earth for a more grounded gaze.
“Don’t you know yet?
It is YOUR light
that lights the world.”
“Love is the bridge
Yoga means “to yolk” or “unify” the mind, body, and spirit. With the same goal of yoga, spinning or whirling involves body posturing, turning movements, mental focus, and union with the spiritual force.
In 2017 I attended the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, India. One of the workshops I attended involved Rumi inspired whirling in a class titled Rumi, Love, Meditation led by a Turkish instructor, Mert Güler.
Although most of us wore contemporary yoga clothes, instead of the traditional mystical sect of whirling dervish attire, with white skirts and camel hats, enthusiastic Mert encouraged all of us to tap into the source, our central place of beingness. He instructed us to stand straight as in mountain pose, Tadasana, and think of our spine as an axis. We spread our arms out wide like wings and begin to turn towards our heart, counterclockwise, just as the earth and moon spin counterclockwise, so do the orbiting planets and galaxies through space and time. We stepped with our right foot to pivot along the left. Similar to the gaze in Warrior Two Pose (Virabadrasana), we directed our focus, drishti, over our left fingertips.
We began in slow motion for only a few minutes. Then we built up to spinning a little faster. We added variations with our arms by lifting the right hand slightly up and our left one down. In theory, we received spiritual energy in our right hand, transferring it through ourselves, and releasing it into the earth via our left hand. Then we diversified our spin by trying partner swirls and then holding hands in group circular movements. This sense of connection helped to open up the yogic union with all living beings, the love that unites us all.
We finished this two-hour workshop with a final fifteen minutes of continuous whirling. I felt like Julie Andrews, the protagonist Maria in the Sound of Music, whirling in the hills filled with life, heart beating with the wings of the birds that fly from the lakes to the trees. I dropped into a time warp; when I visited Salzburg, Austria, in 2016. I found a field that reminded me of Maria’s connection with nature and music. I spun for a few minutes with the birds, flowers, and breeze.
“I am not this hair,
I am not this skin,
I am the soul that lives within.”
These fifteen minutes created the ultimate transcendence. A huge smile flooded over my face as I began to spin faster and faster. I didn’t want this to end. I entered into almost a hypnotic trance, complete bliss and love. I synchronized with my creator and center. When the music stopped, we gradually slowed down, descended our arms and gaze and eventually reached a halt. With feet spread slightly wider than our hips, we fixed our stare at one point of the floor for several deep breaths to re-stabilize. I found another amazing way to get high on spirit!
“The universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want,
you already are.”
Photo with Mert Güler after the Rumi, Love, Meditation experience
"There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?"