Whirling as a Mystical Practice
By Khadija Radin
One understanding of mysticism is as a pathway to know the essential nature of the Self or our True identity. Whirling is a practice that allows the practitioner to penetrate the basic assumptions of a self and focus on a “placeless place” where the deepest understanding of “no self” and “nothing” can actually be visited. The spiritual practice of whirling is older than the sects of Sufism which are the mystical branches of Islam.
A basic understanding of how a person takes their identity to be the body and the mind is a process of experiencing the sensations arising from the five senses to be located in the body and thoughts located in the brain and then assuming the location of the self must also reside there. However, when the whirling practitioner is focusing in on the axis around which the body is turning, the body itself is objectified and the axis is identified as the place of residence. As a whirling student becomes more adept at refining the axis to an even finer dimension, perhaps the thickness of a strand of silk, everything that was previously taken to be “the body” is now whirling around the still point which has become so fine it actually has no physical residence! This is where the dervishes “go” when they are turning.
In a mindful exploration of a very focused experience of a part of one’s anatomy, one can concentrate on this part to the exclusion of the rest of the body. When one focuses on the “Center of the Center” or the “Source of the Source” in the center of the axis, one identifies with this place which seems to have no physical residence while the body itself is experienced as turning around this “no place” or “no self.” Even a relatively new turning student can have this experience for a moment while being centered. The Dervishes call this the “Kiss of Death” both because one ceases to be experiencing the body as the self, but also because having experienced this, one gives up a lot of one’s conventional life to have longer and longer tastes of the Nectar of Whirling.
When sitting in meditation, the mind can wander even for most of the duration of the sitting time. In the practice of whirling, if you cease to focus in on continually centering, the axis becomes choppy and unsteady. The whirling dance ceases to be a sensation that feels like floating on air. It is a practice that demands both complete attention and provides an immediate feedback loop of grace-filled awareness.
Sheikha Khadija Radin is a sheikha in the Mevlevi Order of America and the Sufi Ruhaniat International. She is a choreographer and dance teacher and offers studies in Sufi practices, including whirling, at her retreat center and internationally.
A Day of Sufi Whirling, Mystical Practices & Teachings
A One-Day Workshop with Sheikha Khadija Radin
Sunday, June 16, 2019, 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
To learn more and register, click here.