Be the Eye of the Storm

March 03, 2019

Be the Eye of the Storm and Cultivate Centering through Whirling Practice

Doesn’t life sometimes feels chaotic?  With our busy modern lives and the whirlwind of media input that draw our attention, it can feel at times like things are spinning out of control. Whirling is a powerful centering technique that provides an opportunity to practice being the calm center in the eye of the storm.

It can also be a profound exercise in letting go, for everything extraneous gets pushed out through the alchemical process of centrifuge. Heavier material that weighs you down is separated out, purifying and lightening your heart center.

Some are familiar with the famous whirling dervishes of Turkey, who are the Mevlevi Sufi order founded by the Persian mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. The dervishes call their practice sama (meaning “to listen”), and whirl in order to purify the heart and merge into a state of ecstatic union with the Beloved. Through strengthening their sacred connection to God, the umbilical cord of spiritual nourishment, they become the axis mundi, or point of contact between heaven and earth. The dervishes rotate like planets around the sun while turning on their axis, as the earth turns, inward towards the heart. This ritualized transcendental circular movement meditation is in sacred harmony with natural life forces.

By rotating as a group around a central axis, the dervishes are creating a sacred spinning prayer wheel that, through the churning and blending of music, movement, and emotion carry them into states of ecstasy.

Ecstasy is the intense, all-consuming joy of being in the presence of the Divine Beloved and the pinnacle of spiritual experience. Ecstatic traditions use movement, rhythm, song, and deep emotion to reach these heightened states.

Rumi’s dervishes were not the first to whirl. Whirling dancers have been known throughout Central Asia and Anatolia, the Far East, and beyond. Scholar Max Dashu’s research on ancient Chinese texts and artifacts tells us female shamans called Wu performed ecstatic whirling dances, chanting and whirling with flowing sleeves, wielding snakes, performing invocations, divinations, healing rituals, driving off evil spirits through their ecstatic dances.

The Tibetans, too, practice a form of whirling meditation and identify many health benefits, including enhanced muscle tone and overall mobility, strengthening of the connection between the right and left hemispheres, stimulation of the body’s energy system, and improved vitality and hormonal balance. Other benefits include a releasing of the eye muscles, and release of endorphins and serotonin that lead to an elevation in mood.

For the ecstatically inclined, whirling can be a spontaneous response to being caught in the updraft of sacred emotion, brought on most strongly through music. The physical effects of the spinning body further enhance a state of surrender where the body is being moved by a benevolent energy that expands beyond the skin-encapsulated human ego.

Whirling is also a profound practice of letting go and releasing stale energy. As certain compounds separate through the alchemical process of centrifuge, there is a spiraling out of “heavier” elements in order to purify the heart, for it is through the vessel of the heart that Divine Light pours through us and out into the world. For the Mevlevi dervishes, this spiritual truth is embodied by the upturned right hand receiving celestial energy and transmitting it into the earth through the downturned left hand.

Legend has it that Rumi, upon learning of death of his dear friend and spiritual mentor Shams al Tabriz, began in his grief turning around the pillar of the mosque which sent him whirling. Rumi was filled with intense love, and the pillar was the axis mundi or spiritual rope to God setting his heart on fire.

You don’t need to be a Sufi or belong to a particular tradition to benefit from whirling. It can be a beautiful and powerful movement meditation you incorporate into your own practice.


Here’s what some past workshop participants have said:

“It felt like an unwinding. Like my body and my mind were releasing pent up tension.”

“I had to really focus even though everything around me was in motion. I can see how this is a practice for living.

“It was a profound experience for me.”

“What a powerful experience! It felt like, with every turn, I was beginning again.”

“I felt calm and peaceful.”

“I was surprised whirling was a good workout and made me sweat! It takes a lot of energy and focus to stay centered like that. Fun!”

“Sometimes it felt hard. I was dizzy and had to stop and rest. That told me there was stuff coming to the surface and I needed to be gentle with myself.”

“It was calming to sit and watch the others whirl. I would try it again.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN TO WHIRL? Join us at the next Scheherazade’s Dance Temple in San Rafael CA or attend the Shake Your Spirit Free weekend women’s retreat April 26-28 in Blue Ridge GA.  You can also contact Hannah to book a workshop or private lesson.