Notes on traveling, around the center of the being
In the name of God, the all loving, the all compassionate
In one hand the wine goblet, in the other hand the curls of my beloved. How I long for such a dance in the middle of the square! Or perhaps we could think of a description such as: my pure soul is lifted, swirling towards the heavens, or perhaps we might say something like: fresh blossoms are emerging in the garden of the soul, oh, exuberant roses, come, join the dance!
Upon reading these passionate descriptions of Molana, or Rumi, as he is known in the west, or Hafez or other great mystics, one can’t help but feel like a wanderer taking a comfortable walk on the shores of the vast ocean, walking without truly finding the faith or inner fortitude to plunge in the turbulent waters of this seething ocean of bliss. As Hafez put it: indeed, our state seems fathomless to the travelers of the smooth seashore pathways.
To some extent, I have always enjoyed my position of a traveler on the smooth pathways of philosophical and linguistic approaches to mystical texts and practices. Though I have extensively experienced Sufi practices, as well as methods from various other traditions, it has always been easier for me to convey elation, inspiration andpassion by means of speech and eloquence, rather than more effervescent forms of expression.
In my practice, I have usually been encouraged to contain ecstatic states. Be inwardly drowned in spiritual intoxication and remain outwardly sober! This is what I have been told over and over again by most of my teachers, and rightfully so, because we are meant to unite the revealed and the concealed, to merge the ecstatic and the sober in the in most chamber of our heart. Therefore, we are to delve in the depths of the ocean and remain untouched by the waters, as Hafez would suggest. The complete or unified human being is not one who resides utterly absorbed in spiritual states, but one who, having tasted the sweetness of the purest celestial elixir, returns to the world and shines the light of his presence therein, pouring the enlivening elixir upon the dry earth, as to transmute form into meaning, and turn the dust of transience into the rose garden of the eternal presence.
But to make possible this unified perspective upon states and stations of the path, as well as upon the two worlds, the body and the soul or the visible and the invisible, One needs to completely drown the intellect in the chalice brimming with ruby red wine sometimes!
It was such a fragrant instant of bliss that sparked my desire to actually experience the whirling dance one cold September night, in Konya, while paying homage to the shrine of Hazrat-e Molana/Rumi. So I dropped my fear of failure, I poured some wine upon my overthinking head and I literally started dancing in the middle of the square, near the entrance of the shrine. My fellow Persians were totally astonished because they were witnessing a long awaited unveiling, take it as you wish, literally or metaphorically! “Keep your left hand downwards and the right upwards, remember that the whirling is meant to bridge heaven and earth.” You are meant to poor upon creation that which you receive! This is what some of those present were reminding me. I don’t recall precisely, but I assume I was totally heedless of any norms or rules mapped out for this dance, that I would better refer to as prayer (or nectar) Obviously, it was not Rumi himself who brought in the rules, but his descendants who actually founded the Mevlavi dervish order and provided a structure for the whirling ceremony, or perhaps we could say confined it to a structure…
As I am writing this, I am remembering that lovely line from Hafez: if you are a traveler of love’s path, go on and ruin your reputation. If nothing else, I believe I have achieved that much with my whirling, God willing.
Of course I was completely unaware of the passage of time because I was too busy trying to keep my balance in the midst of that frenzy and rapture and… and my innate clumsiness when it comes to any kind of movement, to add to everything. The wise and knowledgeable Persian lady who later became my whirling teacher told me that she managed to stop me after an hour or so.
When I think back at this whirling/circular journey of mine, from point C, for center, all the way to… Well… Point C, I guess, since we haven’t actually ever departed, I recall how Rumie described it as turning with the countless galaxies, animated by the Beloved’s water of life. It is as if the body, the thoughts, and the feelings are swirling around the ever radiant core of the being, until they melt into the brilliance of the unsetting son of spirit. Then we can ponder, like Rumi did, where is the center of this all pervasive core that I am?