Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Whirling Dervishes, Istanbul, TR

Whirling Dervishes

Large Mural of Folk Dancing
Carol read about the Whirling Dervishes and wanted to see how they could be just spinning in place, not getting dizzy and not falling over. It is amazing to think about. To spin for hours, holding one’s body in a strict position seems impossible to do. We wanted to learn and to witness this feat in more detail.

The Dervishes have ceremonies one can visit and watch, but it is not an entertainment, nor a lightly taken side show. Applause is not permitted, nor are pictures. The men who dance and swirl for hours on end, use the swirling to get into a trance-like condition to pray. To be in contact with another reality, to drug themselves with dizziness to feel ‘different’. To understand all of the implications of the spinning and swirling is difficult to grasp. It is mind control, it is a different dimension. The Persian Mystic Rumi wrote about it extensively.

We visited the “Sema Istanbul Dervishes” in the Hodjapasha section in Istanbul; a section just before leaving Europe and going into Asia.   (   This area today is a cultural pocket set up for the arts, deep within a back ally. It was a surreal experience to have visited this service.

The Spinning Dervishes are a mythical order of Sufi Islam, a small hybrid of Islam but so important that the whole order was incorporated into the Unique “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” listed by UNESCO.  We witnessed a ‘SEMA’, a ritual, a spiritual journey. In the Universe, everything, from atoms to the solar system and to the blood which circulates in the body, revolves.
Sema - This One Was For Entertainment So Pictures Allowed

No Matter the Color - Also For Entertainment
Sema is a ritual, a spiritual journey which the soul makes to God as it becomes mature and attains unity. After this journey, it returns to its life to serve humankind again.
This spinning, swirling dance, is a prayer; once entered it can (will) bring the Dervish closer to the mysticism of the love for the Divine in ourselves in every minute of our lives. There is much symbolism along the way. There are many stops on this journey, seeking guidance from all around the universe and even from death.

According to the founder, Mevlana, (Rumi) in the early 13th Century: “When you enter the Sema you will leave both worlds; the world of the Sema is outside both worlds.” It takes study, it takes dedication, and it takes understanding to fulfill this ritual, this journey.

Carol and I were sitting, mouth agape, trying hard to understand and follow each person during their prayer service. Each body position, each clothing part, each step had its meaning and we were clueless yet knew that we were seeing something few will see in their lifetime. We were witnessing the spirit of humankind shown to us in a dance form that far exceeds what we ordinarily do in our daily lives.

At the end when the music stopped, the praying men left, the colored lights went out, we walked back to the trolley, unable to really speak to each other. It was a very personal, deeply rooted experience that each of you, reading this, should experience at least once in your life time.
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next, did not descend from Adam or Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. Neither body nor soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being.
Mevlana Rumi (1207 - 1273)

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