Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Five Tibetans - Is There a Link to the Whirling Dervishes?

It would be natural to assume a link between the origins of the First Rite and the Whirling Dervishes, who were founded by the great philosopher and writer Rumi in the 13th Century. However, I have yet to find any evidence to support this connection.

Although they both spin, the First Rite and the Sema (a religious ceremony) have different outcomes and vary significantly in technique.

The Dervishes spin to induce a trance-like ecstatic state, whereas the Tibetan 1st Rite is performed to stimulate the vortexes into action.

The sema is part of a sacred ceremony in which the dervish rotates in a precise rhythm. Whilst whirling, the dervish aims to empty himself of all distracting thoughts. As he enters into a trance, he is released from his bodily awareness and conquers his dizziness. Dervishes believe that their souls are released from earthly ties, able to freely and jubilantly communicate with the divine.

Dervish literally means "doorway" and is thought to be an entrance from this material world to the spiritual, heavenly world. In the past the Turkish Sultans would often consult the Dervishes for guidance. They believed that the dervish was in prayer and that the spinning created a hypnotic and relaxing affect which opened his body to receive the energy of God.

In the Tibetan First Rite, both palms are facing downwards towards the floor. The Dervishes however, place their right palm upwards to receive the power of the heavens, and their left palm turned downwards to direct this energy into the earth. They see themselves as the conduit of God’s power and do not try to hold onto or direct that power.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The practice of Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), is a twirling meditation that originated among the ancient Indian mystics and Turkish Sufis, which is still practiced by the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order.

Following a recommended fast of several hours, Sufi whirlers begin with hands crossed onto shoulders and may return their hands to this position if they feel dizzy. They rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The left foot is like an anchor to the ground, so that if the whirler loses his or her balance, he or she can think of their left foot, direct attention towards it and regain balance back.

The whirling is done on the spot in an anticlockwise direction, with the right arm held high, palm upwards, and the left arm held low, palm downwards. People who feel discomfort from whirling anti-clockwise can change to clockwise. The body of the whirler is meant to be soft with eyes open, but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. A 15 minute period of slow rotation is followed by a gradual build up of speed over the next 30 minutes. Then the whirling takes over.

When the whirler is whirling so fast that he or she cannot remain upright, his or her body will fall by itself. The whirler does not consciously make the fall a decision or attempt to arrange the landing in advance; if his or her body is soft he or she should land softly—and the earth will absorb the energy. If the idea of letting oneself fall is too much for the practitioner then the whirler should allow his or herself to slow down very slowly. If the whirler has been whirling for an hour then the process of slowing down might take some time—even 10 minutes or more.

Once the whirler has fallen, the second part of the meditation starts—the unwhirling. The whirler rolls onto his or her stomach immediately so that his or her bare navel is in contact with the earth. If anybody feels strong discomfort lying this way, he should lie on his back. The practitioner feels his or her body blending into the earth, like a small child pressed to his mother's breasts. Eyes remain closed and the whirler remains passive and silent for at least 15 minutes. After the meditation whirlers try to be as quiet and inactive as possible.

Colonel Bradford spoke to one of the lamas about the dervishes and was told that their whirling movement has both a beneficial effect and a devastating one. Apparently their extensive whirling stimulates the vortexes into a high level of activity, which eventually over-stimulates them and leads to exhaustion.

Bradford says, “We do not carry the whirling to excess. While the Whirling Dervishes may spin around hundreds of times, we find that greater benefit is obtained by restricting it to about a dozen or so times, enough so that Rite No 1 can stimulate all the vortexes to action”.

To add to the confusion, Bradford says the dervishes always spin in one direction – from left to right (clockwise). However the late Dr Celaleddin Bakir Celebi, the 21st grandson of Rumi describes an anti-clockwise direction on his family website http://www.mevlana.net as follows:

“While whirling his arms are open, his right hand directed to the skies ready to receive God's beneficence, looking to his left hand turned toward the earth, he turn from right to left around the heart. This is his way of conveying God's spiritual gift to the people upon whom he looks with the eyes of God. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all the mankind, all the creation with affection and love”.

The true origins of the spin we can only speculate about. Spinning is so natural it almost certainly evolved from the careful observation of natural laws.

You can see evidence of spinning everywhere. The Earth spins around the sun and when viewed from space is covered in spiralling cloud formations, similar in shape to that of our galaxy. Your own body contains numerous spirals, from your DNA to the unique swirls on the tips of your fingers. Time-lapse photography enables you to see that sprouting seeds don’t shoot upwards as was previously thought. They germinate in a spiral.

The Ancients, have long taught that the universe is full of spinning vortexes, through which the energy of the universe enters and vitalizes your body and all other things. Some ancient cultures believed that the Earth’s energy gathers into vortexes, and in those places they built churches, temples and other places of worship and learning. Some people believe that the extraordinary structures of Stonehenge, the Pyramids and the giant stone monoliths of Easter Island represent places where the Ancients believed ‘special energies’ gathered.

Whatever the explanation for the Spin (1st Tibetan Rite) it does seem reasonable to think that there may be some universal significance in terms of connecting spinning with energy generation and dispersal.

The vortex form is integral to the universe. It’s a constant that recurs throughout all life. Through the revolving of the neutrons, protons and electrons of the atoms that form our basic structure, everything takes part in this revolving.

"The sky is round, and I have heard the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood,and so it is in everything where power moves…" Black Elk, Sioux Holy Man

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Copyright (c) 2005 Carolinda Witt - author T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites and The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan


Anonymous said...

I am interested in the Five Tibetans as a conference activity for an off-site business conference that I am facilitating in February.
The boss man wants to do Thai Chi but I don't think that this will fit with a results hungry, do it now type business group.
T5T seems a perfect fit - and we can hand out your book as prizes for some of our activities.
Any comments?

Carolinda Witt said...

The Five Tibetans work brilliantly as a conference activity. I recently did one for a Leadership Workshop for a major computer company. You are right it is much more go-getting but at the same time it is also calming.
The format I used was 45 minutes only. I taught them the 1st Rite - The Spin (for raising energy, clearing the head) and then I taught them a version of Energy Breathing (for calming, balancing, energy and anti-stress). The company gave each particpant a book to finish learning the whole routine. It worked really well. The feedback I got was extremely positive. If you want to contact me directly at carolinda@T5T.com I would be happy to go into specifics with you.