Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, an Islamic dervish and a Sufi mystic. He was born in 1207 AD in Balkh, which is in present day Afghanistan. He passed from this plane of being in 1273AD.
In 1244 AD he met a teacher named Shems of Tabriz and they became close friends. They developed a highly Spiritual form of communication known as Sohbet, which is a meeting beyond the mind. The word literally means ‘communication’, but on a level way beyond the intellect. It is said that this kind of conversation can go on for days, without those involved having food, drink or sleep; as they are on a plane beyond the physical.
This communion was brought to an end when Shems of Tabriz suddenly disappeared; it was suspected that he had been murdered by Rumi’s followers, who were jealous of their relationship.
In his grief Rumi began to write poetry and dance as the Whirling Dervishes do. This practice is meant to raise the consciousness of the participant to a state of ecstatic oneness with the Divine.
Rumi said about this that:
“Dancing is not just getting up painlessly, like a leaf blown on the wind; dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds.”
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
It is a form of moving meditation, where the dancer enters into a trance like state. Rumi says, regarding this:
“In order to understand the dance one must be still. And in order to truly understand stillness one must dance.”
While whirling, the dervish’s arms are open with his right hand directed to the sky, representing his readiness to receive Divine beneficence. The dervish’s left hand is turning toward the earth, representing his willingness to convey Divine Wisdom to those present. It is also believed that while revolving from right to left around the heart, the dervish embraces all humanity with love, since Sufis believe that the human being was created with love in order to love. Rumi states:
“Without love, all worship is a burden, all dancing is a chore, all music is mere noise.”
Besides the physical form of dance there is an inner dance that we all are involved in, in some way or another. Of this Rumi says:
“A divine dance appears in the soul and the body at the time of peace and union. Anyone can learn the dance, just listen to the music.”
He also states:
“We rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing to it nevertheless. “
In incredibly beautiful and profound words he writes:
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
This raises dance far above mere entertainment. All kinds of dance have their place of course and, as in all things, there are many levels and degrees. Most forms of dance involve discipline and concentration and can require a great amount of creativity and artistry that has a beneficial effect on both participant and viewer. Some dance can be very sensual, other forms telling a story, as in ballet, and some interpretations can be spontaneous and exhilarating. The highest form is the one that transcends all of these definitions to take us beyond any limitations.
So let us heed the invitation of Rumi when he says:
“Come to me, and I shall dance with you
In the temples, on the beaches, through the crowded streets
Be you man or woman, plant or animal, slave or free
I shall show you the brilliant crystal fires, shining within
I shall show you the beauty deep within your soul
I shall show the path beyond Heaven.
Only dance, and your illusions will blow in the wind
Dance, and make joyous the love around you
Dance, and your veils which hide the Light
Shall swirl in a heap at your feet. “