adult ballet at the beach
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Whirling to center

We came whirling out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust. The stars made a circle, and in the middle, we dance. - Rumi

Whirling Dervishes of Turkey

I now direct your attention to the whirling dervishes, engaged in a spinning dance of prayer and meditation, a practice inspired by the 13th century Sufi Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi. The dervishes wear a tombstone hat which symbolizes the death of their ego. They wear huge white skirts (the “shroud of their ego”) which rise and fall like ballroom skirts but with no bouncing waltz playing in the background. In fact, no music at all, just the sounds of their chanting call out to God, and the whirring sounds of their bodies and skirts, spinning like planets, pulling them closer to the center of it all. Their right arm reaches Heavenward, and their left towards the earth. In this dance they are between these two worlds. Their eyes are closed, their heads tilted just so, and the frame of their torsos remains as erect as those tall camel skin hats placed so securely on the top of their heads. Their movement brings them a sense of serenity. In their whirling, they find the center of it all, and then they release to it.

So, what do the whirling dervishes and we, the dancers and Pilates practitioners, have in common?

The need to find center, and the ability to do so. Perhaps not as religiously as our meditative counterparts, but certainly we recognize the connection of mind to body, body to the forces, and the centering required of it all. Many of us have even come to know a sense of release in this practice; strengthening our ability to find center allows us to let go and trust.

So, as the world chugs through these strange times and brings to you new and unusual challenges, find your center. Use your lessons from ballet and Pilates to help align yourself, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Like the dervishes, you know that movement is meditation. Like the dervishes, you know that the control of your physical center will radiate outward, affecting the overall balance of self. And like the dervishes, you know that by maintaining your inner rhythm, regardless of what is spinning around you, you are able to feel your connection to something grand.

From a grounded center we expand. . . in dance, in Pilates, and especially in life!

So, take a deep breath. Exhale and release your tension. Draw your navel in and up, and allow your shoulders to melt down your back. Feel the stability of your physical self here and know that your inner self is echoing this. As the world spins, you may spin with it, but you will not lose your balance, for you, my friend, are centered.

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