Whirling Flames: a Love-Affair with Whirling

Music Sufi Whirling

Shastro, musician and whirling lover, tells the story of the creation of this video.

Between 1987 and 1991 I spent most of my time at the Pune ashram. When I first arrived, every morning I sat outside Buddha Hall, in the lovely garden, listening to Osho’s morning tape and sipping the first cup of hot chai of the day. Once the discourse finished I would grab my breakfast in Mariam canteen and take it right back to the same spot in the garden because I didn’t want to miss seeing all those flowing, almost etheric figures, spinning on the white, polished marble floor. I had never seen people whirling before and was entranced by the sight. With their red skirts opening like flowers in the morning sun they seemed to belong to another dimension… as if coming out of one of my dreams. It was as if I was expecting them to suddenly lift off the ground and spin into the sky!

One day I decided that watching was not enough and that I should step on that same floor and have a direct experience. I got myself a pair of socks, received some basic instructions from a swami who was often there and off I went, spinning.

Within a few days I started to get the hang of it, enough to make me go to a tailor in Centre Street and have him make one of those beautiful skirts. They had small weights sewn into the bottom seam that allowed the skirt – helped by centrifugal force – to open into that beautiful flower.

In the following months and years, whenever I could, I would go and whirl in Buddha Hall, making it my morning dance-meditation. While dancing I experienced a space where thoughts subsided and I became one with my breath. At first, it seemed as if everything was spinning into a vortex pulling myself in, but soon enough I started feeling that I was the unmoving column at the center of the whirling, like the eye of a cyclone, unmoving while the whole world was spinning around me.

It was a beautiful technique… so graceful and so powerful at the same time. It had the capacity of taking me to that still witnessing space very quickly. What a gift it was!

A few years later, while living in Hawaii, I set up a small recording studio. I had a strong desire to create a piece of music that would somehow transmit what I had experienced while whirling. I started to work on Whirling Flames – all the while carrying inside the image of people whirling in Buddha Hall. While I was in the middle of this process a friend from Pune visited me: Surabhi, a lovely singer and dancer. I asked her if she felt like improvising on my new piece and she happily accepted. Her voice, her singing, was the missing part. Not only was the track completed by her singing but it was also enriched by it in such a wonderous way…it gave it the missing ecstatic touch.

That track became 23 minutes long, part of the album Shanay Mystic Trance. Later I also created an 8-minute version for the album Be the Light. During one of my next visits to the ashram, I discovered it had been ‘adopted’ by the ‘whirlers’ as one of their favorite tracks to dance to. This made me very happy, of course!

Fast forward, 16 years later, I received an email from another beautiful dancer and friend from India, Zia, who sent me a photo of herself whirling in a beautiful red gown. She told me that it was the skirt I had given to her a few years before during one of my visits to Pune, something I had completely forgotten. Her email brought back all those sweet memories of whirling and I decided to create a video using my music and some lovely footage of Zia’s whirling as well as of other Dervish dancers, and combine it with some of Rumi’s poems. I completed the video recently and am very happy with the result. I feel it transmits some of the magic that lies both in the music and in this poetic and mystical practice. This video somehow framed very nicely a 20-year love affair with this beautiful dance-meditation that continues to whirl in my heart even today.

Releated Osho discourse
Just by Whirling You Can Know Yourself

ShastroShastro was born in Italy and studied to become a fashion photographer in the mid 80s. He took sannyas in 1981 and went to Pune in 1986 to see Osho. He photographed Osho in various occasions but also played music for him. He is, together with Sirus, the composer of the music for the No Dimensions Meditation. He is the owner of the US-based label Malimba Records where he has released – to date – 13 of his own CDs and many by other sannyasin musicians. www.shastro.comwww.malimba.com

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