New Delhi: Zia Nath has been been a practitioner of ancient spiritual dances. She studied Gurdjieff Sacred Dances at the Osho Commune in Punein 1995 and thereafter travelled to America and Europe for several years to study the Sufi tradition of Whirling and other sacred dances under world renowned teachers of the Gurdjieff-Bennett tradition.
The danceuse explains how dance can be a therapeutic, a mystical and spiritual experience all at once.
Q: What it the difference between Sacred Dances and Movement Therapy?
Nath: The sacred dances that I teach and perform (in my dance production - Realms of Dance) belong to Central Asia and the ancient temples of India.
Realms of Dance is an amalgamation of Odissi, the Indian Classical dance from Orissa, Gurdjieff, the sacred Dances from Central Asia and Sufi Whirling dances inspired by the ancient Sufi dervishes of Asia, the spinning wandering gypsies of central Europe and the ghumraos (whirling gypsy dances) from Rajasthan.
The origin of all these dances is devotional and orients the practitioner to the mystical realms of our existence. The experience of our spiritual being - in our body and in our dance.
This can be a therapeutic experience, a mystical or spiritual experience, an enlightening experience.... or all of it. Depends on the personal journey of the dancer.
Movement Therapy facilitates movement in the body that have therapeutic benefits for restriction patterns, low vitality, emotional stress etc.
It can be done with or without music and may have an artistic orientation. And there are many different schools of movements therapy, ranging from medical and clinical to artistic and meditative.
It overlaps with Sacred dance as in both we are using the body to move to deeper states of wellness and - or higher consciousness.
Q: Tell us about the spiritual significance of Whirling?
Nath: In my experience, Whirling belongs to the realms of beyond the beyond. It is a part of the mystical dimension.
What we cannot comprehend through touch, feel, taste, smell, etc. There is another perception that brings us the experience of that which is other-worldly; and to experience this within the limitation and definition of our body while at the same time perceiving the expansiveness of our consciousness beyond the body.
It is a magical state, a gift to receive. In my whirling practice — boundaries disappear and horizons dissolve. The drop and the ocean become one.
Spiritual significance: A regular practice of whirling starts to loosen us up — free us from restricted mindsets and old continuing patterns. It frees up the mind, body and heart.
It makes us spacious, still and empty. The more we are in touch with these states, the more we start to loose identities that we have collected over the years and life times. As we drop and shed these identifications, we become no-one. That's when we become spiritual.
That's when we are hollow bamboo and existence can play its music through us. Whirling meditation is a very humbling experience. But for a little drop of water to melt is the vast ocean, it is important for the drop to let its boundaries dissolve.
Q: Do you identify it as a calling or a practice. How does one get initiated?
Nath: It is both. And we can get initiated through either way - sometimes we start it as a practice and recognise it as a calling... sometimes we get a calling and then it becomes a practice... To me, it came as a calling, and then became a way of life.