Somatic Sufi

In the sema, the whirling motion permits a Sufi to use their body as a way in which to connect with the cosmos, to enter an altered state and to both symbolically and somatically become one with all that is spinning, the planets, the cosmos and the cells within the body (Sabra, 2013). As this movement continues, Silow (2010) has stated that such “ascending development toward unity” results in a coalescence of the self and physical body (p.80). As a consequence, the sema permits the dissolving of dualism and promotes the all-encompassing experience of unification.

The sema is part of the larger dhikr ceremony, which uses the breath in connection with various aspects of the heart to repetitively chant and recite the name of the divine to such an extent that an ecstatic state is achieved (Eliade, 1990).

During my own lived experiences in the participation of many dhikrs, both in Konya, Turkey, and in Seattle, WA, the intercorporeality between the members of the group and myself all chanting and whirling permitted the emergence of an interoceptive expansive feeling of rapture emanating from within my heart.  The embodied insight that emerged was that the whole cosmos resides within the heart.   This deep understanding would repeat with reliable frequency during each dhikr and permit an exteroceptive feeling of interconnectedness of humanity and subsequent Universe.  I would leave the group practice with a sense of peace and harmony within my own essence.

Whirling again, in writing this post, I am reminded of the initial proprioceptive awareness when first spinning of the sense of my body taking its time to open up to the space it is being contained in.  As the whirling continued, that dualistic awareness of my body and the space began to dissolve and soon there was just a greater sense of be-ing.  Because the whirling was a solo exercise and not part of the larger dhikr group experience, the sense of intercorporeal connection was absent and deeper levels of realization did not occur.  Nonetheless, there was a sense of liberation in having permission to return to a familiar method of pursuing a respite from the experience of duality.

This is part 2 of several posts in the development of Somatic Reiki as I continue my Integral and Transpersonal studies through CIIS.


Eliade, M. (1990). Dhikr

Sabra, A. (2013). Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam by Shahzad Bashir. Journal of World history24(2), 424-425. DOI: 10.1353/jwh.2013.0057.

Silow, T. (2010). Embodiment as ascending and descending development. In S. Esbjoern-Hargens, Integral theory in action (Chapter 3, pp. 79-98). New York: State University of New York Press.

Copyright 2022 Eileen Dey Wurst

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