Remember spinning yourself silly as kid? Turning in circles for seconds, maybe up to a minute, before plopping down in a fitful of giggles and dizzy spells. No matter how many times you attempted it or how badly you wanted to twirl forever, it seemed impossible to keep going without losing your balance.

This is what makes the order of Whirling Dervishes so magical and mesmerizing to watch. If you’re unfamiliar with this ancient Sufi tradition that originated in the 13th century in the Islamic sect of Turkey, it is when a small group of people—usually men called dervishes—performed a religious dance called the sema in long white dresses to express love and devotion to God. Many consider the holy ceremony, which consists of revolving at a fixed speed, as a way to bridge the gap between humankind and the divine.

This spellbinding dance, which can last long periods, requires tremendous concentration and dedication. In this video interview with founder, Sonia Jones, Shankar Nair, Ph.D., an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, explains how the Whirling Dervishes were able to practice this form of active meditation without ever falling as you so often did as a child.

Related: What Is Islamic Meditation?