Rumi's Poetry as a Way Inside
Index to Rumi Poetry Series
You sit here for days saying, This is strange business.
You’re the strange business.
You have the energy of the sun in you,
but you keep knotting it up at the base of your spine.
You’re some weird kind of gold that wants to stay melted in the furnace,
so you won’t have to become coins.
Say ONE in your lonesome house. Loving all the rest is hiding inside a lie.
You’ve gotten drunk on so many kinds of wine.
It won’t make you wild.
It’s fire. Give up, if you don’t understand by this time
that your living is firewood.
This wave of talking builds.
Better we should not speak, but let it grow within.
Jelaluddin Rumi lived during the 13th century. He was a theologian with his own divinity school. At age 37, through a relationship with a dervish monk, Shams, Rumi began to transform his being, and in the process, to write some of the most beautiful mystical poetry ever written. For the next several weeks, we’ll reflect on some of his poems.
I’m using a translation found in the book The Illuminated Rumi.
I really responded to this poem. The poem speaks to the work I am doing through The Phoenix Centre, to wholeness, silence, and even to Bodywork.
"You sit here for days saying, This is strange business." – Students came to Rumi to discover his truth. Our experience matches his. When people come here and listen, (or read Into the Centre,) they begin to understand that another way being is taught here. We, as did Rumi, teach the courageous walk of the individual.
Within that parameter are understandings that totally fly in the face of the conventional belief system. And the judgment, from some people, is "this is strange business."
Rumi described this process. As with seekers today, many were seeking the "easy truth," – the truth that doesn’t make demands, the truth that allows one to stay the same.
The courageous walk of the individual seems so outre, so outrageous, that many want to judge the presenter as bring strange, weird, nuts. They scare themselves over the new understandings and the feelings that underlie these understandings. The power of the energy released can be terrifying. And the judgment they make is, "this is strange business."
Rumi acknowledged this reaction to his words and actions, way back in the 1200's. People thought he was crazy. Perverse. Not true to Islam. Whatever. Rumi replied, and this is so today, – "You’re the strange business. You have the energy of the sun in you, but you keep knotting it up at the base of your spine." (Emphasis mine.)
This is the ultimate lesson. I am struck by the number of times when clients show up with some life system they’ve developed over the years, and it really doesn’t work at all, and in the process of talking and sometimes Bodywork, I present an alternative, self-responsible, choiceful way of being. And there will be this blank look and then – "Well, that won’t work. You have to help me fix my present approach." Pressed, they’ll shake their heads and declare me to be strange (which may well be true, but irrelevant), despite the fact that I am successfully living the way I am suggesting and they are here because their approach isn't working. Because I am different, and my approach is different, it seems strange to the person who is stuck.
And yet, the strange thing (from my side) is that the person chooses to remain stuck. Rumi indicated that this is about energy. He is clearly conversant with Buddhist and yogic thinking, as "the energy of the sun stuck at the base of the spine" is an apt description of Kundalini energy. And the demand of this energy is that we act out of our passion.
From a Bodywork perspective, we talk often about ‘stuck" energy or "blocked" energy. (Check my web site for more.) Talking often helps people to "clear their heads" and see another perspective, but Bodywork frees the energy necessary for change to take place.
The energy blocked "at the base of the spine" is powerful, basic, creative and passionate energy. When it moves, Rumi's description of it as "fire" rings true. The feeling is one of an immense rush of energy, up the spine. The feeling is at once huge and even erotic. And that alone is enough to stop some people from choosing to feel it. But without the availability of this force of nature, we are close to impotent. I am so convinced of this these days that I feel that talk therapy alone is a poor half measure compared to a combination of both talk and Bodywork geared towards releasing the blocked energy.
To Rumi, then, it would seem "strange" that people would voluntarily leave this energy "stuck," and then accuse of him being strange for freeing it.
Rumi’s next comment is reserved for people who have begun to make sense of the fire of life. Perhaps he is speaking to those who "get it with their heads." Rumi said, "You’re some weird kind of gold that wants to stay melted in the furnace, so you won’t have to become coins."
This is a description of the person who feels the heat of a new way of being but chooses not to do anything useful with it. A weird gold indeed that wishes to stay within the warmth of the fire, as opposed to becoming "coin," and thus having a purpose within the real world.
There is nothing superficial about the work being described. It’s not a game or a head trip. It is a refining through fire. The work pre-supposes, as we’ve said before, people choosing to live out of their vocation. This takes courage, and a moving beyond the relative safely of head trips.
Rumi’s concluding sentences speak to this same issue. We are indeed firewood, designed to stoke the fires of passion, creativity and purpose. And we are ONE, engaged in a single-minded, single person walk into the fire of re-creation. It’s not about all the things we choose to love, as a way of escaping focusing on our selves and our walk. It’s not about the diseases we claim for ourselves, the genetics we blame, the relationships we obsess about.
It is about being at ONE with ourselves and with God -- with the source, with the chi, with the cosmos. It is about engaging in the arduous work of freeing ourselves from our mental prisons and freeing our energy to flow freely and powerfully.
Indeed, it is strange work. But existing as the walking dead, my friends, is by far the stranger way.
Find your path, and walk it. Find your teacher and learn. Focus on freeing yourself, through continual work in the fire of transformation. Or sit by the side of the road, Like Job, bemoaning your fate.
A continual choice. Choose well.