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"Never, Never Sleep"

Rumi's Poetry as a Way Inside


Index to Rumi Poetry Series


Those who don’t feel this love pulling them like a river,
those who don’t drink dawn like a cup of springwater or take in sunset like supper,
those who don’t want to change, let them sleep.
This love is beyond the study of theology, that old trickery and hypocrisy.
If you want to improve your mind that way, sleep on.
I’ve given up on my brain, I’ve torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away. If you’re not completely naked, wrap your beautiful robe of words around you, and sleep.

-- Rumi


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.


water watch

We continue looking at the poetry of Rumi, and turn to another quote dear to my heart. (Which is, of course, a silly thing to say, as I’m picking the poems, so clearly the one I pick are… never mind… )

Rumi is addressing a religious community – one that is "of his own making." Well before he was drawn deeply into the web of the spiritual explorer – the path of the mystic – he had formed his own Islamic seminary. The insights he describes in his poetry led him further and further away from the dry and dusty debates of theology (now there’s something I don't miss!) and deeper and deeper into himself. His process was one of going deeply inside to find Allah, to find God.

His analogies, in this poem, come from nature, to begin with. The seed of his understanding is that within us all, if we look, is a pull towards what he calls, "this love." It’s a love of transformation, of learning, leading to new doings and new ways of being. And that the involvement is real, deep and intimate.

It's real – as opposed to theoretical. Notice that later he says, "This love is beyond the study of theology, that old trickery and hypocrisy. If you want to improve your mind that way, sleep on." I suspect I'm willing to work with just about anyone, but I agree with Rumi, lack of motivation and endless discussion are the twin banes of therapy. And I can’t imagine anything worse than a sleepy theologian. (I've seen one or two in my time.)

Real implies an active engagement in the process -- in the real world. Notice that he links the pull of "this love" with dawn and dusk, with water and food. What can this mean but that Rumi expects his students to "always" be engaged in this walk? It is thus "real" as opposed to a theoretical head trip.

Many folk think that talking about their problems, or more in keeping with the "study of theology" theme, talking theoretically about the theory behind their problems, is all that is necessary. In truth, talk changes nothing.

Of course, "those who don't want to change" won't – but at least they're being honest with themselves. It's the "endless debaters" – the people who quote books in their sleep but never enact them, that seem to me to be not so much sleeping, but dead.

My current favourite story about this is a woman who read a couple of books on communication, including the 3 free booklets from my web site. She then handed them to her husband and said, "Here. Read these. I'm not going to talk to you until you do." Proving once again that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The opposite is what happened yesterday in a workshop I was leading on Shadow Work. A couple of the participants were new to me. I was connecting Shadow Work to breath work and chakra work, and using a lot of meditations and visualizations. Late in the afternoon, the participants were doing some breathing, and one of the new people started to really feel the flow of energy. I went over to her and worked on some release points. She went deeper, courageously, as this was new to her, and had the beginnings of a quite transformative experience. She said, mid breath, "This is really scaring me," yet took another breath. She's definitely not asleep. 

Her experience was real.

Depth – is achieved by cultivating the trait of perseverance. It's never enough to "just dabble" in this work. Coming to grips with ourselves requires both diligence and patience. And, dare I add, a good teacher.

Intimate – intimacy is about the whole hearted sharing of yourself at the boundary of you. Again, yesterday, at the end of the workshop, one of the guys said, "I never knew sitting and watching someone breathe could be such an intimate experience." – I suspect it was more than the breathing – it was the dialog, the common, shared experiences, the feeling and releasing of the energy of life – but I resonate with what he said. Showing up (my note of appreciation to the group, at the end was, "Thanks for showing up and showing up,") as opposed to coming up with excuses, running away, hiding – in short, choosing to put contact -- intimate contact, is at the top of the list and is paramount for growth.

As opposed, as Rumi says, to being asleep. Tuned out. Off in la la land. It's oh so easy to talk a good show, yet never to engage the process fully. I love Rumi's line: "I’ve given up on my brain, I’ve torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away." While theoretical knowledge is required for this walk, the key is knowing when to leave the brain and enter the body, there to enact the drama of life by living your life and actually making a difference.

Woe betide the person who simply spends their life wandering the synapses of their minds, twisting, turning, getting lost, and somehow assuming they are "getting it." Indeed, when people tell me, "I think I’m getting it," I often reply, "Don’t tell me. Show me."

And they will, by having a breath,  baring their soul, engaging in life, joining me in a mutual sharing at the depths of who we are. Far from being about talking, far from talking about being, it is engagement at the boundaries, where souls meet, touch and dance.

Far, far better than spending your life asleep. Wouldn't you agree? Now, let’s dance.




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