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"Finding the Illusive Path"

Rumi's Poetry as a Way Inside

Index to Rumi Poetry Series

We must not be afraid of what anyone might say: 
Be source, not result.

-- 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.


This line is the tail end of a poem about Spirit and madness. A preceding line says: " half-crazy is not nearly enough for you! " And I notice, this week, that my mailbox has attracted a couple more quotes on the same topic. (Both of the following quotes came through the "list" for pd seminars:)

"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it."

- this line was quoted by at of Fadia Rafeedie's Cal-Berkeley convocation address – which was a brilliant denouncement of U.S. policy toward Iraq.

And this:

This poem was written by Mother Teresa and is engraved on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta.

  • People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
    Forgive them anyway.
  • If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
    Be kind anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
    Succeed anyway.
  • If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy it overnight;
    Build anyway.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    Do good anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    Give the world the best you've got anyway.
  • You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
    It was never between you and them anyway.

This, truly, is a different path.

Perhaps the hardest thing to learn or admit to is this: In relation to others, we are absolutely powerless to make them change. In relation to ourselves, we are absolutely in charge of our experience.

Now, why is this so hard to get? I suspect it has something to do with our deep instinct to fix things that are "out there." Now, paradoxically, that is what we do in our business lives. We adjust systems, create products, invent cures – in short, we spend our working careers looking for what’s broken, and creating solutions. And this is as it should be. It’s actually what I’m doing, right now, writing Into the Centre.

When it comes to the status of our own souls, deep structure, selves, our instinct is to apply the same criteria. My life is a mess, let me see who is messing it up, and get them to shift.  

I was working with a client yesterday, and we ended up talking about her relationships. She’s averaged a year each time with several men. The men who treated her badly she tried to fix. The men who treated her well soon became boring. Now, it would have been "easy" to talk with her about how she dealt with men, but my tack was to ask her to explore her own needs and desires. What did she want out of a relationship?

She sat quietly, wheels spinning. Finally, she said, "I don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to be in relationship." And hidden in that was, "I put up with this dating crap to keep from being alone."

I suggested she work on The List of 50 ( free download from my web site) – so that in the process she might dig more deeply into what she’s looking for. That process also calls for us to look at past relationships, to look for patterns in our behaviour that have led to problems for us.

I notice that when clients choose to walk this path of self-examination and self-reflection, much about them changes. There is a deepening groundedness, an ability to see and feel what’s happening. One of my intimate friends (hey, Jen!) is in the middle of this process, and wrote me an e-mail about a sunset she’d seen on her drive home. She was really impressing herself with its beauty, but more significantly, that she’d been clear enough from her own drama to actually notice a sunset.

Rumi wanted his listeners to notice how often we distract ourselves with what everyone else is doing, or with what everyone else wants from us, or with what we want to manipulate others into doing for us. As we do this outward dance, as we change our direction based upon what we think others want or will do, we fall further and further away from ourselves. And all of it is based upon wanting to fit in to what society is doing!

To me, that’s really scary.

To "be source, not result" is the ultimate freedom to live our lives as we were intended to. Mother Teresa speaks of this quite frankly – when you step out of society's line, when you live your heart’s passion and desire, you’re going to annoy people – and her advice is like ours here at The Phoenix Centre – do it anyway.

"But what will people think?" Beats me. I find, as usual, a paradox. People bent on control, people who would like me to behave a certain way, can really annoy themselves over me and my direction. On the other hand, the more I walk my path, the more I dedicate myself to knowing as much as I can about me and my journey, the more I meet people on a similar walk. So, in truth, I lose some, but certainly win some. This crowd of "friends" is not huge, but boy, are they fun to hang around with. 

Which is why Rumi spoke, not to the masses, but to his community. Which is why Mother Teresa had that quote tacked up in her home for her children – the quote was for her sisters, for the kids, not for "the world." Which is why I write to you, as opposed to seeking the cover of the New York Times.

Or as the Arabic quote says, 
"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it."

I do not judge (hey, Paul!) the path of "the world" to be wrong. I do judge it to be a path I choose not to walk. I do not judge average, everyday, standard, manipulative relationships to be wrong. I do judge that having one would make me miserable, so I choose total honesty, deep commitment, intimacy and joy in each of my intimate relationships. I do not judge that people who are living their lives dishonestly – by continually trying to figure out what others want and changing to fit that mold, or trying to get the other person to change, are wrong. I judge that I have enough to do learning to live inside my own skin, having my feelings, claiming my judgements as being totally about me, discovering and re-discovering my passion and living it out.

I re-invite you along on this walk. Look inside and see the drama. Look inside and purge yourself of the need for approval. Look inside and see the depth and beauty that is your essence. Start right this moment to build what only you can build, from the depth of you. Others may attempt to tear it down, but the success of our life is not measured in what we pile up. It’s measured in the act of creation itself. A dynamic process and a fluid intermingling of like minded souls.

On a road that is never crowded.

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