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"Knocking From the Inside"

Rumi's Poetry as a Way Inside

Index to Rumi Poetry Series

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door.

It opens.

I've been knocking from the inside!

-- 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.


Well, what a weekend! I just finished leading a Phoenix Centre 2.5 day Advanced Bodywork Practicum, which is available to folk who complete a two day intro course. The advanced unit involves actually doing body and breath work with others in the group, and being "worked on" yourself. What typically happens is that most points pressed simply feel like, well, points being pressed. Then, you press one that's blocking an emotion and the floodgates open and the emotion comes out.

Now, this is certainly something we can turn into a scary thing. In that ripe internal theatre of ours, we make up all kinds of stories about how this is too much or that's going on for too long, or that I just don't get this stuff... Which is a brief and amusing story - I've been doing very intense Bodywork on Dar for six months or so, and a couple of my friends who are good at Bodywork have been too. We'd notice how much Dar was getting out, but Dar would typically reply, "I just don't feel the flow of energy you talk about." So, this weekend, she did whatever she does differently, giving herself permission to feel the chi, and really felt the chi flow, and pleased herself over it. We then did a mini-debriefing and I commented on what had happened for her. Dar, with a wicked grin on her face said, "Other than this time, I don't feel the energy move."

She was kidding, of course, and in a sense "being ironic" or making a joke about the idea that many people have. We block ourselves and block ourselves and refuse to take responsibility for where we are and how we stick ourselves, and then something happens. We have a transformative experience. Instead of absorbing the full impact of the one experience, we head off in one of two directions: we say,

  1. Wow! I transcended!" and think we got something for all time, or
  2. We say, as Dar was kidding about, "Well, that was a fluke. Nothing has changed."

The "reality" is - both are true. We never get anything "for all time," but if we allow ourselves, we can get "each one," over and over again.

Rumi points to this in today's quote. Many live on the lip of insanity, and for exactly the reasons he posits. We so desperately want to know "why." And we keep knocking on the doors of the wise, as we want someone to tell us "why."

The part of us that does this to ourselves hates to hear the "truth"- there is no why, and no one else has your answers.

The mind runs aimlessly hither and thither, bumping up against itself, in various guises. (Who'd you think you were bumping into up there? There's nobody home but you.) The mind, the ego voice, chatters incessantly, blaming, making excuses, and most of all, scaring you with dire consequences and evil predictions. Life seems precarious, dark, foreboding. We want to run away, to hide, to find safety. Until, of course, we get the joke.

You can't run away or get over it. There is nothing to run from, and there is no it. There's just you, seeking the answer to the following, "Why am I choosing to scare myself?" How can you run away from a question you're asking yourself?

I'm writing a new booklet on this topic - about the voices in our heads - and maybe it will be done in September. (Dar and I are off to do courses on the West Coast in late July and early August, so I'm having trouble predicting my writing schedule.) I concluded a long ago that the first step in self knowledge is the absolute acceptance of responsibility for what goes on in my life, and especially at the level of the stories I tell myself.

This point - this "getting it," is described by Rumi as "the door opening." This "opening" allows for in-sight. And the insight is, this is me, spinning my wheels, staying stuck, making choices (including the choice not to choose), scaring myself. The freedom that comes with the opening of the door is the freedom of recognition. (Which is Latin, and means to think again - to re- cognate.)

It's always me, interacting with me.

In the context of Bodywork, the supreme moment is allowing yourself to lie down on the table with curiosity as your goal. We breathe, we let go, we let go again, and see what of us chooses to emerge. Sounds, emotions may flood us from the depths of our being, sad, angry, grieving, joyous, ecstatic emotions, caused by nothing, just there, wanting out. If we are patient with ourselves, out they will come, and we will feel larger.

One of the participants, seeing the Rumi poetry books around, commented, "And isn't that just like Bodywork and this workshop process. You end up feeling more roomy."

Keep opening, keep walking, but knock once. Then notice. Not only does the door open, but you find yourself opening the door to yourself, so your self is set free. Amazing. Roomy.

Finally, just a note of thanks to all of you who keep reading Into the Centre, despite the challenge my words sometimes elicit in you. A reader, this week, wrote:

I sometimes think..."wow, this guy has gone off the deep end"...then I say "what the hell, and dive in after" and yup! once again I surface as I come to the end of your article and notice I've taken another deep breath! :-)

In the end, I suspect, that is more than enough!!!

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