Rumi’s Poetry as a Way Inside
A look at Rumi’s poem Strange Business — This poem speaks to my books and other writings, and to wholeness, silence, and finding your centre.
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We’re in Sevilla, wrapping up our time in Spain, and getting ready to fly to Morocco. Maybe all of the Arabic culture / buildings has led me back to Rumi…
Many moons ago, I wrote a series of articles featuring some of Rumi’s poems. I think it’s time for a revisit.
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 from the book The Illuminated Rumi.
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.
This poem speaks to my books and other writings, and to wholeness, silence, and finding your centre.
“You sit here for days saying, This is strange business.” — Students came to Rumi because… well… his reputation preceded him. People showed up to discover his truth.
When people came and listened, they had the opportunity to understand that there, indeed, was another way being. Rumi taught the courageous walk of the individual.
These were and are understandings that totally fly in the face of the conventional belief system. So, some people judged Rumi’s teachings: “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 the person to stay the same.
The courageous walk of the individual seems so “out there,” 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 — and blame the messenger.
And the judgment they make is, “this is strange business.”
Way back in the 1200’s, Rumi described this reaction to his words and actions — people thought he was crazy. Perverse. Not true to Islam. Whatever.
Rumi replied, and his reply rings true 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.)
Back in my counselling days, many were the times when clients showed up with problems — they’d developed some life system… and it didn’t work at all. I’d present an alternative — a self-responsible, choiceful way of being. And there would be this blank look and then — “Well, that won’t work. You have to help me fix my present approach.”
They’d shake their heads and declare me to be strange (which may well be true, but irrelevant), despite the fact that I was successfully living what I was suggesting!
And remember: their sole reason for being there was that their approach wasn’t working.
To me, the strange thing wasn’t what I was presenting. The strange thing was that the person chose to remain stuck.
Next, Rumi wrote that the issue is blocked energy.
He is clearly conversant with Buddhist and yogic thinking, as “the energy of the sun stuck at the base of the spine” is a description of Kundalini energy. And the demand of Kundalini energy is that we act out of our passion.
From a Bodywork perspective, we talk often about “stuck” or “blocked” energy. Talking often helps people to “clear their heads” and see another perspective, but Bodywork frees the energy necessary for change to actually take place.
The energy blocked “at the base of the spine” is powerful, basic, creative and passionate energy. Rumi’s description of it as “fire” rings true. There is an immense rush of “chargy” energy up the spine. And that alone is enough to stop some people from choosing to feel it.
But if this energy is unavailable, we are close to impotent.
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 helping others to free it.
Rumi’s next comment is aimed at people who have stalled.
“You’re some weird kind of gold that wants to stay melted in the furnace, so you won’t have to become coins.”
Perhaps he is speaking to those who “get it with their heads.”
Rumi describes the person who feels the heat of his 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 a “coin,” and thus having a purpose in the real world.
There is nothing superficial about the work Rumi teaches. It’s not a game, nor a head trip. It is a refining through fire. The work pre-supposes that someone chooses to live out of their vocation.
Rumi’s concluding sentences speak to this same issue.
- We are indeed firewood, designed to be used up — burned up — in and by 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 escaping from 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 the source, with the chi, with the cosmos. It is about engaging in the arduous work of freeing ourselves from our mental prisons, while also freeing our energy.
Indeed, it is strange work. But existing as the walking dead is by far the stranger way.
Find your path, and walk it. Find your teacher and learn. Focus on freeing yourself, through continual work on the fire of transformation.
Or you can sit by the side of the road, bemoaning your fate.
A continual choice. Choose well.