Rumi’s Poetry as a Way Inside
Never, Never Sleep — Rumi’s poetry. Love and insight, using nature as its basis.
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We’re now in Morocco! Soon, back to Canada.
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.
Never, Never Sleep
Those who don’t feel this love pulling them like a river,
those who don’t drink dawn like a cup of spring-water 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.
Here’s a Rumi poem that I call Never, Never Sleep — it’s dear to my heart. (Which is, of course, a silly thing to write, as I’m picking the poems, so clearly the one I pick are… never mind… ) 😉
In this poem, Rumi is addressing the religious community he had created. 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 discovered over the next few years served as the impetus for his poetry. Those mystical insights led him further and further away from the dry and dusty debates of theology, and deeper and deeper into himself.
The initial analogies in Never, Never Sleep come from nature.
This love: Rumi says that within us all is a pull towards what he calls, “this love.” It’s a love of transformation — of insight and discovery — that leads to new ways of being and doing. Involvement with “this love” is real, deep and intimate.
“This love” is real
It’s not theoretical, and it’s not mere knowledge. Later he writes,
“This love is beyond the study of theology, that old trickery and hypocrisy. If you want to improve your mind that way, sleep on.” [emphasis mine]
It’s true: lack of motivation and endless discussion are the twin banes of therapy — and both are great ways to stay stuck.
INsight is powered by active engagement in the process — in dialogue with the real world. Notice that he links the pull of “this love” with dawn and dusk, with water and food. Rumi expects his students to “always” be engaged in this walk.
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.
“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 deep principles in their sleep but never enact them, that seem to me to be not so much sleeping, but dead.
A client once told me that she’d read a couple of books on communication, including mine. 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.
Depth — is achieved through 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 the whole-hearted sharing of yourself at the boundary of you. It’s the dialog, the common, shared experiences, the feeling of and releasing of the energy of life. This as opposed to coming up with excuses, running away, hiding.
It’s choosing to put contact — intimate contact, at the top of your priorities.
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 thereby actually making a difference.
“If you’re not completely naked, wrap your beautiful robe of words around you, and sleep.” Rumi concludes with a picture of openness and vulnerability — being completely naked, being completely open and available — revealed.
We get scared being that open — we fear that others will run away if they ever see us without the “clothes” our hiding and fearing brings us. Rumi invites those who cannot face this level of revelation to cover themselves in words, and go back to sleep.
Because 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.”
The only way to do this work is to have a breath, bare your soul, engage with life, and share who you are at the depth of yourself. 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?