Rumi’s Poetry as a Way Inside
Ways of Transformation — using yourself up is today’s theme — but in a good way! It’s all about tearing down what isn’t working, and replacing it with what does
** Want more great writing designed to help YOU to shift your behaviour?
** Want to learn how to find, build or deepen your principal relationship?
** Want to know more about Zen living and being?
Back to Ontario for a month and a bit. Then… Costa Rica!
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.
We Know What to Do
Can you endure silence? Are you a night fighter?
Or more a child bored with outgrown toys
trying to win at tip-the-cat?
If you have any patience left, we know what to do.
If you love sleep, we’ll tear you away.
If you change into a mountain, we’ll melt you.
If you become an ocean, we’ll drain you.
Here’s a quote from American writer Jack London:
“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me a significant glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not spend my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
– Jack London
I trust you’re noticing that Rumi is an action oriented guy. As, apparently, was Jack London. And both were all about Ways of Transformation
In the Rumi quote, there’s a world-view that says, “No matter what you are doing, if you are stuck there, that’s the same as giving up.” The person who is stuck in endless self-exploration is just as stuck as the person who never explores at all.
It’s amazing how many people are deluding themselves. They do workshops, therapy, whatever, read books… and that is it. It’s like being on a treadmill and confusing it with actually going someplace. It’s like studying the package directions until you know them by heart, but then you’re too tired to cook the meal.
We think that we have all the time in the world to become… well… useful. Or, we have a vision, (complete or fragmented) of whom we might be and what contribution we might make, but we creep up on it over years, and somehow our path seems to elude us… to always be “just one more step ahead.”
We create all kinds of reasons and justifications for taking our time.
No money. No time. Too busy working on what we hate, too busy doing what doesn’t work. Too scared. Or the infamous, “What if I don’t like the new version of me?”
All of these things are excuses. And Rumi’s prescription is to destroy the excuse as one of the Ways of Transformation.
- If you prefer sleep, we’ll tear you away from your dozing.
- If you solidify and lock down and refuse to budge, we’ll melt your resistance.
- If you become so insubstantial and fluid that no one can get anywhere near you, we’ll drain you of your pretense, and leave you stripped and bare, seemingly as dry as ashes.
And from there, from the place where resistance is past, we will begin again.
Begin what? Ways of Transformation. To live.
Look at the London quote. Read it a couple of times. He wants us to make something extraordinary happen. Which, to me, begs the question — given the unique nature of each of us, and given the unique skill set of each of us, how is it that we need to be reminded to be unique?
Because for many, that’s what it takes. Re-minding. (Having a new mind in place of the old one. Figuratively, of course… although for a couple of people I know… 😉 )
My judgment is that we live in a world of dust, of dry rot and sterile, “sleepy, planet-like” people. And we see around us the results: a world filled with people getting by, but never soaring.
Both London and Rumi want us to “get” that the mark of a whole person is to be of use; to make a difference, however small. They encourage ruthless resistance:
- against the forces of staying stuck,
- against being predictable,
- against accepting a shallow life by denying that you are capable of so much more,
- against conforming to the meek blandness that society wants us to adopt.
A whole person is not anything — other than themselves.
The whole person is not driven to convert others… or to save others… or to rescue others. The whole person is focused on living brightly, immediately, with movement, with passion, with fire — fire between the ears, fire up the spine, fire in the belly and fire, especially, in the heart.
To live — not just to exist — is the proper focus of a human being. This is a short, juicy, meaningful walk, this life we are given, measured not in the number of days in our life, but rather in the life we put into our limited and numbered days.
We don’t have forever — we, rather, have this moment. Why, then, would we choose to waste this precious moment in fear, recrimination, doubt, inactivity or self-pity? Why would we not choose, actively choose, to be a comet streaking across the sky?
How? By coming into the moment, fully and deeply.
By connecting with ourselves, body, spirit and mind, rather than living in our heads. By actively enacting our path, rather than settling for some boring and meaningless job the “pays the bills.” By, in short, choosing to walk consciously.
I’ve watched many, many people over the years do exactly this, and I certainly work at doing it myself.
I’ve equally seen many, many people stop their walk because they judged it to be too difficult; they were too tired, they had “real” obligations. And truly, as London said, it is not long before dry rot sets in.
We are here to support you in your walk. We take our responsibility seriously, and love hearing from you as you find your paths and walk them. The world is a vast, gray landscape, dotted with spots of great colour and depth. Will you be dust, or will you soar? Will you fit in, or will you illuminate your little spot with incredible colour? Will you be whom everyone else wants you to be, or will you be you?