Rumi’s Poetry as a Way Inside
The Love of Your Life — we all have one — and it’s buried deep inside — a vocation
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Our last week in Canada for a while!
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.
The Love of Your Life
Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull
of what you really love.
Wouldn’t you think that, on the face of it, this “living one’s life in the silent pull of what one loves” would be what we all do?
And doesn’t it make sense that we all would be doing what we love, but emphatically not making a song and dance out of it?
I probably don’t have to say that this is not the experience most people have.
As Thoreau put it,
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” (Walden, Henry David Thoreau)
So, when I write or say that such “quiet desperation” is simply one choice of many, lots of people try to make this complicated.
Quiet desperation: a small example –
I once had a client who seemed to have had tons of dramatic incidents in her life; ones she never seemed able to do anything about. After a 4 month break, she’d returned to therapy to tell me that her life was still in the tank.
In the process of relating a fairly long series of complaints, she said that she had been accepted into Nursing School — in the past, she’d told me this was a life-dream of hers. She sighed.
I asked her to tell me how she was making her acceptance into a bad thing. She replied, “Well, if I hadn’t had that auto accident two years ago, I’d be finishing Nursing School now. I’ll never be able to stop thinking that all of this is happening two years later than it was supposed to.”
Here are a couple of other versions of desperation
Noisy desperation –
Noisy desperation is the sound of whining — those who really believe that they have to have something to complain about, also think that the rest of the world should both listen and actually care.
Noisy braggadocio –
Then, there’s the noisy palaver of those who are sort of doing what they want to do, and who really, really want you to know how charged up and wonderful they are. I get the feeling that, far from being totally immersed in the thing that they love, they are actually immersed in the adoration of the crowds.
Which leaves the Rumi quote –
Inside each of us, deep inside, is a strong pull to find our centre… with our purpose and vocation. The pull of this vocation is subtle, but strong, like undertow. It tugs at the harp strings of our hearts, playing a quiet melody.
I always describe this energy as “vocational” — energy that is focussed on service.
While how this way of living varies from person to person, it has to do with letting go of the ego’s need to keep score.
For example, a common experience in the West is to get a job, work your way up the ladder, make more money, gain recognition. At the end of the day (or increasingly more frequently, in our 40’s) we begin to sense a vague disquiet that suggests to us that perhaps we’re using the wrong beans to keep score.
If we choose to keep doing things the same way, the ache in our gut (which is the feeling of existential angst — the knowledge of our impending deaths) gets stronger, and something will have to give. Many get sick. Or dive into the Prozac bottle.
Others, the wise few, begin to “talk” to the ache, and that leads to in-sight — they suddenly find themselves at a crossroads.
I recognize that, for me, leaving the church at age 45 was that crossroads. Actually, being the Drama King I was back then, I set it up to get myself turfed out — I really never fit in in the first place.
This experience caused me to begin a rigorous self-examination process; Darbella and I had to deal with the practicalities of loss of my income, and we knew that taking my counselling and consulting practice full time would take, well, time.
But the pull, the pull … was so strong. And combined with that was the pull into myself. I found myself examining everything I believed, thought, understood. And I came to the conclusion that “nothing is for sure.”
Except for this moment.
Since then, I feel continued moments of ego death, as another chunk of resistance falls away. The feeling? “Ouch!”
The tug, the pull, for me, is like a caress. I feel protected and safe within the pull, and notice no particular need to shout about what’s happening. So, Rumi’s idea of the “silent pull” resonates deeply for me.
“What we truly love” is unique to each of us. It is a felt sense of coming into the world and leaving something beautiful behind. Like Rumi’s community recording his poetry. After his “conversion experience,” he found himself spontaneously singing the poems we’ve been playing with. Some kind soul wrote them down for us; for Rumi, it wasn’t about “being a poet.” It was glorifying his relationship with God and with others, singing out the joy he found in diving into the depths of who he was.
Inside of you is a current of bliss and joy, (the The Love of Your Life) which points clearly to a “silent” vocation. You can stick to the world’s way of doing things — cling to seeking praise… or glory — or you can step quietly into the silken stream of the thing you love, and live out your love in silent wonder and joy.
The world’s way leads to quiet desperation, or noisy self-glorification. The path inside leads to silent bliss. To The Love of Your Life