Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in ever
widening rings of being. ~Rumi
Recently, I watched Rumi: Poetry of the Heart, a short documentary in which teachers, historians, and American translators shared some important events from the poet’s personal life. Eight hundred years after being composed, Rumi’s translated works are the best-selling poetry in the US. Among the many things we Americans choose to collect, this is truly a gift.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was born in 1207 in present-day Afghanistan, at the time a part of Persia. His father was a Sufi teacher, and immersed his son in the teachings of Islamic mysticism. Upon his father’s death, Rumi, at 25 years of age, stepped into his father’s teaching role, amassing many followers. Twelve years later, his life was changed by a wandering stranger, Shams of Tabriz, who challenged the scholarly educator with the idea of putting aside his books to experience the life in his teachings. Shams is credited with inspiring Rumi to create many of the beautiful verses we know today.
Why should I seek?
I am the same as He.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself! ~Rumi
According to Coleman Barks, an American translator who worked with a Sufi master for 9 years, Rumi’s sense of the Divine is the jewel-like quality of our inner awareness. It is reflected in a baby’s smile, in natural beauty, and even in a group of friends sharing a meal.
Years ago, I bought an exceptional recording, A Gift of Love: Music Inspired by the Love Poems of Rumi. It’s one of those collections that requires more than one play – when I listen to it, I have to hear it again every day for a week or more. I can’t describe how it opens my heart, elevates my spirit, and encourages me to ponder spiritual truths. This partial poem is from that recording:
From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.
Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for.
Today I have found you
and those who laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking as I did.
I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you
with a hundred eyes.
My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold. ~Rumi
An opinion shared by all those featured in the documentary is the reason for Rumi’s modern popularity: truth. The ways in which the poet intertwined spiritual truth and beauty speaks directly to the heart.
At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language door and open the love window.
The moon won’t use the door, only the window. ~Rumi
Since first hearing his work, Rumi has been far and away my favorite poet. I find it encouraging that the American population is embracing the writings of this ancient mystery tradition teacher. Our culture’s need for love, beauty, and truth has never been greater.
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