Rumi The Ecstatic
there was a party in your honor
but you forgot your invitation!
We jumped the fence to the Garden
and set up tables with sweet delicacies...
You really should have seen
the moon drop her skirt
and dance until dawn!
-- Robert Daniel Smith
A Brief Life Sketch
Rumi was born on September 30, 1207 in the city of Balkh on the edge of the Persian empire, in what is now Afghanistan. While a youth, he fled with his family before the advancing threat of Genghis Khan and the Mongol conquest. Eventually, his family settled in Konya (the ancient city of Iconium). Upon the death of his father, Rumi traveled and continued his instructions in the "Sufi" way, eventually returning to Konya in 1240. His reputation as a mystic and teacher was firmly established.
In 1244, the pivotal event of Rumi's life occurred: a sixty-year-old wandering Sufi dervish, Shams of Tabriz, arrived in Konya. The stories vary as to their first meeting, but they agree that Rumi recognized in Shams the "Light of God" -- and he stepped out of the shadows of his profession, social standing, and personal history to be burned to a crisp: and then to offer the burnt remnants first to Shams, then to the Holy One and on to the rest of us...
As great stories go, there is confusion, chaos, division, and tragedy in the "play" of the "burning"... but there is also the slow, steady, polishing of the heart, until all that is visible is a perfect reflection of One Love... Shams disappeared and Rumi the Student died: and was reborn "Rumi The Ecstatic": Rumi whirled into Love Identification, and left behind thousands of poems to light our journey into our own transformation... Rumi is a Master of the Mystic Path, a sure guide into the interior of our hearts: the only "Place" where we may discover the Face of the Beloved: and Whoa! but it is our very own Face looking back at us...
I am not a person of faith: so don't call me anything!
I am not of any one direction; not of the land or of the sea.
I am not the offspring of Nature, neither am I an angel!
The essential elements have nothing to do with me;
I have no existence and no being.
Look for me in India -- I am not there -- neither am I anywhere!
I am not in this world, nor am I in the next.
You'll not see me in Paradise, and certainly not in Hell.
I am not a child of Adam or Eve or the Garden.
My Home is nowhere and my Way is lost in a tangle:
Don't say I have a body! Don't say I am a soul!
If there is a remnant of "I" left: it belongs to the Beloved!
There is no separation! There is Only One!
One I have sought! One I have found!
One is all I see! One is all I know!
(Version by Robert Daniel Smith, based on a Translation by R. A. Nicholson)
The Mystic Path of Rumi... for a Total Planetary rEvolution!
Through my many years of Rumi-study-meditation-practice, I've "settled" into an understanding of the core Mystic Teachings that The Ecstatic has passed on to us. "Implementation" is the Key! Our precious blue Planet is crying out to each one of us to give our lives over to the cause of global transformation -- before we inflict irreversible damage upon our Home and All Life. In the poetry and vision of Rumi is the astounding conviction that each and every particular moment is infinite and connected to each and every other moment: indeed, there is only one moment, as there is Only One, One Love... and this One Moment that you are living within is yours for Every Other and for this precious blue Planet! Holy Moly, but you are SACRED! Isn't this essential awareness absolutely stunning?
I rose from the elements to become a living plant!
I rose from the world of the animal to become a human!
And the higher I rise, the more I laugh!
Living and dying -- it's all the same to me!
Someday soon, I'll cast off this current form
to enter the formless void, but that too
I will rise above or beyond -- that will be no sacrifice!
Everything is pure splendor -- when it is not I, but You!
There! Beyond the Imagination that imagined me and you,
She and us, and the Something of a Big Secret!
(Version by Robert Daniel Smith, based on a translation by R. A. Nicholson)
Towards the Essence of Rumi the Ecstatic: "Only One"
"Only One" is the inner-most Mystery of the teachings and poetry of Rumi -- as it is for mysticism in general, and Sufism in particular. This core teaching must find its way into the minds and hearts of everyone on this precious blue Planet: for "Only One" is the Only Way into the future we dream of for our children and for every child...
If you want to become an "agent" for our Planetary transformation, you've got to take a stand for "Only One" and give voice on behalf of every "other": every person (or people) marginalized in any way. Look for where, and all the ways in which people hurt: become a "living bridge" of hope, kindness, and active compassion. Equality in every way for all, as an example, should be a given in this the 21st century -- that it is not, is a clarion call to solidarity and to action. Look to where people -- anyone -- suffers from exploitation and oppression, and shine a light on that suffering. Do not let the representatives of the dominator paradigm get away with their justifications! As an example, women should have equal rights and equal access to power, including the exercise of religious power: to deny spiritual leadership to a woman solely because of gender is an injustice: do not let the representatives of the dominator paradigm get away with their justifications! "Only One" is the force of nonviolence: "Only One" is the force of conversion and reconciliation to a higher standard. As you become a "living bridge" between yourself and all of the "others" in the circle of your life, to that very same degree, you will be assisting in the birth of a new Planetary culture: a culture that draws into its center, into its very heart, every "other": everyone is welcomed home in "Only One": everyone is worthy of the very best in "Only One": and "One Love" is the Divine Sun who wants to welcome us into its Radiance: and we'll only find that Radiance by leaving no one behind in our shadows...
"Only One" is the essence of every religion: it has been most beautifully expressed by Simone Weil, "We have been created by Love, for Love, to become Love." There has never been a truer statement uttered by a human being: ever! While power needs to objectify and make "others" in order to maintain its dominance and control, "One Love" is perfect freedom and liberation for everyone in peace, justice, reverence, good stewardship, and equality. This difference is everything! This is the philosophical game-changer we've been waiting for! And wouldn't you know it, but this truth is as old as the hills... actually It Is even way before the hills... way back, way back, before the beginning there was Only One. That Being, when it asked the first question, "What if?" and answered with a self-identification of Infinite Imagination In One Love, is the Only Reality... everything "else" exists within the divine Play of That One Love... "It is. We are It. We forget. We remember." ... As Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian likes to say.
"Only One" is an opportunity to exercise the most powerful option in the Universe. It is the Zen "Sword of No Swords"... it is the mystic talisman of transfiguration. It is both true religion and power politics: it is the end of religion and "game over" for politics. It is the removal of the "scale of justice" from the hand of every oppressor. By the steady practice of "Only One" you will come to see clearly: as you were meant to see! At first, we look for tendencies: in the voting booth, will this candidate or that "tend us" toward equality, justice, etc. Does this pastor witness and organize for inclusion of the "other", the "different", the "marginalized"? Does this purchase come without the hidden cost of someone's economic exploitation or slavery? These tendencies will become your daily practice and your daily prayer. Eventually, these tendencies will become your passion, your career, and your lifestyle. You will discover your interior boundaries disappearing: you will envision your heart encompassing this entire precious blue Planet, every person, every creature, and everything will be found within your new self-awareness and identity. You will discover your self every day anew -- and in an "other"... you will become everyone and capable of loving without limit... all because you have "reduced" yourself to "Only One": you will take an evolutionary leap for all of humankind and for the entire evolutionary movement of consciousness in the Universe: in you the Primal "What if?" will become "Why not?"
In every way: in thought, in words, and in your actions, practice "Only One"...
With yourself steadfastly re-oriented to "Only One", you are now ready for the primary transformative practice of Rumi... but first, a little story... There are a few differing accounts of the first meeting of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, and the one I am most drawn to goes something like this...
Shams of Tabriz, known as the "Flyer" -- perhaps because of his leaving place after place, always searching for his Friend... someone who shared his thirst for a Total Surrender in Love... In despair, Shams begged the Holy One that he might finally encounter this dreamed of Friend... and, sure enough, the Holy One gifted Shams with insight and a sure path to the Promised One... Arriving soon thereafter in Konya, Shams search was settled as he gazed upon the face of Rumi, the famous scholar and mystic...
Sometime later, Shams entered the School in which Rumi was the Master -- after his father before him, a school of the sufi mystic path... Rumi was seated before the gathered students who listened intently to the wise and gracious words that flowed from the honeyed-lips of the Master... Shams stood enthralled: there, only twenty feet away, the Object of his life-search! Overcome with rapture, Shams jumped before the Master, scooped up the opened books before him, and threw them in the green-blue waters of the meditation pool... the students were suddenly livid and jumped to defend their Master... Rumi could only stutter in shocked amazement: his father's most precious writings, all the secrets of the mystic path, were soaking in the pool: the swirls of black ink in the water broke Rumi's heart... he could only mutter a forlorn, "Why?" To which Shams derisively asked, "Why not?"
Shams, himself now standing in the pool with the fountain waters splattering upon his head and dripping off his wild beard, reached down into the water and retrieved the precious manuscript -- page after page, perfectly dry and in perfect order, re-gathered into the sacred book of Rumi's father... The students cowered behind their Master's chair, looking upon the miraculous scene with amazement. When the entire manuscript was placed again upon the table before Rumi's outstretched hand... only then did he raise his eyes to gaze upon Shams... Shams asked, "Which do you want, this book or the Flames of Love which will burn you through and through until this 'Rumi' has disappeared?" With tears flowing freely from his eyes, Rumi cried out, "I want to burn! I need to burn!" Together, Shams and Rumi stumbled from the hall, arm in arm, already drunk with the fire of endless possibilities...
The mysticism that Shams taught Rumi was the mysticism of disappearance -- into the Beloved -- until "Only One" remained... What secret did Shams reveal? What path of Flame did Shams lead Rumi upon? What great teaching has Rumi since imparted to his students? What mystic practice is there that will shatter both mind and heart -- yet at the same time heal, and then open both into vast new horizons?
I call it "Occupy Eyes"... it is very simple: but, short of taking your last breath, likely the hardest thing you will ever do. This is a perfect practice for Lovers: but it is also perfect for faith and intentional communities: for parents and children... It is probably obvious, but it must be said, this practice is only for persons who know they are absolutely safe and always respected by the "other"... Here then, is the practice of Shams and Rumi:
With someone you love (again though, it can be anyone so long as you know you are safe and respected), sit for one minute (or five minutes or a full day, alternating fifteen minutes "on" and fifteen minutes "off") looking into the eyes of your partner. Say nothing, just look, gently holding each other's gaze. Do not look away -- although it is always okay to blink! Do not touch, just sit facing each other. At the conclusion of one minute (or the chosen time frame), each person places a hand on the forehead or shoulder of their partner and says, "One Love Blessing"... This is the practice of surrender into the One Love visible in an "other"... all of the essential mystical practices are included in this one practice, which places it above all others: simplification of the mind / heart, openness, adoration, surrender, communion, and finally, the service of love... this practice fulfills Rumi's great poetic teaching, "Let the beauty we love be what we do... There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground."
According to the stories, Rumi and Shams disappeared for days, then weeks, and even months of this mystic practice of burning away into the Flame of Love... and of course, there are many other stories -- mostly of jealousy among Rumi's other students... Yet now with centuries between then and now, those stories themselves have surrendered into the beauty of thousands and thousands of poems left by Rumi to touch us with something of the "burning hand" that cured him of himself -- and set free a human being to become Love and to love without limit...
One more story... Rumi was old now, Shams had long-since disappeared again... the Master was famous and beloved by all... nowhere in Konya was anyone so loved... and yet, and yet... One day a special feast was given in honor of Rumi's life of service and devotion... it was a very splendid day... in the early evening, Rumi began to scoop food into the folds of his robe, trying carefully to be un-noticed... but he was noticed! The town busy-body, who just knew the Master had to be a hypocrite like everyone else, observed the secret-scooping and hiding of food... so, the Master is a glutton! (And that is probably not the least of his sins!) Rumi gently excused himself from the table, and when he thought no one was looking, slipped through the door and walked out into the desert... the busy-body carefully -- and gleefully -- followed behind... a few miles later, Rumi came upon a burrow in the ground, surrounded by some tired and scraggly bushes. He knelt and place all of the food from his robes on the ground... a tired and scraggly momma-dog, with her nursing puppies latched on, nosed the food and gulped it all down. The busy-body watched with amazement, embarrassed to be next to the Master, yet unrestrained enough by this surprising twist in events to mutter, "How did you know that dog was here?" Rumi patted the old dog's head, and said, "When you are quiet in Love, you'd be surprised at all you could hear... I heard her pups crying, I could feel her pain of hunger, I did what I could. Now you can return every day and feed them all -- you know, I'm much too busy myself..." In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate, Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty...
Do you remember a science teacher ever proposing this question to a class that you were in: "What would happen if an absolutely immovable object was struck by an absolutely unstoppable force?" As seventh graders, we scratched our heads, shouted a slew of goofy answers, and were collectively disappointed with the teacher's "I don't know either... but that's what is so much fun about science: you get to think and search for answers." ... and we thought cosmic explosions so much more interesting... So: what would happen if transcendence and imminence, like the immovable object and unstoppable force were to "collide"? What would happen if transcendence and imminence were to merge in you?
The "working out" of the answer to this question is the essence of the mystic-path -- and the very specific call and challenge of the 21st century! How we answer will not only determine our fate, but the fate of this precious blue Planet as well: absolutely everything hinges upon our answer and our effort! Aren't we are all deeply troubled? Doesn't leadership seem to keep casting empty lines into the "river of time": forgetting whom they serve? Suffering is rampant, and perhaps even our precious blue Planet is dying. This is the mystic-life lived out on a Planetary scale: crushing heartbreak within heartbreak within heartbreak... Which do you serve: transcendence or imminence? Do you turn away from your brothers and sisters, from the Real all around you, for a private faith experience and a heavenly hope? Or do you reject the mystery and decide to live in this moment only -- snapping up of what pleasure you can before you yourself are snapped up by death? Your very life is the only expression you have of the choice that you make -- so back to the first question: What would happen if transcendence and imminence were to merge in you?
Answer: sorry for anyone hoping for an explosion (but then why would you be reading this?)... in any case, the answer is "Transfiguration"... Do you remember the story of Yeshua climbing a mountain with a few of his friends, he stops to pray, and is mysteriously "transfigured" before their eyes? His friends, still not anywhere near to figuring him out, ask if they can sell tickets to his transfiguration event: they could make a little money and perhaps finance his revolution besides... Can't you just see Yeshua roll his eyes as he says, "Look Snookems, none of this is about me or money! It is all about you and service! I did this so you would remember: if you are my followers, you must love everyone! You must serve everyone! You must feed everyone!"
For Rumi, for those on the Sufi path, and for mystics in general, the Prayer of Remembrance is the very heart of sincere practice and the seed-bed for the revolution of constant adoration. With each breath, with the inflow and the outflow, there can be a "pause within the Name"... this practice of remembrance is key to developing a life of increasing radiance. Like the reed pulled from the riverbank, we are cleaned, stripped, and hollowed that the Divine Breath might become the breath-of-our-breath... and also like the reed, our longing is for the day of our return to the river: to Only One - One Love... and then, in the words of another great poet, "To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour." (William Blake)
Transfiguration is your mystical identity as "Only One": Within your self, within your very breath, you will have united the opposites of transcendence and imminence. Within you there will be no separation between the sacred and the secular. Within you everyone will be embraced and everyone will find a "welcome home". Within you the "upward gaze of the soul" is one with the outward movement of your arms to gather in everyone: with absolutely no one left out or left behind. Within you there is room for hope to grow and flourish. Within you there is an abundance of love only waiting your assent into activation. Within you there is a Way... into Adoration: that radical awakening into the grandeur of things and moments and feelings and people -- oh the people, the beautiful people!-- all the ways in which we love and how we stumble and fall and the courage we muster to rise again and strive... it is an incredible consolation to read in the poetry of Rumi that the Holy One adores each and every one of us (if we could live that way for a day, absolutely everything would be utterly transformed before our very eyes!)
Perhaps the greatest gift of Rumi is neither his poetry nor his faith... but rather his simple example of Love as the Way... and how radiant the Way is! Through reading his words, perhaps you can imagine the truth of your real name, the secret of your heart, to be in fact "Beautiful"... What if you were to live, to really live every day for the rest of your life, as "Beautiful"? What if you were to live, to really live every day for the rest of your life, loving everyone as "Beautiful"? I for sure know exactly what would happen! This precious blue Planet would be forever changed -- perhaps overnight if we all were to live, to really live every day for the rest of our lives, loving everyone and everything as "Beautiful"!
So... what if you were to live your transfiguration, really live every day for the rest of your life as "Beautiful"? Do you want to find out? The whole point of Rumi is this: he keeps laying down his bet that you will... and that is exactly why he is ecstatic! You will!
This is now the time for the music and dance of your soul to embrace the music and dance of the Universe... around the pillar of Only One, let your body whirl in ecstasy... massage surrender and adoration into your pores... let the truth of your being encompass your every pain in life: you are One Love... let the earth rise in your ecstasy and the Universe bow to your adoration... the world is being saved by your beauty...Only One... Only One... Only One... One Love... One Love...One...
"In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate, Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty... within Beauty... within Beauty..."
The Forty Rules of Love / Elif Shafak
The Big Red Book / Coleman Barks
The Way of Love / Nigel Watts
Rumi's Secret / Brad Gooch
The Illuminated Rumi / Coleman Barks and Michael Green
Awakening / Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan