Some Rumi for a cold day

I was recently introduced to the Persian Sufi poet Rumi by a poet who is also a life coach. So, to get my mind off getting lost yesterday and to set the tone for a productive and imaginative day, here are some Rumi poems. Did you know that Rumi is apparently the most widely-read poet in the world (including the United States)? Not bad for a Muslim who would have turned 800 years old last year.

Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The Worm’s Waking

This is how a human can change:
there’s a worm addicted to eating
grape leaves.
Suddenly, he wakes up,
call it grace, whatever, something
wakes him, and he’s no longer
a worm.

He’s the entire vineyard,
and the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks,
a growing wisdom and joy
that doesn’t need
to devour.

I’m not entirely convinced by that one. For me, there’s a bit of denial there. It’s as if it’s not cool to be a needy, devouring worm so, in a leap of mental dexterity, the poet imagines that he’s the entire vineyard. But I also like the idea of looking beyond yourself and seeing the whole, so that life is not just about your needs and desires.

Desire and the importance of failing

A window opens.
A curtain pulls back.
The lamps of lovers connect, not at their ceramic bases,
but in their lightedness.
No lover wants union with the Beloved
without the Beloved also wanting the lover.
Love makes the lover weak, while the Beloved gets strong.
Lightning from here strikes there.
When you begin to love God, God is loving you.
A clapping sound does not come from one hand.
The thirsty man calls out,
“Delicious water, where are you?” while the water moans,
“Where is the water-drinker?”
The thirst in our souls
is the attraction put out by the Water itself.
We belong to It, and It to us.


Disease comes, and the organs fall out of harmony.
We’re like the four different birds,
that each had one leg tied in with the other birds.
A flopping bouquet of birds!
Death releases the binding, and they fly off,
but before that, their pulling is our pain.
Consider how the soul must be, in the midst of these tensions,
feeling its own exalted pull.


6 Responses to Some Rumi for a cold day

  1. kirstenjane says:

    What a wonderful selection of Rumi!
    House Guest is my favourite -that willingness to explore uncomfortable emotions whilst allowing for light and hope to emerge – the essence of a therapeutic approach.

    And the worm transcending his devouring self – what a vivid image– I do like Rumi’s description of change, the possibility of a completely different experience. I didn’t see denial there, happily leaping into the vineyard – interesting though that even Rumi can only allude to this alchemy as grace.

    I meant to comment earlier on your Coetzee post too – I’ve avoided his work so far, but your reading of Boyhood has inspired me to finally give him a go!

  2. Emily Barton says:

    I love that first one. I think I need to carry that one around with me.

  3. litlove says:

    Yes, I’m with the girls – the first seems particularly meaningful, although all are beautiful. I like the idea of the responsiveness of desire in the last. The Surrealists believed that desire brought what you wanted into being – it exerted a magnetic force in order to be met. Thanks for sharing, Pete – I always want to read more poetry than I get around to.

  4. pete says:

    kirstenjane – It’s great to hear from another Rumi enthusiast! And I really like your ideas on the essence of the therapeutic approach. I think I’ll have to revise my opinion on the worm poem – I think you’re right that it’s transcendence of devouring rather than denial.

    Emily – thanks for visiting. And I like the idea of carrying poems around to enjoy them and share them.

    Litlove – Yes, I was thinking of motherhood actually when I read about desire and reciprocation. And my friend (the poet and priest) was talking about the laughter, that abudance of joy, which happens between mother and child, and also between lovers.

  5. Dorothy W. says:

    Thanks for posting those poems — Rumi is someone I’d be interested in reading one of these days (although I find myself saying that so often about many authors! :))

  6. Forgive me if I bounce around here; I am going completely freestyle.
    The Guest House is a poem that has such a strong and deep resonance for my entire being at this time in my life. If I may, I would like to share with you; and I ask anyone who reads this to please feel free to write me back as I am going through the most difficult personal and physical crises of my life thus far.
    I was diagnosed with and have thankfully recovered from a malignant cancer which engulfed me for the better part of 2 years. It came to a close for me just recently since I expelled the last of the toxic treatments and therapeutic drugs.

    Anyway, My way of dealing with my illness was to, for the most part, become a recluse and shut myself down inside and out until I was able to get out and surf. I truly feel that surfing, more than anything, saved me because I was afraid I would lose the battle, and or my mind, if I didn’t get out of the house and get into the ocean.

    A result of my being sick and losing the ability to work was that I had to sell virtually all of my meager worldly goods including my vehicle, furniture and more importantly my surfboards. I borrowed some money from an old childhood friend who I know had become a somewhat notorious criminal in the area where I live in Pacific Beach in San Diego Ca. The day after I borrowed the money to pay my rent he returned to my home with a couple of (for want of a better word for thugs) members of a quite scary motorcycle club you have probably heard of.

    They came to collect either the money I had already given to my landlord, or a one of a kind surfboard crafted by my father figure and given too me as a gift from him. Even though I begged them to leave without the board; I (honestly) offered them to take one of my little fingers as collateral on the loan. They took the board and sold it on-line. The other board my Dad made me as a 50th birthday gift I did use collateral for a loan of 700.00 (U.S) which I have still not managed to retrieve (but I’m getting close.

    Now to the true grit of the matter. I have heard through the grapevine from others that a large number of people; most of whom I thought were friends have been making more than hurtful comments about me being a bum and a jerk who sold my boards o-line etc. etc.. One even went so far as to tell someone not to stand too close to me when the lightening strikes me.

    These things have created such ill will from me to them. I know I have to forgive myself before I can forgive them,(If that’s what it takes) but in a way I can’t blame them because they didn’t know I was sick or how sick I was. I need to figure this out because I can concentrate on my thoughts and writing is a hard job on the best days and I feel my abilities are deteriorating as a result of all of this ill will toward me.

    Any ideas? I can’t afford a therapist and It feels like it’s going to have deleterious effect on my relationship with my girlfriend whom I love so much I want to marry her!

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