Inner Wakefulness

by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks
Original Language Persian/Farsi

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he's living in another town
in the dream he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality
of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream
and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are

-- from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

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/ Photo by Alice Popkorn /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Yesterday, December 17th, was the 740th anniversary Rumi's "Wedding Day," that is, of his death. Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi is a titanic, open-hearted figure in the world, and his influence throughout the world and down through the centuries is immense. The continuing ripple effects of his poetry and his spirit have much more impact on most lives today than mere conquerors. That's the sort of hero the world really needs.


A few thoughts on today's poem...

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real


Dreams and waking up... The metaphor of being spiritually "awake" is used a lot but not always with deep reflection. It's an easy concept to grasp, though it's not taken very seriously most of the time because, of course, the person thinking about the idea of waking up is already awake in the most literal sense, right? The surprising answer is, Not really.

Become profoundly dedicated to your own process of awakening, find your moment, seize it, or, rather, yield into it... and see what you think then.

The experience of sudden opening reported by most mystics is startlingly on of actually waking up. It's as if you've been drifting through life in a dream state and just not known it. Nothing around you has changed, but you finally, truly see things as they are. The dream-like barrier of mental filters and projections that has stifled your perception for so long falls away like a heavy blanket. You blink, look around yourself, and are surprised to realize you've been in a sort of half-seeing trance all your life... and now you are awake.

Perhaps just as surprising -- and much more confusing to the intellect -- is the simultaneous recognition that while you were in that dream state, there was still some part of your awareness that was always fully awake, quietly, patiently watching in the background. It's just that now that inner wakefulness has come to the forefront. ...A reminder to us that we don't really need to "wake up;" instead, we just need to get out of the way of that part of ourselves that is already awake.

and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness



And from a purely poetic point of view, I really like the lines--

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences


To me this suggests that each experience, each "dream," each person's life is part of a grand migration of the human spirit, a journey of deepening remembrance and renewal.



Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Open Secret: Versions of Rumi The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi
More Books >>





Inner Wakefulness