The Thirsty

by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Not only do the thirsty seek water,
The water too thirsts for the thirsty.

-- from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

As I grow older, the idea of spiritual thirst becomes ever more real to me. As a young seeker, in my adolescence and early adulthood, I was consumed by such painful blind thirst that I couldn't have named it "thirst" back then. It was simply the searing ache of my days. It was my whole world.

I went a little mad with my thirst. I kept seeking to withdraw, from society, from the world, retreating into the forests of Oregon, the mountains of Colorado, the jungles of Hawaii where perhaps I might glimpse what was truly essential. I fasted my body into emaciation. I meditated in caves. I walked barefoot and shirtless in the wilds. I spoke with drifters and the homeless, trying to know their hearts and see through their eyes.

Some part of me broke, I think. And then it broke open. That's when I knew what it meant to drink and no longer thirst.

And a strange thing-- what felt like shattering effort driven by wild thirst seemed like nothing at all. Perhaps it wasn't my terrible thirst that had driven me at all. Perhaps I was drawn by the water's thirst for me. And all that strain and adventure, well, that was just the story I told myself along the way.

What has been most odd to me is my return to society since then. I made a conscious choice to rejoin the world, to leave my wild places, to hold a regular job, have a stable home, and reconnect with people (and perhaps share a taste of that sweet water). More than a decade later, it still feels strange to me. At times I find myself going through the motions, simply passing as a "normal" person. The challenges of daily life, of paying bills, of caring about my body's health, of establishing regular patterns others can rely on, these practices still seem foreign to me at times, but I consider them a major part of my spiritual practice now. It used to be that the only things that made sense to me were transcendence and escape. These days I find the most humbling truth in being present, and watching with wonder, allowing life to be simply as it is.

I'm less consumed by my own thirst these days. I feel the water's thirst for the thirsty world instead.



Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)
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Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty
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Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems
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Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
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Open Secret: Versions of Rumi
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The Thirsty