May 11 2012
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi
English version by Coleman Barks
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks
/ Photo by Ktoine /
You’ve been wondering where the poem emails went, right? I had another bout of chronic fatigue, the first in a while. When that happens, I use it as a prompt from the universe to step back, quiet down, refocus, turn inward.
I’ve received so many touching, caring notes in the past expressing concern over these patterns of CFS/ME. Since there has been such interest, I thought I’d use this opportunity to say a little more about what this issue is in my life…
People who are unfamiliar with chronic fatigue syndrome see the word “fatigue” and often assume it’s the same thing as being tired and overworked. The name “chronic fatigue syndrome” is misleading, since the exhaustion felt is more profound than most people experience in normal life, a deep lack of energy that doesn’t renew itself very well even with lots of rest. And fatigue is only one of many debilitating symptoms that can kick in. Other symptoms include shakiness, dizziness, hypersensitivity to noise and activity. Some compare their symptoms with a recurring fever or debilitating migraine. Others experience CFS as something comparable to the post traumatic stress disorder of combat veterans, a shattering overload of the nervous system.
Believe it or not, my case is labeled a “mild” one. Although I can’t work a normal 40+ hour work week, and I occasionally have periods like this past week where I miss several days of work in a row, I can still hold down a job. Not so with more extreme cases of CFS. Some people are literally bedridden for weeks or months at a time. Others can’t process strong sensory inputs and so stick close to home and controlled routines. Unable to fulfill traditional social roles, many struggle to maintain marriages and friendships. Because there is no obvious physical sign of injury or illness, a person with CFS is sometimes thought to be lazy or mislabeled as emotionally depressed. Many with CFS believe these assessments themselves, leading to further confusion and self-condemnation. It can be a very lonely sort of health struggle.
Because I have mentioned my own challenges with CFS in the past, I’ve received quite a few notes of thanks for going public and raising awareness of these issues. I haven’t really thought of myself as an advocate, just someone trying to integrate spirit with the daily experience of life in a body in the world… And I’m a talkative fellow, so, if it’s in my thoughts, it eventually finds its way into this public forum. I’m glad to hear how helpful that has been to some.
I send blessings to all my friends dealing with similar health challenges — you are not alone. Remember: These experiences can be tools for self-awareness along the spiritual path. Don’t waste them. Use them.
Sending much love!
(Back to more poetry next week!)
|Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi|
I haven’t yet sketched out a short biography about Rumi. It always feels a bit foolish to try to distill a rich, full life into just a few paragraphs, but it’s especially difficult with Rumi since so much has been written about him and his life.
How about just a few interesting details about Rumi:
Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. While he was still a child his family moved all the way to Konya in Asia Minor (Turkey). They moved to flee from Mongol invaders who were beginning to sweep into Central Asia. Konya, far to the west of the invaded territories, became one of the major destinations for expatriates to settle, turning the city into a cosmopolitan center of culture, education, and spirituality.
In fact, Rumi wasn’t the only famous Sufi teacher living in Konya at the time. The best known spiritual figure in Konya at the time was not Rumi, but the son-in-law of the greatly respected Sufi philosopher ibn ‘Arabi. The wonderful Sufi poet Fakhruddin Iraqi also lived in Konya at the same time as Rumi.
“Rumi” was not his proper name; it was more of a nickname. Rumi means literally “The Roman.” Why the Roman? Asia Minor (Turkey) was referred to as the land of the Rum, the Romans. The Byzantine Empire, which had only recently fallen, was still thought of as the old Eastern Roman Empire. Rumi was nicknamed the Roman because he lived in what was once the Eastern Roman Empire. …But not everyone calls him Rumi. In Afghanistan, where he was born, they call him Balkhi, “the man from Balkh,” to emphasize his birth in Afghanistan.
Rumi’s father was himself a respected religious authority and spiritual teacher. Rumi was raised and educated to follow in his father’s footsteps. And, in fact, Rumi inherited his father’s religious school. But this was all along very traditional lines. Rumi was already a man with religious position when he first started to experience transcendent states of spiritual ecstasy. This created a radical upheaval, not only in himself, but also within his rather formal spiritual community as everyone tried to adjust to their leader’s transformation.
One more note about Rumi’s father: It was only after his death that some of the father’s private writings were discovered, revealing that he himself was also a profound mystic, though he had kept this part of himself private, apparently even from his son Rumi.
Many of Rumi’s poems make reference to the sun. This always has layered meaning for Rumi since he was deeply devoted to his spiritual teacher Shams of Tabriz… as the name Shams means “the sun.” The sun for Rumi becomes the radiance of God shining through his beloved teacher.
The spiritual bond between Rumi and Shams was profound, but the two individuals were very different. Rumi was a member of the educated elite within the urban expatriate community, while Shams was a poor wandering mystic who rarely stayed in one place long. Shams would often disappear unexpectedly, then return months later. Many of Rumi’s family and students were jealous of Shams, resenting the closeness he shared with their master. Finally, Shams disappeared, never to return. Many believe that he was actually kidnapped and murdered, possibly by Rumi’s own sons!
You’ve heard of “whirling dervishes,” right? Not all Sufis practice that spinning meditative dance. That is specific to the Mevlana Sufis, founded by — yes, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. The story is told that Rumi would circle around a column, while ecstatically reciting his poetry. The spinning is a meditation on many levels. It teaches stillness and centeredness in the midst of movement. One hand is kept raised to receive from heaven, the other hand is kept lowered to the earth, thus the individual becomes a bridge joining heaven and earth.