Inner Wakefulness

by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks
Original Language Persian/Farsi & Turkish

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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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Mevlana Jelaluddin 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 kings or generals. That's the sort of hero the world really needs.


There is something so gentle about this selection, an easy description of sleeping, dreaming, evolution, and waking up laughing. Yet it can startle us awake.

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 is 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.

The experience of sudden spiritual opening reported by most mystics is surprisingly one of actually waking up. It's as if we have been drifting through life in a dream state and just not known it. Nothing around us has changed, but we finally, truly see things as they are. The dream-like trance-mind of assumptions and projections that has stifled our perception for so long falls away like a heavy blanket. We blink, look around, and are surprised to realize we have been in a sort of half-seeing fog all of our life... and now we are awake for the first time.

and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief


Perhaps just as surprising -- and much more confusing to the intellect -- is the simultaneous recognition that while we were in that dream state, there was still some part of our awareness that was always fully awake, patiently watching in the background. It's just that now that inner wakefulness has come to the forefront.

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


...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.

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

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
More Books >>





Inner Wakefulness