Rumi often knows how to say things that I have only felt. Yet, when I see the words, everything inside me leaps to my throat and I must speak (or write).
In The Purity of Desire, Daniel Ladinsky and Nancy Owen Barton translated some of the most beautiful poems of Rumi and place them in a compilation. Some are easier than others to understand, as most poetry goes. These, however, the more I return to them, to read a few and ponder, the more memories of times and places come to the forefront of my mind. These memories then spark feelings (or vice versa) and I recognize in myself some kind of resonance with the words. The meaning deepens and the colors of the memories become more vibrant. This poem, Open up a rare shop, asks the reader to explore safety, comfort, nourishment, and love. The interconnectedness of all of these is made clear in his words. We begin:
Away from the city, where one need not be so on guard,
The beauty of giving to all around may again rise in you.
The places where we feel safest, often in the natural world, are the places we feel the most love. The parts of us that want to give that love have space to open up and be received. We go to the forest, the wetlands, the fields, and the rivers to access this part of ourselves…the part that is not always welcome in our day-to-day lives.
Our true nature is benevolence. One is just half one’s self,
part of one’s strength, a fraction of one’s talents without
love’s constant reign over the provinces you effect. Charity,
is it not clear, is an essential matter.
I love this stanza for the fact that he does not mince words about the necessity of love. We are nothing; our power is severely diminished without it. To have half of anything is to have too little. There is no way to make up for this lack. He goes on to use the word charity. In Christian tradition, we often speak of charity being the pure love of Christ. And that, for me, is beautiful; to love each other and ourselves as God would love us. Translated into any tradition, this is still truth.
Even the earth is like an egg in my nest, and you, my mate.
This world needs our warmth against it, or things will perish.
The earth has a need for our warmth. This reminds me of the butterfly effect; how everything we do causes more beauty or harm, even where we were completely unaware. We have an obligation to nurture and love the beings of the earth and the Earth, herself. We see everyday the desolation we cause by clear-cutting forests for urban sprawling developments. We see the effects of the climate shifting. We see what the masculine can do when it goes unchecked. Now is our time to nurture, to love, and to hold.
There is a pristine stream in your field of vision. Seeing that,
You won’t look thirsty, will not appear in want, or in need of
a cure---like the many.
This stanza says so much about the grounded and settled soul. The soul I seek to embody each day. To see the clear mountain water and not need it; to see the security in which others seem to live and not desire it; to see the love others seem to live inside and not ache for it. When those feelings of need, desire, and aching are lacking, I know that the balance I have found in that moment is enough and I can relax for a turn along the journey. There will always be more challenges to come. Perhaps my ability to face them will improve as I require less.
Attention is rightfully given, turns to the person free of cares.
Only some kind of master, it is concluded, can extricate his
life from the maze.
Sometimes, we are too close to things to see the solution to our current challenges. We are vested in a certain outcome and we think we cannot afford to have things go any other way. To take a step back, allow for some space to watch what is emerging, rather that try to control it, is essential. “Only some kind of master” is in each of us. We can all do this. I takes practice and at times, it takes a friendly reminder from a poem.😊
Let it flow from your face- a knowledge. A shelter you then
will become in this turbulent part of space. From the summit
of laughter, reach down into time and stop it for someone else.
That would be such a blessing.
To provide a shelter to someone else requires that we live firmly and authentically in ourselves first. Without apology and excuse, without defensiveness or guilt. We have to know ourselves in order to provide a space for someone else to sink in, be vulnerable, and be held. To stop time and just be requires time on our part; time being quiet, open, teachable, and in some regards, without boundaries. Our preconceived ideas fall away and life needs to be full of possibility and wonder.
Open up a rare shop. Give competition to the finest brothels.
let people catch something from your heart that will cause
no discomfort, but help them to sing.
And this is the key stanza. As a sexual creature, a human creature, attuned to my needs and others’, this hits home. We are all looking for love. Of course, we don’t expect to find real love in a brothel! But, we might find the closest substitute. But there is no real substitute for love. To be loved is as essential as to give love. We need both. To love does not cause pain, but it opens doors to new possibilities. To be loved is to have a safe place to move from and explore, expanding our horizons and growing each day. To be loved is to have that place to return to each moment of the day. What is this “rare shop”? I believe that it is a place we find within ourselves that has all of our loveable-ness on display. We will be loved because we are loveable. Our light shines, invites others in, and then gives permission to others to look inside themselves as well. Have we been in this “rare shop” lately?
You can find deposits of sounds of ancient truths once known,
that still are of tremendous value. If so, sell them way below
/the great cost of your holy tears.
Inside the rare shop, we find eternal truths-ones that tell us about our worthiness, beauty, connectedness, eternal souls, and so much more. To know these eternal truths ourselves costs our tears, our grieving and loss of former ways of knowing, relationships, and our pride. To sell it below that cost can only be possible if we take some of the sting out by giving others a cushion, a soft landing place when they fall. Because we all fall.
Away from the city, where you need not be so on guard,
you are more apt to realize…God tells a lot of jokes.
Indeed, God tells a lot of jokes. This stanza could write books.