“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
One of the greatest joys of my life is reading inspirational books from the greatest teachers on the planet. You might even say I am obsessed with it—so much so that I dedicate a part of my day, my practice, to reading, even if it is only for a few minutes. I feel animated and incredibly alive when I talk about what I have read with others. I just love discussing the books by these magnificent human beings and how we can learn from their experiences.
So, today, I want to present to you The Essential Rumi, which has a special place on my bookshelf. This is one of those books I can pick up, turn to a random page, read the verse, and come away inspired for the day! Rumi’s poetry moves me deeply. He transcends all faiths, religions, and spiritual traditions.
Rumi is said to be one of the most widely read poets of all time. He was a Sufi master who was born in Persia in the thirteenth century. Although he lived centuries ago, we still relate today to his writings, which reflect his innermost thoughts, struggles, desires, hopes, and dreams. This shows us that no matter how much external things have changed, who we are at our core as human beings is unchanging. The emotions we all experience are universal and consistent from age to age—we connect with all of life from the inside out.
If you have read my book The Practice, you have seen that I include an activity called “Studying with the Masters.” I LOVE this activity. I have been doing it for years now. Here’s how it goes:
Choose a book written by a spiritual master, mystic, saint, or teacher and work with that book for a period of time, essentially becoming a student of the author. Whomever that great teacher is, you are actually going to begin a “conversation” with him or her. When I do this, I feel that I am in class with the teacher. Today I am suggesting The Essential Rumi. Imagine conversing with and befriending this masterful spiritual poet of the thirteenth century!
Let’s do this together. Begin reading The Essential Rumi and choose a verse that speaks to you, then copy it down in a notebook or in your journal. Read the verse a few times and feel the emotions the words evoke in you. Now, below the paragraph, begin writing down what Rumi’s words mean to you. Maybe they relate to an experience you have had or are currently experiencing, or something you would like to experience in your life.
My hope is that you love this practice and will want to continue with Rumi’s book for a few days or nights in a row. When you do this consistently, you will start to feel a deep connection with Rumi, a deeper understanding of his poetry, a more expansive perspective on the human condition, and a closer connection with yourself. You may even discover that you want to keep working with Rumi for a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime.
Here is a verse from The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition, Translations by Coleman Barks (page 267) that speaks to me:
The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.
We must get up and take that in,
that wind that lets us live.
Breathe before it’s gone.
For me, this verse is saying be present and appreciate the moment and the gift of the new day. I often say that when we go to sleep at night, we can never truly be sure we will wake up the next day. This is not intended to be a morbid thought, but rather one that really puts the day ahead in perspective. To me, Rumi is saying don’t wait; “we must get up” and take it all in. This is the only time we have: right here, right now. What a beautiful reminder to stop, breathe, and simply be. Thank you, Rumi.
Sleep well tonight, precious ones.