Years ago, a friend gave us The Essential Rumi, a collection of writings by the great 13th century Persian mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi, interpreted by the great Coleman Barks. It is a beauty of a book, one that you can open anywhere, even mid-poem, and find a perfect bit of illumination. It makes a fine gift.


Our copy has accumulated MANY post-its to mark wonders we’ve found at random (It is amazing how Rumi, who lived almost eight centuries ago, resonates; he is one of America’s most read poets).

On the anniversary of Rumi’s death, we’ve compiled a selection we’ve found transformative…

The one we turn to most, describes human waking more perfectly than we’ve ever read: empty and frightened. And then he advises what to do…

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Rumi knew how fear works in a human being, and countered it:

Keeping walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings. Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.


He understood grief and loss as it fits into a bigger picture…

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.


He described perfectly the aftermath of an argument between lovers or friends: Everything has to do with loving and not loving…

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider


…This blessing from a holy man in one of Rumi’s stories is what we wish for ourselves and all those we know:

May God cause you to change your life
in the way you know you should.


Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Rumi is said to have turned round and round while reciting his poetry. This movement formed the basis for the Whirling Dervishes after his death. Dervish means doorway, and the dance is believed to be a mystical portal between the earthly and cosmic worlds. Shall we try it? 

(Please try watching this lovely video with sound OFF. Link here.)

With thanks and love to Peggy Markel.


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One thought on “Gift: The Essential Rumi’s Poetry and Wisdom

  1. Love Rumi so much and am always amazed at how contemporary his philosophies seem. I’ve been holding out to find a volume that has his poetry in both English and Persian, but it might be time to stop waiting and get my hands on *any* collection of his poems.

    This one felt especially good to me in the days after the election:

    Bring the pure wine of love and freedom.
    But sir, a tornado is coming.
    More wine, we’ll teach this storm
    A thing or two about whirling.

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