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blog - Andrea Jivan

Reflections on Rumi, Friendship, and Leaning In

I have had the same book of Rumi poems since the age of seventeen… twenty some years. It is a beautiful possession given to me by my father, his inscription reminds me, after I entreated him to take me to see Coleman Barks perform Rumi’s works in New York City. I was deeply in love with Rumi then, who I found by chance one afternoon hiding in the library stacks while cutting school. He became my companion for years, this same book’s fissured spine and water damaged pages sat on my hearth alters collecting wax while transmitting the Sufi mystic’s insights on joy, freedom, and the Friend. Eventually it was replaced, but only after it inspired my first youthful manifesto detailing the approaches to love, whose country was suffused with mystery.

Rumi designed so much of his verse to circumnavigate the unseen, to contact experience beyond the five senses, carrying one back toward the secret life that enchants and pains us; it still strikes me as awkward to see his sacred teachings dispersed across social media, shuttled into memes. His massive popularity in the U.S. over the last ten years is an indication of our cultural desire to restore metaphor and story telling as a way to communicate community values. It points to our drive to restore the mystic’s conception of the Friend, a limitless companionship with the Divine in daily life. I think of this simple poem as epitomizing what we long for from his Sufi philosophy, what we thirst for anytime we turn to sacred poetry: we desire an intimate understanding that we are not alone in our experiences of crisis, the numinous, or the mundane. These thoughts I consider as I move through a personal period of relationship evaluation, affirming the value of instinctual trust, and its way of playing the hub-like center to a perpetual circulation of creative interconnection.

The Waterwheel

“Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,

That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.”

This staying awake, weeping together, and maintaining the responsive ‘quivering’ of mercury suggest leaning into, moving toward our discomfort rather than engaging all the defenses which reinforcing the ‘sleep’ of separateness. Rumi implies leaning in energizes all our other activities to achieve their fullest divine giving potential.

Of friendship Rumi often refers to the importance of chance and mysterious intervention, to respecting gut impulses as messages of greater purpose in service of a ceaseless dialogue transferring from heart to heart between companions. From The Force of Friendship:

“What draws friends together
does not conform to the laws of nature.
Form doesn’t know about spiritual closeness.
If a grain of barley approaches a grain of wheat,
an ant must be carrying it, but if grains go toward each other,
it’s there.
A hand shifts our birdcages around.
Some are brought closer. Some move apart.
Do not try to reason it out. Be conscious
of who draws you and who not.”

A widening sense of the nuances of Divinity as outside of traditional religious experience is one of the great gifts Rumi bestows, but beyond a sense of timeless union, he reminds us such Divinity can only be felt when we allow ourselves to befriend and become intimate with the Now. As I sit today excited for the upcoming Rumi event, I can’t ignore the value of this reminder, it doesn’t seem to have an expiration for any heart or hearth.

Don't miss a special Valentine's event on the poetry of Rumi!

The Guest House: Coleman Barks and Eugene Friesen

We will explore the gratitude we feel for the guidance that comes with various "guests."

Date: Sunday Feb 17th, 2019
Time: 7:30 - 9:15pm
Location: Libby Gardner Hall
1375 East Presidents Circle
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
Cost: $125 / $65 / $40 / $25

Purchase tickets HERE.


Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Blog Team Member
Jung Society of Utah

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