Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 29, 2008

Rumi, Part 2: The Unexpected Visitor

“My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I’m with./
If you’re not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words
tangle and knot up./
How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you./
When water gets caught in habitual whirlpools,
dig a way out through the bottom
to the ocean. There is a secret medicine
given only to those who hurt so hard
they can’t hope./
The hopers would feel slighted if they knew./
Look as long as you can at the friend you love,
no matter whether that friend is moving away from you
or coming back toward you. //
Don’t let your throat tighten
with fear. Take sips of breath
all day and night, before death
closes your mouth.”
Jalal al-Din Rumi (aka Jelaluddin Balkhi), 1207-1273

I was introduced to the Afghani/Turkish mystical poet Rumi by American writer Anne Lamott. In the mid-1990s, Annie became the most prominent example (for me, anyway) of a new kind of Christian writer possessed of two key traits:

1) a theological “openness”, enthusiastic about Jesus, but without such a narrow (i.e. conservative) reading of the Bible

2) a sense of humor

Lacking space here, I present “The Guest House” below, and will wrap up my Rumi discussion tomorrow.

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival./
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor./
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight./
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in./
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”


  1. […] and one of my key spiritual teachers is a Jesus-loving Islamic Sufi poet from over 800 years ago (that would be Rumi). And I’m firmly in agreement with Brother Thomas Merton, that Christians could stand to […]

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