If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.
If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is
If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.
Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.
Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.
Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.
If you put your heart against the earth with me, in serving
every creature, our Beloved will enter you from our sacred realm
and we will be, we will be
translated by David Ladinsky.
There’s so much in this poem. Let me begin with a reflection on the oar, since its image is such a fulcrum in the poem. I find myself naturally receiving and responding to the idea of the oar and I feel a longing in my heart to place my hand and soul against the oar with Rumi. Something in me knows the promise of this action. Rumi seems to be inviting us to join him, appealing to us, asking us to align ourselves with, or commit ourselves to something which he already has in motion for our own good and the good of ‘every creature’. Is it a practice, an aspiration or a spiritual perspective that he’s referring to? Certainly, it requires some dynamic input from us, but the momentum is already underway which makes it as easy as it could possibly be to be swept up in the rhythm of rowing together.
‘When the moment cracks open’ – what a thought! Such inspiration in one sentence, for mindful presence. ‘Exuberant is existence, time a husk’ – again in one sentence is summarised what many of us practice for: to be able to meet the wonder of life with wholehearted engagement right here, right now and to let go of torturing ourselves with thoughts of the past and future. ‘You will come to see that all evolves us’ – if we sign up for the project that he is inviting us to, Rumi guarantees that everything will be potent with contribution towards our ripening as human beings. And this line, which simply bursts my heart open – ‘If you put your heart against the earth with me…’ – what a call! To revere, honour and love Mother Earth who gives us everything that supports us to live and to surrender to our earthliness with all the pain that brings. And then, to turn towards all creatures as a ‘Warrior of Compassion’ (as we call it in our Level 2 training), this being the path to becoming blessed with happiness. I for one am sold Rumi – let’s row for dear life!
PS. If you want to explore, meditate on and discuss poems such as this, consider the Mindfulness Association’s new Mindfulness Meets Mystical Poetry five-week course…