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poetry / Rumi / spirituality

I thought it might be time to come clean lest you think that I believe everything Rumi says is pure solid gold. I do not. He is a master to be sure. He has a way with words unlike many others. I resonate with him. I groove to his beat, so to speak. But I certainly know utter shite when I hear it. Rumi was human. He uttered as much shite as anyone else.

It is a source of great pride for me that I think for myself. I don’t like to be seen toeing the party line or more importantly, I don’t like to be seen being towed by it. So, I have elected this time to choose a poem I believe to be complete bunk.

And here it is…

“The Core of Masculinity”

The core of masculinity does not derive
from being male,
nor friendliness from those who console. (I’m with ya so far.)

Your old grandmother says, “Maybe you shouldn’t
go to school. You look a little pale.” (she sounds nice.)

Run when you hear that. (what?)
A father’s stern slaps are better. (double what?)

Your bodily soul wants comforting. (yes, it does.)
The severe father wants spiritual clarity. (or perhaps he is just a jerk.)

He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open. (maybe.  maybe not.  mostly not.)

Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you. (certainly can be useful at times but not in all things.)

We have been busy accumulating solace. (so? what’s wrong with that?)
Make us afraid of how we were. (umm, fear? no, thank you.)

I honor those who try
to rid themselves of any lying, (yes!)
who empty the self
and have only clear being there. (and, we’re back.)

Some of you might agree with our friend here and that’s okay. I have certainly heard the argument in favor of a tough instructor many, many times. It has a long-standing tradition in the sporty world, so maybe it works. In the sporty world.  (to be clear, as a yoga instructor, I promise not to yell at you if you come to my class.  there is no yelling in yoga.)  🙂

Toughness also has a long history in the military field. I can see that it might have a useful application when you need everyone to be on the same page for life or death reasons, so maybe it works. In the military world.

However, most of us don’t live constantly in either of those worlds. We may step into and out of those worlds for a while each week, perhaps even each day. I’m guessing most of us don’t dwell there though. I definitely do not.

I have always run from anything and anyone who says I have to believe any specific thing or be any specific way. That is the surest way to get me to do the opposite.

Most tough instructors bring out defiance in me. I had an English teacher in high school who took the “tough love” approach. “What on earth is there to be all ‘tough love’ about in English class?,” you are likely asking. (you are good at this questions thing.) I spent a year with that man and I still do not know. He actually threw a notebook at me one time. Yes, creative-writing-turned-dodgeball.  An experience common to us all, I’m sure.  No?

I shut down when he did that. I’m actually a very compliant student most of the time, but I will not put up with disrespect from anyone, especially those who should know better.  That’s how I regard “tough instructors.” I find them disrespectful. You may find them useful and that is okay if you do, but they are not for everyone. They have the opposite effect for some of us. A teacher who cannot read their students is no teacher at all.  That’s a lecturer.  And we all love lectures, right?

I have found that most of us respond better to someone who acknowledges how far we have already come and how close we are to where we want to go. Those are the Rumi poems with which I resonate. Tell me about what I already know and how I need only rediscover it. Tell me about the wisdom already living in my heart and soul. I will work hard. I will seek. I will find. I will be your devoted pupil.

Tell me I’m an idiot who knows nothing and I check out. Some would say that is giving up and proving them right. On the contrary. Clearly I am not an idiot. None of us are.  I know they are lying to me. They know they are lying to me. I know they are using reverse psychology. They know it too. I simply refuse to play the game. It’s beneath me. It’s beneath them too.

The first time I read this poem I felt quite betrayed. Who wrote this one?  It can’t have been my beloved Rumi!  (it was.) Mostly I skipped over this one each time I encountered it. I wish I could tell you that now I get it. That I’m on page with him and I understand the hidden meaning. Blah, blah, blah.


I think he meant exactly what he said. I think I understand him perfectly. I just don’t agree with him.

And I love it! I think he would love it too.

I don’t agree with him on everything. I don’t need to. I can love him both when he strings the most profound and beautiful words together and also when he’s basically trying to sell me a turd on a stick. (nice try but I have no need for turds on sticks today. or tomorrow. basically, I’m set when it comes to turds on sticks.)

I’m not here to prove Rumi (or you. or anyone.) wrong on this score. Believe as you wish. Please. What I am here to say is that it’s okay to think for ourselves. I can love 90% of what someone has to say and think the rest is complete rubbish. Still the love and respect abides. (as long as they don’t throw a notebook at me.)

I know sometimes we might feel guilty at questioning our guru-of-choice, but I’m lucky. My guru already told me what to do in just such an instance:

“…don’t believe an absurdity no matter who says it.”

And that right there is pure solid gold you can take to the bank.


Love and light,

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/Jack Nevitt

The Author

I am a dancing, arrow-flinging yogini from the South, but I live in the Pacific Northwest. I just like to keep things interesting. ;)


  1. Katie says

    I fing love you. I can hear your voice in my head As I read this. No turds in a stick for me either. I must say I am so glad to read this from you after borrowing your book on Rumi I did love a lot of what he had to say but at times I wondered am I just not high enough IQ to get this? I think what he was getting at in this one is the need for grit in all humans. To know when you can fake it until you make it to persevere when the time gets tough and to do that which we don’t want to but have to to be successful. All too much these days parents cotle their kids and say it’s ok if it’s too hard then we have a nation of basement dwelling xboxens that can’t hack it because it’s too hard a critical in the real world. I’mtired, I’m not good at it naturally so it’s not for me. Pull up your boot straps and fing try and practice and work at it! That I agree with him but the nature of endurance also has the factor of knowing how to pace yourself and stop to prevent injury and burn out. All yoga principals. There needs to be balance in all things. Hatha as you will. That’s why we have a gramma to bake the cookies and kiss the boo boos and a grandpa to whip your ass for being a sissy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love you too! It’s definitely a topic that everyone comes to with a different perspective. Working with children in foster care, I’ve seen the negative side effects of too much toughness. And toughness doesn’t motivate me personally at all. It makes my eyes roll. 😉 But I realize different people need different motivators. And that’s okay. 🙂


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