Women Called to the Path of Rumi by Shakina Rheinhertz
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. – Jalal al Din Rumi
That final pair of lines is tattooed on my right arm, and has been for more than 15 years. Many people do not know this, but I took initiation with the Mevlevi Order of America, a band of whirling dervishes sprung from the lineage of the Master (Mevlana) Jalal u din Rumi. I whirled with them for around four years, studying, practicing, centering, returning to the prayer that is the body, and the body that is the prayer.
Why do I write of this today? Today – December 17th – is the anniversary of Rumi’s death, what dervishes call his “Wedding Night”. In commemoration of this, Sufis all over the world are gathering to read poetry, to chant, to dance, and most of all, to whirl, long white robes snapping out into formation, tombstone hats lifting toward the sky as feet kiss ground.
The dervish lives within me. It is part of the lineage of my practice, my path, my theology, and my magic. It is part of why the root of my polytheism reaches even beyond monism and into non-dualism. It is why I say we need to learn to do our magic with our eyes open, and practice with heart, mind, body, and soul. Magic is in us, with us, through us (yes, you Catholics recognize that strand as well). God Herself is us and we are S/he. Lover and Beloved. There is no difference. And that is not a platitude, but something that we can only realize when the time is ripe, and then we are seeded to the core.
What I did not realize in my time with the dervishes – and why I needed the seeding of their lessons – is that the union with the Beloved they sing of is also a magical act. That the ego refinement they practice leads to the falling away of the barriers of personality that keep us from our own God Soul, our Holy Guardian Angel… At the time, I thought it was perhaps more self-effacement such as I had learned incorrectly from my Catholic upbringing – a twisting of the words of the mystics from some truth into some form of abnegation and control. But taking these teachings back into magical practice, over time something else unfolded within me. And Victor Anderson said: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me, means you!” Ah, yes. My God Soul that is one with the Soul that is not this and not that, but everything and nothing, and all things in between. The union that is dissolution that is union. I comprehend now, the words of Mansur al Hallaj, who was killed for speaking this simple realization: “I am Truth (God).” Yes. When will we come into this fullness? When shall we take in, deeply, into every cell, the teaching again from Victor Anderson: “God is Self, and Self is God, and God is a person like myself”? These are not easy words, though many think they comprehend. To know them is to be changed forever.
I left the dervishes, and something in me learned how to return. I found the center and circumference of my own Being, just as the whirling dance teaches, without words. And bliss was born. And the coming back together became possible.
I could, and perhaps should, write upon this for hours, and many pages. But for today, let this suffice:
Rumi, I feel grateful for your legacy, both for the surface readings of pop spirituality and the deeper teachings I can now hear reflected in your poems. There was poem after poem I could have spoken to today. Words that illustrate the pathway of the soul in its returning to itself. But instead, I will think now on the whirling dance, left foot stable, right foot kissing that one sweet spot upon the earth. I will open up my arms to unfold the mystery of the heart of the great tree that reaches from the furthest stars down to the smallest strands of DNA. I will be that reaching, today, in gratitude for the love that carries us forward, and places us both in and outside time. My teacher, Sheikh Jelaluddin Loras, who taught us that all were welcome to the Path of Love, you who were the first to bring women to whirl in Konya again, at Rumi’s tomb, I thank you.
I will continue with the becoming of beauty, the doing of beauty, the living process of beauty. And when I fail, I will try again once more.