In this episode, we explore the work of Rumi, 13th century Sufi mystic and poet. Rumi gives us insight into how to approach life through devotional love and creativity. We discuss:
Conquering the Ego with Love Transcript
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We have an exciting episode for you today, continuing our series on the great minds of philosophy. we're talking about Rumi today, which is one of my favorite philosophers, poets, and mystics. I want to remind you before we begin to subscribe to our channel, if you're watching us on YouTube, just press the button here in the corner. If you are listening to us on one of the podcast services, don't forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of Soul Sessions. We probably could talk for hours about Rumi, but we'll try to keep it at a reasonable amount. But it’s wonderful, reading his poetry just takes you to another place.
Robert Maldonado 01:21
He's a very popular poet. It's amazing to see how somebody from the Middle Ages can have such a big influence on current culture. One of the points I wanted to make about this, we want to dedicate this to all our friends in the Middle East, who have been great friends to us and our company throughout the years. We hope you understand that we mean our talk in respect, honor, and great admiration of Rumi's poetry in mind. He was a great student of mysticism. The point is that we need mysticism. There's nothing wrong with science in the rationale, the logical perspective of “Let's weigh everything, let's measure it, let's figure out how things work.” It's a great thing, no doubt. But we also have a mystical side in us that can’t be denied. If you deny it, if you suppress it, if you don't give people the ability to express and cultivate that, you’re asking for trouble because human beings become lopsided, materialistic and just focused on the external.
Debra Maldonado 02:43
Super logical and rational. Many people have lost that ability for, they crave it though. That's why his work is still impactful on modern culture today, because it touches a soul in someone, awakens something in them. When I first read Rumi, I was thinking he was talking about a woman, he's in love. It was a really romantic idea. When we first met, you actually quoted Rumi to me, do you remember that? It was just so rich with feeling, emotion, and passion. When I realized it was about God, about the love of the Divine, it just gave even a bigger shift in me to read it that way. A beautiful contribution to our world. When we talk about what it is, it's a deeper philosophy that carried from way before he was born.
Robert Maldonado 03:46
Another important point about Rumi is that he wouldn't be possible without the culture. The culture creates or sustains the individual, then the individual is able to give back through their contribution, through their unique way of channeling that culture. There was a tradition of the arts already in the Middle East that Rumi was born into, the love of poetry, the love of dance and music, which he took to new heights. We're still talking about him today. He was born in 1207 and died in 1273, 13the century, Middle East, can you imagine? He was born in Afghanistan, I think he lived in Turkey most of his life and did his work there. Islam at that time was very different. Certainly Sufism, which is part of the tradition he is from, was also in a different state of development or evolution, very much open to other traditions, other cultures, very inclusive. This love of art, beauty, and poetry was very similar to what we know as Bhakti yoga. It is a type of devotional yoga that is a path in itself, it leads to the same place that raja yoga, the discipline of meditation, leads to but in an emotional, artistic way.
Debra Maldonado 05:33
That's from the Upanishads. It's a path to the divine. There's gyana yoga, raja yoga, kama yoga, and bhakti yoga, the devotional yoga. As a Catholic, growing up that is very simila, we're devoted to Jesus and to God. It was very devotional, you'd go to church, you're praying, it's a very love of Jesus, love of God type of religion. It fit with how I was raised to honor and connect in a loving way. A love I always felt, I always felt, no matter what happened, what challenges I had in life, there was this love, I was loved by something greater than myself. Bhakti yoga is about devoting your life to a spiritual practice, a spiritual path.
Robert Maldonado 06:24
There is a question as to whether he was influenced by Eastern philosophy, like the Vedic traditions, but I think also that, like Jung would suggest, all expression of mysticism touches upon the same points because of the collective unconscious. Whenever you take that mystical approach to understanding life and the mind, you're going to find the same truths. We see this over and over again, mystics all over the world in every different time period come up with the same ideas, the same conclusion that this spiritual essence is love, it is one consciousness we're all sharing. Rumi was tapping into this idea. We certainly see it in his poetry.
Debra Maldonado 07:23
When you think of devotional love, how do we bring it into modern day life? They talk in the Eastern philosophy about the clashes, the hindrances in life, one of them is to identify with the ego. We have to make a shift between loving our ego so much and making our ego the center of our life versus handing our life over to a higher element in us, not an external element, but a higher aspect of ourselves. That's what we're doing with devotional love, we're sacrificing our human needs and foibles we have in life to something greater than ourselves. When people do great things in the world, it's out of that devotional love. Gandhi wasn't worried about not eating and his own personal physical health or needs, he was giving up for a bigger mission. We don't all have to do that. But we can think about ways we’re self-involved in our ego. How do you get out of the ego if you're only trying to shine up the ego and make it better, make it more positive? You're moving sand around the sandbox, you're not really transcending. Devotional love is devoting yourself to that higher self, that higher principle.
Robert Maldonado 08:53
We have one of his great poems that has been really influential in our work. It's translated by Coleman Barks. We'll post the link to some of his work because he's an incredible translator of Rumi's work.
Debra Maldonado 09:11
“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 enter 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.” It’s a famous poem, The Guesthouse. Many people quote this, you've probably seen it on your Instagram or Facebook. It is such a different way to think because we're conditioned to get rid of the bad, make everything better, reject things that are uncomfortable. The ego doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. It's always pushing away these unpleasant parts of life.
Robert Maldonado 10:28
It's one of the characteristics of mysticism that we see people embrace the unity, the oneness, the non-dualistic nature of existence. That's what Rumi is expressing here. Any emotion, including shame, invite them in laughing, non-judgement about good and bad, everything is welcomed because everything is our mind. If you take that approach, you're not divided against yourself, you’re not split, you're not creating shadow, as Jung would say.
Debra Maldonado 11:11
It's almost like if you have a child and only love them when they're good, when they behave. That does not happen. We have that unconditional love for our children even when they're not behaving, when they're struggling, when they're sad, when they're irritating us. Why don't we do that for ourselves? Why do we compartmentalize our love and acceptance of ourselves only when the external is working out, when we're only in a good mood, when we're only feeling positive? This wholeness idea is so profound because we're missing out on life. Sometimes those things that are irritating, or sad, or challenging help us appreciate when we do have the beauty of life. You need both to have a full, expansive life. To not be afraid of it is actually more powerful than always being on guard and always being afraid of the other shoe is going to drop.
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Robert Maldonado 13:09
We have some quotes, we can start to discern some of Rumi's spiritual teachings and ideas just looking at some of these quotes taken from his poetry. The first one is “Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.” Again, non-dualism. He's talking about dropping the idea of good and bad. Let's go into the wholeness, the completeness of this human experience.
Debra Maldonado 13:52
That's the only way we can resolve our problems. There's so much division with people in the world. It's magnified, of course, on the media, but for us to really come together, even the people in our life we disagree with, to come together from a place of non-judgment on both sides, not feeling “I'm right about something” or “You're wrong about something.” That's what's going to bring a greater understanding. If we can only speak to each other, we could probably uncover the truth that we both actually believe the same things and want the same things. I've often seen this quote as a way to describe forgiveness. But that's a tricky thing because with forgiveness, you're actually saying “You did something wrong but I'm gonna forgive you for it.” There's still a little judgment when you use forgiveness. It’s an elevated level beyond forgiveness. It's an elevated place where we understand that what happens to the ego is not as real as we think it is, and there's another place where we both are that has not been touched by that experience from that exchange with that person. Think about the people in your life you have struggles with: family members, or exes, or people you meet that you work with, even those little conflicts you have, imagine listening to them without judgment and them seeing you with non-judgment, what could happen, and the intimacy that can be created from that.
Robert Maldonado 15:27
This makes sense because we know we all share the same mind, the same life experience. If we approach others’ behavior from that perspective, we understand that if we were to change place with them, we’d put ourselves in their shoes, their life, the way they experienced it, we’d act the same way they’re acting. That's a hard pill for us to swallow. We want to think we’d be different, we’d do things differently. Yes, but if you were them, if you experience what they experience in conditioning, thought, given the genetic predispositions they were given, you’d essentially act the same way they are acting.
Debra Maldonado 16:25
I see this with daughters of critical mothers. I always asked my clients if they had a critical mother how her mother was to her. What was your grandmother like? She was that way too. You see it didn't start with her. Not to not to let her off the hook, but you're understanding why they act that way. You stop taking it personally, you stop making it about “If I was a better daughter, if I achieved more, she wouldn't criticize me”, or getting her to change so I can feel good. It's understanding, and that understanding starts to help you maybe repair that relationship, letting her feel more love and an ability to give you love if you can give love back that way. A very interesting dynamic. What's the next one?
Robert Maldonado 17:22
The next one is “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” This quote expresses Rumi's belief that pain and suffering can serve as catalysts for spiritual growth and illumination.
Debra Maldonado 17:41
People don't just go “I'm gonna grow spiritually", usually there's a triggered event or a crisis in your life that leads you to ask more questions. Maybe there's some people that were born with this mystical idea and where always hungry. But in my experience, there's always been something, not necessarily an event, but a dissatisfaction in life, or even a crisis, a change in life, a death of a person, a loss of a job, a breakup or something happening that makes you ask those bigger questions. Because if everything was going smoothly in your life, the spirit can't come in, because you're happy with the material, “Everything's good in my life. I don't need to ask those deeper questions.” If everything’s satisfied on an ego level, it's not that we seek something beyond the ego.
Robert Maldonado 18:44
He's saying it's the universal fact of suffering, if you exist in a human body, you're going to experience pain and suffering, it's inevitable. it’s just part of the deal. If you have a body, you're going to suffer. The question is, what do we do with that? We can let it defeat us, we can let it lead us into despair. Or we can do something with it. We can use it to motivate ourselves to seek deeper ground of spirit. That's what Rumi is getting at, these so-called wounds — he means that metaphorically, not just physical or psychological emotional wounds, but the places where we feel suffering — in general, the human condition of suffering leads us into those deeper parts of ourselves. We become seekers, we go on those journeys of exploration and wishing to find answers to these deeper questions.
Debra Maldonado 20:00
Which is why the guest house is so important, you don't want to not let these in because they're good. They guide for you. I like the next one. “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” We forget who we are, we forget that we're these incredible spiritual beings, we're struggling in darkness. His work is about opening your eyes.
Robert Maldonado 20:28
Definitely, you see in this quote the moving beyond the limited mind that we all are born into and conditioned into by society. It's limited in that not that it's trying to hurt us or that society is necessarily trying to hurt us. It's learning to fit in, to survive, to be a good citizen. That entails a limitation on us because we have to play by external rules. There's nothing wrong with that. In Jungian psychology, it's understood that you have to create this persona, you have to survive, you have to follow your ego in a sense, to survive and to fit in socially. But there's more to you than that, you're supposed to go through a metamorphosis at some point, hopefully, in your midlife or after your mid 20s, you start to transform yourself inwardly and go beyond the limitations of your social and cultural conditioning.
Debra Maldonado 21:48
There's only so much satisfaction you can squeeze out of the world. The key is that there's only so much and it's not lasting. We’re going to a deeper place, we’re transcending. I was thinking about this idea of devotional love and how we feel when we fall in love romantically. We're transcended to another place. We feel invincibility, this beautiful, floaty, amazing feeling. Why not use that passion that we can naturally feel? The human beings have the capacity for that towards something greater than ourselves. That's what I love about Rumi, this love of the higher self, loving that and using a romantic ideal around this, romanticizing your higher self, falling in love in a deep way. Emotion is so important because I think a lot of times in philosophy you can get into the logical, “That makes sense”, like Marcus Aurelius, very logical stoicism. Then you think about Rumi, he's so feeling, this is the meat of life. It's so much different. I really think that's how we transcend the ego and romantic love because we're willing to give up ourselves for another person, we forget about our ego for a moment and transcended. Why not use that mechanism we're naturally born with to connect to the divine instead of just projecting it onto the next attractive person that you meet? Let's go to the next one, which is about love. “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Robert Maldonado 23:41
Following this inner passion, the desire you have, trusting it. When we work with people, often we find they're not trusting in their own inclinations, what they love to do, what they know fulfills them. Because of that limited conditioning of life, they are often taught that you can't do what you really love, that those things are for certain people. If you're lucky somehow, by chance, maybe some people get to do what they love. But it's the opposite. These inclinations, this love, these passions that we have are precisely to guide us in our life. They are our North Star, they are our compass, they are meant to guide us in life in every step of our way and express that fullness of who we are, trusting in that. It has to be cultivated. Because of that limited mindset, we have to cultivate that trust. One of the ways to do it is through bhakti, through this devotional love, dedicating our skills, our work, our creative endeavors, like Rumi is talking about, to the Divine, to this spiritual work.
Debra Maldonado 25:23
What I think makes people successful is that ability to transcend their ego needs, the love of comfort, the love of safety, the love of predictability because there's a bigger mission, there's a bigger life, “Other people are depending on me to step into this", this non-logical, outrageous dream we have. Like Steve Jobs says “Here's to the crazy ones!” As people are willing to put their ego aside and really go for their dreams. That's really what it takes, you can’t really change your life from the ego perspective, the ego will always pull you back, always doubt, always stop you. That devotional love is a great way to devote it to something bigger than yourself, to make this your mission to do something that's bigger than your little ego. The last one, “The moon stays bright when it doesn't avoid the night.” You see the moon during the day, it blends in with the sky, “There's the moon.” But at night, it shines bright.
Robert Maldonado 26:37
Symbolically, the night, of course, represents the unconscious, the unknown, also our animal, instinctual life that we have to embrace as part of ourselves. If we split it, if we say “I'm only the civilized person that lives in society by that persona”, you're limiting yourself, you're not in touch with your power that connects you to nature, to the passion of life. That's what he's talking about, you have to embrace both light and darkness. Again, this non-dualistic approach to working with your mind.
Debra Maldonado 27:23
When you read Rumi, a bit of advice is that you don't just read it, you contemplate it. We're all used to collecting information. But the right way to study philosophy is that you read it, even just one of the quotes and just sit with it, meditate on it, ask yourself about it. That's where you get it to be embodied in you versus just reading it, “That's a beautiful quote, let's move on to the next one.” Really allowing yourself to process what the deeper message is.
Robert Maldonado 28:03
It's a way of integrating that knowledge into living it, making it one with your mind. That's one of the hallmarks of mystical literature, it's a living word, every time you read it, you see something different. This is uncanny because when you read the Gita, Rumi, the Upanishads, any higher knowledge, every time you read it, you’ll see and experience something different. Therefore, this is the living spiritual work right here. What’s happening is that language itself is a symbolic form. There are these little symbols laid down on a page. Your mind is deciphering them, you're giving them life, you’re giving them thought and consciousness awareness. That’s what you're experiencing when you read. It's not just a passive experience. It's a very active experience of transforming symbols into thought, into life. You're giving a life. What is higher knowledge doing? It's enlightening you, it's waking you up, literally. It's illuminating your mind from within. That’s what you want to practice. Rumi's work, bhakti yoga, or just thinking of it as creative endeavors. He was very much into dancing, twirling around, poetry, music, singing, drinking wine even, because it loosens up that creative spirit. When you do that and dedicate it towards this enlightenment, this living process of waking up yourself, then you're cultivating that.
Debra Maldonado 30:20
Even Einstein said “Everything is imagination.” Even though he was a scientist, he knew the power of thinking mystically, to imagine, to open up that mind to other places, transcending the ordinary life or evidence of the senses. We can invite that into our lives every day, reading higher knowledge, helping you connect. Even if I don't understand what I'm reading, it's affecting me, there's something, it comes in and comes around. You read it maybe 10 times before you realize you really get it sometimes. If you read something and are like “What are they talking about?”, keep reading it, keep doing your life, keep studying higher knowledge, then all of a sudden I know what this means now. But the seed has been planted, it's ready to grow. One of the other quotes that I love, just to end with this quote is “Why do you cry that it's dark? You're the one who put your hands over your eyes.” It's this idea that we have the power to open our eyes, we have the power to see ourselves and the world in a greater vision, other people transcending their own egos as well, that judgment of “They're never going to change.” What if you just open your mind to a new possibility for your life changing, for their lives changing, for all this suffering in every relationship and life struggles to be transcended?
Robert Maldonado 31:59
Here's to the poets.
Debra Maldonado 32:02
Here's to the poets. We’ll continue our series next week with another great mind. I hope you enjoyed this episode today. If you have, please click the button here, don’t forget to subscribe to us on YouTube. If you’re watching or listening to us on the podcast services, don’t forget to subscribe. We have a great episodes every week. We dedicate this to our friends in the Middle East that have explored this type of mysticism and anyone in the world who has been touched by Rumi and wants to go deeper into his work and bring that into your life.
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