Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Is weeping speech?

I've been thinking on the poem I Have Five Things to Say from Rumi, (translated by Coleman Barks, down at the bottom of the post). So many of Rumi's poems leave me feeling as though I've been struck in the heart and this one is no exception. I've only recently been reading some poems from Hafiz and find they too have such depth and such ability to touch the tender places.

I have a lot of internal struggle around crying and have been actively working with it since 2008. One thing I remind myself over and over is that Kwan Yin's response to the cries of the world is to weep. The vessel she is often depicted with contains her tears, which have become a healing elixir. I remember this when my Inner Critic is beating me up for crying, for looking silly because I'm crying, for causing me to worry that I'll be caught crying and punished...

Ugh! I spend a pretty ridiculous amount of time worrying about crying. "Just cry!" is pretty much what all my teachers say to me in one form or another. All of them. It is damn hard to relearn this stuff and some days I feel loads of Bad Student Guilt over seeming to need to hear the same message over and over again.

When I read the line in the poem, "Is weeping speech?" I thought of Kwan Yin, She Who Hears the Cries of the World, and her wordless response, suffused with compassion for all the suffering of the world. Her act to hear terrible suffering and respond with the open vulnerability of crying reminds me of the very positive quality to tears and how they are a way of speaking when words utterly fail us.


The wakened lover speaks directly to the beloved,
"You are the sky my spirit circles in,
the love inside love, the resurrection place.

Let this window be your ear.
I have lost consciousness many times
with longing for your listening silence,
and your life-quickening smile.

You give attention to the smallest matters,
my suspicious doubts, and to the greatest.

You know my coins are counterfeit,
but you accept them anyway,
my impudence and my pretending!

I have five things to say,
five fingers to give
into your grace.

First, when I was apart from you,
this world did not exist,
nor any other.

Second, whatever I was looking for
was always you.

Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?

Fourth, my cornfield is burning!

Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia,
and this is for someone else.
Is there a difference?

Are these words or tears?
Is weeping speech?
What shall I do, my love?"

So he speaks, and everyone around
begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,
moaning in the spreading union
of lover and beloved.

This is the true religion. All others
are thrown-away bandages beside it.

This is the sema of slavery and mastery
dancing together. This is not-being.

Neither words, nor any natural fact
can express this.

I know these dancers.
Day and night I sing their songs
in this phenomenal cage.

My soul, don't try to answer now!
Find a friend, and hide.

But what can stay hidden?
Love's secret is always lifting its head
out from under the covers,
"Here I am!"

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  1. Great Post. I read it a second time and changed one word in my mind from the first line:The wakened lover speaks directly to the emptiness,Spoke to my overly zen mind even more : P

  2. Eric, I really like thinking about it that way. Speaking directly to the emptiness!My Zen-y mind was also quite struck with this bit:"This is the sema of slavery and masterydancing together. This is not-being."And thanks again for the correction on the typo in the poem! I have updated it.

  3. I have issues about crying, too. Crying in front of people when I do not feel safe to be vulnerable. Crying when Im really angry and unable to express it. This poem (and many of Barks translations) speaks to me, too.

    • It is always a relief to hear that other people feel the same as I do about crying. I know I’ve been given the advice to just, “Have a good cry.” and felt helpless to explain to that person that I can’t really do that. Thanks for sharing your feelings about this!

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