Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unlocking My Heart to the Powerful Rules of Love

"East, west, south, or north makes little difference.  No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within.  If you travel within, you'll travel the whole wide world and beyond."
*The 10th rule in "The Forty Rules of Love" by Elif Shafak*

In the absence of physical travel, a journey through literature is an excellent alternative.  I am an avid traveler - whether I have a backpack on my back or a book in my hands.  In fact, for the past few days I have been on a wild journey that has left me both calm and thoughtful.  This journey happened on the page, where I visited Konya in the midst of political and religious turmoil of the 13th century and witnessed a story that deeply touched my soul and stirred my consciousness. This journey also happened in my heart, as in my own life I struggled to find peace and understanding with a loved one.  It is fitting that the book is titled The Forty Rules of Love,  as the lasting impression I will carry with me are the rules that make so much sense, yet that I lack sorely in my own life.

This book is not yet cold in my hands and I'm planning to read and re-read it until I've had my fill.
(Image by Turklish)

The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi is another jewel created by Elif Shafak.  The novel tells the story of Shams of Tabriz (Shamsi Tabrizi) and his relationship with Rumi that shaped the poet we all know of today.  Shams was the true companion of Rumi and challenged him to not only succeed as a scholar of religion, but to deeply practice his faith, and to let go of the ego in order to understand those who suffer and to become closer to God.

An Illustration of Shams of Tabriz - it quite matches the mental image etched in my mind's eye - dark eyes and unruly, wavy hair
 (Image from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shams_Tabrizi)
I won't tell too many of the details, for this is a book that must be savored completely- no Cliff Notes could ever recreate the pure pleasure of reading such a story. 

Apart from the joy derived of a carefully crafted novel, the many messages within the pages of Forty Rules -  especially the rules themselves  - provided ample fodder for my brain to chew on. 

Lately I have been developing some bad habits, like indulging my critical nature and savoring shallow, gossip-driven, conversations.  In fact, I was driving my love crazy with my incessant simple conversations that seemed to search for all the minuscule problems of life instead of realizing the solutions.  Saturday morning I was reading to heal after a long fight on Friday night.  Not even a minute after I picked up the book,  I read one of Sham's rules that caused me to draw in a sharp breath, and then after I read the passage again, let out a deep sigh:

 "The world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice.  Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you.  Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse.  You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy."

How true!  I thought of myself for the past several years, constantly fretting about what other are thinking of me, while allowing myself to be instantly critical of others.   I thought of the "release" I thought I experienced when I allowed myself to speak ill of those that made my life more difficult at work, or family members that I felt were constantly pestering me.  The "release" of negative energy was momentary, but followed by a longer period of anger and sadness that I often could not shake for days (if not weeks).  How unhealthy this is! 

I realized this past weekend that it is due time for me to reverse my outward gaze and to take a more difficult and painful journey within.  It is time to evaluate the actions I take and cross-check them with the mental picture I have of who I am (or who I want to be).  It will not be easy - habits are burned into our mentality and our motions - like a smoker trying to give up the stick, and being unable to stop the hand to mouth motion that echoed his every morning sip of tea - I open and close my mouth like a guppy fish, swallowing my own words so that they do not poison the air. 

Again, another of Sham's rules can guide me here as well. 

"Fret not where the road will take you.  Instead concentrate on the first step.  That's the hardest part and that's what you are responsible for.  Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow.  Do not go with the flow.  Be the flow."


  1. Stunning writing style and spectacular quotations from source of love and through an intellectual perspective. Keep up the good work!!!


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