Ruminating with Rumi

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Wed December 12, 2012 | 00:00 AM

As seen on  AFAR

Spiritual and sensual, ascetic and ecstatic, Rumi’s poetry has provided me an island of tranquility since my college years. Two of his quatrains, in particular, had a profound influence on my development as a young adult:

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.


Take someone who doesn’t keep score,
who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even
in his own personality: he’s free.

Hildegard von Bingen once wrote, “When the inner and outer are wedded, revelation occurs.” That sums up why I’ve had a fascination with this Persian poet, philosopher, and prophet from the 13th century.

As fate would have it, I was booked to give a speech in Cairo, Egypt just a few days before the annual “Shebi-Arus” festival was to occur on December 7-17, 2012 in the place of Rumi’s death, Konya, Turkey. This Whirling Dervish festival has been held 739 years in a row ever since Rumi had his “wedding night” passing at sunset December 17, 1273. Quite honestly, my fascination with the Sufi order of Islam had been growing the past couple of years due to my friendship with my athletic trainer who’s a Sufi. He’s often said, “Our only purpose in life is love.” This form of Islam sounded so Rumi-esque and at odds with how Muslims are portrayed on American television.

So, I packed my bags full of 5 Rumi books on his life and poetry and made my way through a violent political uprising in Cairo the very night of my speech, a few days in Israel where just a week earlier everyone had spent extended time in bomb shelters due to the conflict with Gaza, ending up in this central Turkey town that feels like an ancient Rumi theme park.

Mevlana Whirling Dervishes 2013 Chip Conley   10

The various colored lighting created a whirling work of art