Rumi was a scholar and poet that lived in 13th century Persia (now modern-day Iran.) Like all extraordinary gifted and profound teachers, Rumi’s words have transcended time and place.
An Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic, Rumi wrote much of his thoughts down in the form of poems. As you read through these 13 quotes from the great sage, we invite you to reflect on the words. Allow them to enter your heart and see if they don’t stir up something inside.
Without further ado, here are 13 quotes from Rumi that can transform your life, along with a bit of commentary on each.
13 Rumi Quotes to Remember Always
1 – “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
These words of Rumi were perhaps an expression of lament, brought on by the remnants of the Mongol Empire’s conquest of his homeland. The Mongols were a brutal regime, often slaughtering opponents of their expansion – including many Muslims during the time of Rumi.
Moreover, it’s well-known that Rumi was a mystic, devoted to contemplation and self-surrender. Like many mystics, he probably realized that the external problems of the world couldn’t be solved without first doing the necessary internal work.
It’s safe to say that Rumi probably wouldn’t think highly of the empty rhetoric and broken promises so prevalent in today’s society.
It’s wonderful that we want to change the world, but we must first change ourselves.
As a Sufi, Rumi certainly practiced Mur?qabah, an Arabic word that translates to observation in English. Mur?qabah is a form of Sufi meditation where the goal is the “watch over” their spiritual heart and to gain insight into the Ultimate truth.
Nearly every form of meditation practiced, across religious and spiritual traditions, emphasizes quietude of mind. Individuals who are adept meditators are well-aware that mental silence can lead to profound insight, a phenomenon that Rumi was almost assuredly referring to in this quote.
Please quiet your mind from time to time!
3 – “The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore … Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.”
This quote from Rumi is among his most insightful. Demanding particular attention is the mystic’s noting of the relationship between mental wellbeing and “disease and death.”
Taking on too many things is perhaps the main reason why people nowadays are so stressed. Here, Rumi advises that true wisdom is differentiating between the important and unimportant.
Whether intended or not, Rumi’s quote is also scientific. Relatively recently, scientists have discovered an inextricable link between one’s susceptibility to stress and the development of illness, which, of course, can lead to premature death.
Please pay attention to those things that lift you up. Ignore those that bring you down.
4 – “It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”
Ultimately, we are individuals are responsible for our own lives. This is the point that Rumi was making in this quote.
That’s not to say that there won’t be interested parties – loved one, dear friends, and others – who will stand by us on our path. However, like all gifted contemplatives, Rumi assuredly came to the realization that one’s ultimate destiny, if determinable, is influenced by that person – and them alone.
Walk your path, friend.
5 – “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Okay, so this one’s personal. (Please forgive the first-person dialogue.)
Back in September of 2012, this writer was rushed to the hospital. Eventually, I blacked out and woke up with a surgeon telling me that he was going to operate. The writer remembered giving a “thumbs up” before drifting back into oblivion.
Fast-forward a couple of days, and I was being instructed not to panic while the docs extracted a breathing tube from my lungs. This began the long recovery from a brain abscess, a bacterial infection that nearly killed me.
During this time, there was an unmistakable feeling that I can only call Presence. The Presence of something. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone around this former brain surgery survivor felt it too.
This Presence can only be described as “Light.” Pure, loving, protecting light.
Rumi was probably referring to his experience of this Light when he jotted down this beautiful passage.
6 – “Inside you, there’s an artist you don’t know about.”
More beautiful words!
Here’s the thing: we were all well aware of those inner artists as children. But then we were told that we had to “grow up” and live in “the real world.” (How’s that treating us, by the way?)
Creative power, which is probably what Rumi was referring to here, is accessed by quieting our minds and hearts. It doesn’t come through arduous effort or diligent striving. We too often forget this fact, and this creates the stressed-out, always striving attitude that we carry into both our personal and professional lives.
Relax and let your artist out, friend!
7 – “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”
Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, said something similar: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
In all likelihood, Rumi meant something quite similar.
It matters not whether Rumi was referring to the Ultimate “Way” (as Lao Tzu was) or simply to an everyday decision. The “path” could be about career, spirituality, or even the next important task. The advice is the same: start walking and allow the path to reveal itself.
Whatever endeavor you’re considering, start by taking the first step!
8 – “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Here’s another powerful quote that can apply to just about anything. What stands out to this writer, however, is career choice.
The simple reason is this: our jobs are killing us.
One’s job is the leading cause of stress in life, and it’s really not even close. Job stress contributes to everything from burnout to mental exhaustion, to the development of heart disease and an increased risk of stroke.
Most of us have forgotten what it feels like to fall in love with our work. To work with meaning, passion, and joy. Instead, we’ve opted to “go where the money is.” Unfortunately, as opposed to Rumi’s advice, this shortsighted approach often does lead us astray.
Find passion in what you do, whether it’s to earn a living or not!
9 – “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
This Rumi quote is a beautiful reminder to work at taking down those inner obstructions which block love. This applies to both the love of others and self-love.
Notice that Rumi uses the words “Seek and find” to make his point. The things that obstruct our acceptance of love aren’t always apparent. We’re often required to look inside of ourselves to deconstruct the (often subtle) mental and emotional tangles that block it.
10 – “The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.”
Here, Rumi states that if there’s no limit to the mind, there’s no limit to what the mind can experience.
This isn’t just some feel-good platitude, either.
Take, for instance, the practice of Jh?na or absorption meditation. In advanced stages of Jh?na, meditators often report experiencing a disconnect from all sense perceptions, with many reporting a connection to the Absolute, or “Source.”
Individuals who master the Jh?nas can remain in this state up until to a predetermined time – to the exact hour, minute, and second.
In short, our mind is much more powerful than we think.
11 – “Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.”
When we wear something, we cover ourselves with it. In this saying, Rumi is telling us to cover our heart with feelings of gratitude. Doing so will infuse our life with wellbeing, says the great mystic.
Here’s another quote with scientific backing. Per a whitepaper [PDF] produced by the University of California at Berkeley, gratitude is linked to “many benefits…including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”
12 – “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”
It is in the human DNA to explore and discover, to maximize our experiences. The society that’s been constructed for us encourages none of these things. We’re told that going to college, getting a good job, and retirement is the only way.
So why is it that most people are unhappy?
Do what brings you joy. Don’t let fear get in the way, either.
13 – “When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”
This one’s powerful – and accurate.
If you ask someone who they are, they’ll probably give you their name, what they do for a living, their hobbies, and maybe something else.
But is that who they are? A name, a job? Is that who you are?
The people who have delved the depths of their consciousness say that we are one of these things. We’re most certainly not some evolutionary accident, either.
No. According to the great sages and seers, including Rumi, we are much, much more. What is that exactly? It’s something we need to find out for ourselves. We can start by letting go.