Seat yourself next to your joy.” — Rumi

We all have to start somewhere. Truth is, the beginning is often the hardest part of any worthy project, whether we’re talking about writing books, designing clothes, breaking a habit, or plotting a garden. Before we can meet a deadline or plant the first seed, we have to face the proverbial blank page or fallow field.

So what the heck is stopping us?

Always a good excuse: kids to raise; dogs to walk; bathrooms to scrub; naps to take; debts to pay; day jobs that wring us dry. Fear can be a factor, too — fear of failure or fear of success. Maybe we can’t top the last amazing thing we did. Maybe our friends and families will resent our attempts to bloom or grow or shine (as if there’s never enough good stuff to pass around the table). Maybe someone will point out our mistakes and try to shrink us back down to size. Or maybe we’ll have to break free from the sweet safety of an old comfort zone.

Rumi’s poem challenges us to forget the excuses — and to weed the naysayers from our gardens. We’re called to do what makes us happy. To wake up and begin, right now. — CL


By Jalal al-Din Rumi; translation by Coleman Barks

This is now. Now is. Don’t
postpone till then. Spend

the spark of iron on stone.
Sit at the head of the table;

dip your spoon in the bowl.
Seat yourself next to your joy

and have your awakened soul
pour wine. Branches in the

spring wind, easy dance of
jasmine and cypress. Cloth

for green robes has been cut
from pure absence. You’re

the tailor, settled among his
shop goods, quietly sewing.

–Reprinted from The Soul of Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (HarperCollins); 2001

— Garden photo by Cindy La Ferle —

16 thoughts on ““Begin”

  1. Love the poem, love your thoughts, and your photo. Rumi is so wise. As we know the hardest part is, sometime, the “starting” for whatever reason. The starting. The beginning. The first step. Once started and begun, the process takes on a life of its own and we are on the magic carpet ride of creating. Let the soul sing in the creation and you won’t be worried about the process. Love the post. I now need to go and do some sewing!

  2. I love when you do these posts. I can feel my mind expanding.

    I’ve been paralyzed by fear more than once in my life and I don’t want to slide that path again. My mantra is ‘Just the first step.’ I might not feel I can write a book but I can write the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page. Beginnings are hope, not monuments of perfection.

    The Rumi poem is lovely. I don’t know the symbolism of green robes but I love the notion that we’re our own tailors. Thank you for your gift of thought.

  3. I feel like Rumi is stalking me or something. I click here and I click there and see him. I haven’t read Rumi in years and years, but this must be symbolic. Thank you for posting this beautiful poem. It is inspiration.

  4. I love all these comments! Kathleen, this is wonderful: “Beginning are hope, not monuments of perfection” — wow! And Elizabeth, I know what you mean about feeling as though Rumi is “stalking” you. I run into him everywhere too lately 🙂

    So glad that so many of you are enjoying the poetry series. I really didn’t know (at first) if it would appeal or not. Thanks for taking time to comment and let me know what you think. Your comments on all the poems, since January, have made the poems richer for me, too, and have helped me read them through different eyes. I will keep mining for more gold for you.

    One more thing: Kathleen asked about the meaning of the line: “Cloth for green robes has been cut from pure absence.” I’ve thought a lot about this too. I am thinking the poet is telling us that we can make something wonderful out of nothing (pure absence) if we use our imagination. Or, maybe: We can weave a negative or sad experience into something of value? What do you think? Any more thoughts from others out there?

  5. Yes, yes, yes. Cindy, your insights have shone a brilliant light for me this day. The poem is an elegant reminder that it’s up to me. Thank you, my friend.

  6. I always love a post with quotes by Rumi, especially when I see that the translation is by Coleman Barks.

    When I was a student at the University of Georgia in the 80s, Coleman Barks taught a creative writing class that I had the good fortune to have a seat in one semester. Twenty-five years later, I still have some of the original papers I wrote complete with his notes and the final grades.

    What an experience it was to watch him stand before a roomful of would be writers in his wrinkled shorts and flip-flop shoes. I can’t imagine what we must have looked like watching expectantly as he pulled his notes for the day from his pocket and smoothed out the wadded napkin from the open all night Waffle House where he’d had his last meal.

    I learned a great deal about writing from Coleman Barks that semester, most of it coming from impatient ideas written on the rough, thin, pieces of a paper napkin designed more to soak up the spills and crumbs of a healthy appetite than the words a man whose work has made Rumi accessible to so many.

    Great post today … thanks so much for taking me back in time for a few minutes this morning. Sometimes, looking back is important for forward motion and I appreciate the detour.

  7. Hey Cindy thank for your thoughts on starting.

    This week I started across a bridge over the Grand River in Spring Lake, it was easy. The view was spectacular due to the warmth of the sun. The hard part was finding a place to turn around and start all over again.

    Thanks Cindy again for allowing us to embrace life that is often fleeing from us.

    Your Student

  8. Hi Cindy, I just finished reading your article in the most recent issue of Victoria. And I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d see if you were on-line so I could tell you. And here you are!

    (Aren’t blogs wonderful?)

    I look forward to browsing through more of your postings.

    Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places!

  9. Cindy, you are such an angel with this post! I totally needed to read this tonight! Thank you Thank you Thank you! I adore Rumi and I have never heard this quote or poem. Your poetry section on your site is bookmarked and I enjoy returning here as I can and it has helped me to return to my love of poetry for the healing aspects of it and the joy! 😉

    this part was so moving to read: wow!

    Sit at the head of the table;
    dip your spoon in the bowl.
    Seat yourself next to your joy
    and have your awakened soul
    pour wine

    phew, wow –why do we feel guilty when its our turn and then freeze up?

    I know its a worth thing.

  10. Pingback: Circus of life | Cindy La Ferle's Home Office

  11. always beautiful to read exactly what you need to hear … your voice is poetic and inspiring Cindy…thank you!

    now back to your circus post which led me here 🙂

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