The wound is the place where the Light enters you. –Rumi
This quote caught my attention the other day, but I needed to mull it over before commenting on it. You’ve seen quotes like this before, haven’t you – words that you know are true, but you can’t for the life of you explain why? The entire poem helps to put the quote into perspective.
You may have heard, it’s the custom
for Kings to let warriors stand on
the left, the side of the heart, and
courage. On the right, they put the
Chancellor, and various secretaries,
because the practice of bookkeeping
and writing usually belongs to the
In the center, the Sufis, because in
meditation they become mirrors.
The King can look at their faces
and see his original state.
Give the beautiful ones mirrors,
and let them fall in love with
That way they polish their souls
and kindle remembering in others.
A close childhood friend once came
to visit Joseph. They had shared the
secrets that children tell each other
when they’re lying on their pillows
at night before they go to sleep.
These two were completely truthful
with each other.
The friend asked, “What was it like
when you realized your brothers were
jealous and what they planned to do?”
“I felt like a lion with a chain around
its neck. Not degraded by the chain, and
not complaining, but just waiting for my
power to be recognized.”
“How about down in the well, and in
prison? How was it then?”
“Like the moon when it’s getting
smaller, yet knowing the fullness to
come. Like a seed pearl ground in the
mortar for medicine, that knows it will
now be the light of the human eye.
Like a wheat grain that breaks open in
the ground, then grows, then gets
harvested, then crushed in the mill for
flour, then baked, then crushed again
between teeth to become a person’s
Lost in Love, like songs the planters
sing the night after they sow the seed.”
There is no end to any of this.
Back to something else the good man
and Joseph talked about.
“Ah my friend, what have you brought me?
You know a traveler should not arrive
empty handed at the door of a friend
like me. That’s going to the grinding
stone without your wheat. God will ask
at the Resurrection, ‘Did you bring Me
a present? Did you forget? Did you think
you wouldn’t see Me?’
Joseph kept teasing,
“Lets have it. I want my gift!”
The guest began, “You can’t imagine how
I’ve looked for something for you.
Nothing seemed appropriate. You don’t
take gold down into a goldmine, or a
drop of water to the Sea of Oman!
Everything I thought of was like
bringing cumin seed to Kirmanshah where
cumin comes from.
You have all seeds in your barn. You
even have my love and my soul, so I
can’t even bring those.
I’ve brought you a mirror. Look at
yourself, and remember me.”
He took the mirror out from his robe
where he was hiding it.
What is the mirror of being?
Always bring a mirror of non-existence
as a gift. Any other present is foolish.
Let the poor man look deep into
generosity. Let the bread see a hungry
man. Let kindling behold a spark from
An empty mirror and your worst
destructive habits, when they are held
up to each other,
that’s when the real making begins.
That’s what art and crafting are.
Your doctor must have a broken leg to
doctor. Your defects are the ways that
glory gets manifested. Whoever sees
clearly what’s diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the Way.
There is nothing worse
than thinking you are well enough.
More than anything, self-complacency
blocks the workmanship.
Put your vileness up to a mirror and
weep. Get that self-satisfaction flowing
out of you! Satan thought, “I am better
than Adam,” and that *better than* is
still strongly in us.
Your stream-water may look clean,
but there’s unstirred matter on the
bottom. Your Sheikh can dig a side
channel that will drain that waste off.
Trust your wound to a Teacher’s surgery.
Flies collect on a wound. They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting
feelings, your love for what you think
Let a teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on the wound.
Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at
the bandaged place. That’s where the
light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment
that you’re healing yourself.
— Mathnawi, I, 3150-3175, 3192-3227
Version by Coleman Barks (Developed from the translation by Nicholson)
“The Essential Rumi” HarperSanFrancisco, 1995
*** *** *** *** ***
When life is rough, when we experience trauma and abuse, we often learn to get along in life by forgetting about the past. But just as a physical wound must be opened, lanced and cleaned before it can heal, so must we open our emotional wounds to the Light in order to heal them. We have to go back to the source of our pain and face it in order to make it go away. A bandage may stop the bleeding, but it will not heal the wound in and of itself.
Our imperfections are our wounds in need of healing. When we own them and take responsibility for them, we can start the process of healing ourselves so that we can serve as ever greater channels for God’s love to the world. Opening our various wounds is scary, because we become vulnerable, but as the poem says, it’s the only way for Light to enter. 🙂