Think that you are gliding out from the face of a cliff like an eagle.
Think that you are walking like a tiger walks by himself in the forest.
You’re most handsome when you’re searching for food.
Spend less time with nightingales and peacocks.
One is just a voice, the other just a color.
–Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)
Rumi’s poetry often references the Seeker in his tireless search for God. The food Rumi mentions in this poem is spiritual food. Whatever religion or spiritual path you follow, your spiritual food is the spiritual concepts that you learn and apply to your daily life. The more you learn, the better you are able to be of service to God. Many religions teach that their holy scriptures are spiritual food. While that is true, there is more to it than that. Our daily lives are full of spiritual food, if we will only recognize it.
Searching for spiritual food is the work of whole lifetimes, and it’s not just a Sunday morning pastime. It’s a constant activity that you do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or relax and let your hair down. It doesn’t mean you can’t have sex, play cards, or drink beer. What it does mean is that each and every activity in your life, and each and every person you encounter in life is a potential teacher for you. God has surrounded us with teachers and with opportunities to learn. We are all expected to participate by being teachers for someone else. Rumi is saying that we should be like eagles and tigers, who are predator animals, and whose main focus in life is finding food.
What about our sleep time? Believe it or not, sleep time is very valuable time for seeking and processing spiritual food. We do this in dreams. Scientists have established that everyone has REM sleep. Everyone dreams. It’s just that not everyone remembers their dreams. Even if you don’t remember your inner experiences, know that you are having them and that your dreams are when Soul processes many of the lessons that you learn while in waking life. Dreams are also a time when Soul learns new lessons that are complementary to our experiences during the day. Those who learn to remember their dreams have the opportunity to apply the lessons they learned in the dream state to waking life.
We are to spend less time acting like nightingales, who are songbirds. When we act like nightingales, we may think great thoughts and speak beautiful words, but that doesn’t always get the job done. We still have to seek out spiritual food. In other words we still have to pay careful attention to the way spiritual principles play out in our lives.
We are also to spend less time acting like peacocks. The meaning here should be fairly obvious. Peacocks are showy birds who always seem to strut around self-importantly, even when they are not displaying their tail feathers. The point here is not to take ourselves too seriously, and not to let our physicaal appearance and our physical life circumstances (home, job, car, clothes, education, social status, etc.) become so important to us that we pay no attention to our inner selves and to our search for God. 🙂