Tuesday, October 21 Visiting Rumi’s Tomb
(written Wednesday morning)
The story is that at Rumi’s death, Christians, Muslims, and Jews filed by his tomb with tears in their eyes. Rumi himself was a Sufi Islamic mystic, but in his writings he found a universal language that touched all. His book was the Quran. His god was Allah. But, his words used the language of connection, union, divine love, ecstatic experience, and a radical trust in Life.
Yesterday I visited both Rumi’s Tomb and the tomb of his spiritual father, Shems (Sems). In both I took time to pray and honor both the space and the lives of these two spiritual masters. The experience at Shems was honestly more profound for me. Pilgrims to Rumi’s Tomb are encouraged to first visit the tomb of Shems or many other “saints of Islam” as part of their preparation for standing before Rumi’s Tomb. It seemed to me that those who showed up at Shems’ tomb were real pilgrims and a large percentage of those filing past Rumi’s Tomb were curious tourists with varying degrees of religious devotion (I certainly stand somewhere in the middle between true devotees and the merely curious).
At Shem’s Tomb I sat outside for over a half hour watching the ritual of pilgrims as they prepared to pay tribute to Shems. Some went to the bathing fountain and washed their feet, hands, arms, face, and neck. Then they made their way to the entrance and removed their shoes before going any further. Most, however, just removed their shoes and entered. After feeling comfortable that I wouldn’t do anything that would dishonor the space for the true pilgrims I too removed my shoes and entered.
It was a simple space with Shem’s Tomb behind a railing in a space no larger than an average living room. The rest of the building was just a simple square area that could accommodate maybe forty kneeling prayers at the most. While most kneeled and bowed in quicker movements that fit with a ritualized form of prayer, I just allowed myself to stay in the bowed position for one or two minutes at a time feeling my breath. I was relishing this moment that marked the end of pedaling and the luxury of just honoring this sacred space and time in my life. There was a delicious stillness to it. Afterwards, I enjoyed the ritual bath at in the middle of the Sems Park
Visiting Rumi’s Tomb was about as anti-climactic as I had expected which had to do with my “arrival” days before internally and psychically. But, the energy was different given the larger crowds, audio headsets describing what we were seeing, and guards stopping the occasional rebel from trying to take a picture in the sacred space. I am glad I did it. I am even more thankful for Rumi’s words and spirit that continue to guide me deeper into an experience of the Sacred, into the Christ Presence, into that unknown and powerful mystery we often call God and Muslims call Allah and Jews leave unnamed.
There is much more to say, but I am now transitioning from the daily reporting of my pilgrimage to beginning to process the meanings and the insights that will emerge from this unfolding and growing narrative. I will still be posting at least once a week from my website. The real breakthrough from this pilgrimage is the realization that this is the gift I have to offer. There may be a livelihood in it or not. The important thing to me is to offer it and allow a spirit greater than I to nurture it and see where the seeds that I may plant grow into something more mature and solid.
Today is wrap-up day. I am discarding items that don’t need to cross the ocean with me tomorrow. Once again I will tear my bike down and prepare for airport transfer. I am already taking a big breath as, once again, I have made my request for a special baggage clearance and have not received the confirmation in my email that was supposed to come. It’s been that way from the beginning with numerous calls before I left to make the transfer as smooth as possible, then a lost bike and no word from the airlines as to whether it would come or whether they cared. At this point I will plan to get to the airport extra early and just refuse to go anywhere without my bike. I am sure they will work it out. They took the bike before. I am sure their policies haven’t changed in seven weeks. Still, it makes me nervous!
I am ready for the pilgrimage to be over. I will miss the daily cycling, though. There is nothing like being on the road for 40-70 miles a day with one’s body working like a well-oiled machine in rhythm with the road and the terrain. I will miss sharing the journey with you as well. But, I am convinced that this journey is not yet over. It is only shifting and changing. Just because I am not pedaling doesn’t mean my heart and soul are not working just as hard to bring a little grace, a little beauty, and a little more passion into the world and our lives.
I imagine I will post one more “I made it (with or without bike)” blog as I will want you to know that I arrived safely home for this next stage of the journey.
Until then, wishing you peace, peace, peace…
Brian (a pedal pilgrim)