Rumi: Looking For Your Face

Rumi Rumi.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), was a 13th century multi-talented genius from the area that is today Afghanistan. “Rumi was a philosopher and mystic of Islam. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to people of all sects and creeds.” (wiki/Rumi)

Looking for Your Face
From the beginning of my life I have been looking for your face, but today I have seen it. Today I have seen the charm, the beauty, the unfathomable grace of the face that I was looking for. Today I have found you, and those who laughed and scorned me yesterday are sorry that they were not looking as I did. I am bewildered by the magnificence of your beauty, and wish to see you with a hundred eyes. My heart has burned with passion and has searched forever for this wondrous beauty that I now behold. I am ashamed to call this love human, and afraid of God to call it divine. Your fragrant breath, like the morning breeze, has come to the stillness of the garden. You have breathed new life into me. I have become your sunshine, and also your shadow. My soul is screaming in ecstasy. Every fiber of my being is in love with you. Your effulgence has lit a fire in my heart, and you have made radiant for me the earth and sky. My arrow of love has arrived at the target. I am in the house of mercy, and my heart is a place of prayer.

I found this particular beautiful poem by Rumi when I was looking for more material for conducting wedding ceremonies.  It’s incredibly romantic… except the fragrant breath.  That made me giggle.  I would change it to ‘fragrant aura’ or ‘warm breath’ maybe.

I used to have this one posted beside my bed.


This one is by my desk.
I just love Rumi.

Your Fear is Just Excitement in Disguise.

My mantra for the past few weeks has been this:

Your fear is just excitement in disguise.

I didn’t set out to make it my mantra, but I was repeating it to myself and then I was telling my friend Mike about it, and I used the word ‘mantra’ to describe it.  This phrase suddenly sharpened into focus as my new mantra.

Your fear is just excitement in disguise. 

I have been feeling some anxiousness lately.  I think this is a combination of work and my dad’s health struggles.

This mantra has been surprisingly liberating.

Get excited.  That anxiety is excitement in disguise. 

I say it and instantly, like mind over matter, my fears melt into a smile and I think of the positive. For example: preparing a presentation of my work.  eep.  Your fear is just excitement in disguise. Ya, a presentation of the chapter you’re getting published, good job!

Fears are funny. What am I afraid of? Looks like maybe afraid of my own progress, but that’s just… excitement in disguise.

Excitement time

Women Against Fundamentalism

You are a citizen and your experience and life’s story are valuable. Be brave, make the journey from the personal to the political.

I just finished reading Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Nira Yuval-Davis‘s book, Women Against Fundamentalism. The book details the stories of several women and their work in gender, anti-racism and the struggle against fundamentalist religion through the network Women Against Fundamentalism.   This group was born to unite black and white feminists in bringing about collaborative social change.  “Our main demands inclined the disestablishment of the Church of England, cessation of state funding for all religious schools, and the creation of a truly democratic and secular society based on socialist, feminist, anti- racist and anti- discrimination ideals” (p.60).  Rita Mahendru writes that “WAF provided me with an anti-oppressive, intersectional framework to critically challenge and analyze fundamentalist values. Their views resonated with mine. We could collectively find ways to extend our financial and social support to women and feminists in other parts of the world” (p. 284).

Sheila Jeffries defines fundamentalism as any religion that preaches a separation of genders.  Mary Daly calls this encouraging “sex role socialization” (Daly, Beyond God The Father, p. 3).  I would add that any religion that advocates prohibiting civil rights to any group based on skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or ethnic identity is fundamentalist.  In her PhD dissertation Sukhwant Dhaliwal advocates for public pluralism, and that religions are good and promote healthy communities only when they acknowledge diversity.

I am resonating with Kenyan-Brit book contributor Pragna Patel, and how she was inspired by the character of Stephen Daedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man​. Daedalus’ mantra, “I will not submit” steeled her against young arranged marriages (including a trick “vacation” to India) and helped her to follow her dream of working in medicine.  Patel was raised in Kenya after her family was forcefully displaced from India by British colonialism, and she later went to school in England.  In Chapter One Patel writes that her “earliest memories of Kenya resemble photo snapshots. Some are blurred whilst others are vivid, but the memory which haunts me most is of an Indian woman being dragged into the streets and publicly abused by a man, presumably her husband,” while spectators gathered around to watch (p. 54).

Ritu Mahendru describes the term “badmash“, a derogatory word used for women who are bad for challenging male power. She was called this at a young age, and instead of making her feel ashamed, she secretly carried this badge with pride and it helped to form her identity. It reminds me of the negative stigma associated with the word ‘feminist’ in English. Rita went on to complete a PhD.

Ruth Pearson in Chapter Four notes that “some religious institutions can be progressive and we ignore this at our peril,” demonstrating that WAF is not an anti-religious organization, rather it is focused on targeting the fundamentalist ideologies which oppose civil rights (p. 111).

These are just a few bits that stuck out for me in passing.

It is a great academic read, with the added bonus of being incredibly positive and inspiring. The takeaway message for me is that even as women and/or POC facing a variety of systemically oppressive challenges, these women fought and succeeded: Never give up on your dreams.

Women Against Fundamentalism

Sacred Fantasies

I love to play dress-up, draw unicorns, make homes for fairies in my garden.  I dream about small unexplored worlds beneath the sea and post-apocalyptic landscapes with me in badass survival getup making the most of the end of the world.  These are magical and special parts of my existence.  And they are not dreamed at the expense of others.
When the pope says homosexuality is a sin and Americans pass laws making it okay for a doctor to let a person die if they suspect a patient of this sin, when people call black skin a punishment from God the Father, cut out a girl’s clitoris because it makes her more pleasing for her husband, when people stay married to their abusers, all because of an evil dream of an evil God who wants to build a hateful world, this is not a fantasy that deserves to be indulged.
I love fantasies, don’t get me wrong.  I value –and even live in– my dreams more than my realities sometimes.  Everyone has the right to dream and dream and cherish their fantasies. But not at the expense of others.

wĭl′fəl: Persists in doing as she pleases, habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition. Headstrong, self-willed- not obeying or complying with commands of those in authority. ˈwāwərd/: Given to perverse deviation from what is desired, expected, or required. Swayed or prompted by caprice; unpredictable.

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