Change inside

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
― Jalal al-Din Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet

In Miami for spring break, I have had some marvelous social interactions, from the stranger who gave me a drive home from the grocery store (saving me a mile-long walk), to the 70-year-old Sufi guru who read my enneagram, to the awesome guy who let me use the neighborhood LA Fitness’s facilities for free (sauna, indoor pool, and hot tub? yes please), to the half dozen people who have approached me and spontaneously complimented my smile.

People in Miami are so much nicer than back home in D.C.!, I kept thinking.

Now that I am about to leave, I realize it’s not the city that is different. It’s me. Back home in Washington, D.C., I would have been too self-absorbed to notice the shopper who left behind a bag of groceries, and I would not have been able to chase after and return it to her, which prompted her to offer me a ride. In D.C., I would have been too rushed to stop and talk for 40 minutes with an interesting lady who also happened to be a life-long follower of Jalal al-Din Rumi. In D.C.–at least lately–I would have no patience to go somewhere new and unfamiliar like a clothing-optional beach, where regulars approached me to share their insights, local knowledge, and personal narratives. In D.C., I assume that I know everything worth knowing about my environment and have, lately, become indifferent to other perspectives or the help of others. In a new city, like Miami, I have no preconceived notions and must look to others to learn about what is worth doing, going to, and seeing.

This trip has reminded me that for making human connections, it’s not the place that matters–it’s your attitude. Anxiety and aloofness communicate that you want to keep people at a distance, so people respond in kind.  But when you are inquisitive, candid, patient, and humble, people will sense that and be drawn to you, whether you are in Washington or Miami or anywhere else.

Don’t look for change outside when the real change comes from inside.


Happiness and blossoms

How I Would Paint Happiness
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No –
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
too beautiful to touch.
— Lisel Mueller, “Imaginary Paintings,” Alive Together: New And Selected Poems

But listen to me. For one moment
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you.
— Jalal-al-Din Rumi

in front of the sun

reason, get lost
there’s no room for you here
even if you turned yourself into a single hair
you still couldn’t fit inside love
morning comes, but that doesn’t change a thing
whatever candle you lit in your mind
would look foolish in front of the sun

–Jalal al-Din Rumi (from The Rubais of Rumi, 2007)

Photo source: tumblr