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I had a lot of anxiety. I was suffering from panic attacks, and agoraphobia. I was really struggling and felt disconnected from everything. As I reflected on my situation, I realized that all my life I had failed to understand who I was as a person. I was very insecure, never really feeling good enough, never feeling that what I was doing was quite enough. It occurred to me that there had to be something more to life.
While I was in the Philippines I started to meditate. And again, these questions just kept coming up about who I was, and what my soul and life were all about. I became obsessed with finding answers. I started to think about people who have a religion, a sense of meaning or a God, whatever that is. I loved Buddhism and elements of Hinduism, and I started reading about Islam.
That is when I came across Sufism , the spiritual practice of Islam. I came back to London and through the process of my meditation , I decided to leave my job. I had no money and in many ways things were not good, but I had this fire in me to find who I was and to change my life, an urge to heal myself because I realized that what I had previously been doing was not working.
Farm residency brings the past to life through poetry
Then my Mum called and told me she was struggling with the loss of my Dad. So, I decided to leave London and go back home to Edinburgh. I wanted to become a coach and help others, and help myself at the same time. I had packed up my belongings, including my books, for the train journey home. I was a bit hesitant to read them because they were poetry. All I knew about poetry was what I learned in high school English. That was the last I ever thought of poetry. I had never thought about poetry again — until now. But then I started reading one of the books, and something wonderful happened.
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Excuse me if I get emotional while I tell it because it was such a defining moment in my life, in my healing. I felt a rush of energy pass through my body, my hair stood on end. This was the answer. This was what I had been impatiently looking for about life, about spirituality, about love, the key to everything. There I was on the train, in tears, sobbing my heart out. And I feel that my soul shifted and my heart opened. And since then I have tried to live by the essence of love. Every day I try and practice and go deeper into that feeling of love.
There is a quote by Rumi: Love is the bridge between you and everything.
The Essence of Poetry
And I have it tattooed on my body because it is so true. It was simple. I realized that If I just change my life and live from a vantage point of love every possible minute, my life would be transformed. And you know what? It was. I believe he is one of the great souls and one of the greatest spiritual teachers. He shows us our glory. I agree with Coleman Barks that Rumi wants us to be more alive and wake up, and he does so in such an accessible way. I realize that my story sounds almost magical. But discovering Rumi was the turning point for me, and the force by which healing took place. Rumi sent me on that path to go in search of healing my soul.
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And the life coaching program that I did was fused with neuroscience and mindfulness. And it was just a phenomenal course that opened me up even more. I then went on to train as a spiritual healer, and that again is just based on love and helping others, and that mysterious flow of energy, which Rumi talks about a lot in his poetry. About six months later I met my husband, and it was an unbelievable, magical moment of two souls meeting.
And he then showed me also what love is on a level that I had never previously experienced. A few months after that, I got pregnant. How are you going to have children? It brought love into my life, first through coaching and helping others, then through my husband. As I think back on my life, I realize that I have suffered emotionally since my early twenties. Since finding Rumi four years ago, however, and shifting my life from fear to love, my panic attacks, depression , agoraphobia, and suicidal thoughts have all dissipated. Rumi helped me face all my fears from a place of love and compassion rather than ignoring them and pushing them away into the depths of my being.
I have no doubt that Rumi helped me with this change of mindset, and luckily I have never had any of these emotional problems since. Ilaria Nardini-Gray and her husband, Alister Gray run Mindful Talent , a coaching and leadership company, that serves companies and clients all over the world. Rumi was extremely prolific and wrote hundreds of poems. The Essential Rumi in which celebrated translator Coleman Barks has chosen his choicest poems runs to approximately pages.
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Incidentally, we are fortunate to have such a superb translator of Rumi as Barks, who is a poet in his own right. I have chosen the following two poems not only because they are among his most popular, but also because they embody some of the healing principles that are at the heart of this blog: Acceptance and Reconciliation.
I will present each of these first in their written form and then read by Ilaria Nardini-Gray so that you can hear how they sound when they are read to you.
The Essence of Poetry | Versopolis Poetry
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. When we consider the astonishing Rumi-inspired transformation that Ilaria describes, it may sound too good to be true. She does, however, suggest that the mechanism by which her life changed involved acceptance of the worries and unhappiness within herself, as she put it:.
That is the essential message of The Guest House , presented above. Healers of all types have converged on this message: accept your emotions, even when they are unpleasant and hard to face. When I was in my thirties, I decided to undergo psychoanalysis. It was a small room situated in the basement of his home, dimly lit, paneled with dark wood, and furnished with a simple green couch behind which he would sit in a desk chair and listen to my ramblings. Every now and then he would intervene with brief comments, most of which have long since been forgotten. Nobody is.
What my analyst was attempting to do was to peel away my defenses, as advocated by Freud. According to Freud and his disciples, defense mechanisms are at the core of neurotic unhappiness.
Analyze them, expose the underlying drives and feelings, and relief will follow. So my analyst was using a time-honored analytic tradition of peeling back defenses to uncover unwelcome feelings.
But there was a slightly jarring quality to how he did it. Each of us is like a guest house, and the occupants are our emotions. And Rumi offers us that help. Even for those who acknowledge that we need to accept negative feelings, the idea of welcoming and entertaining them may seem a bit much! What psychological explanation could there be for this advice? Negative feelings as well as positive ones are a part of who we are. We come by them honestly, even honorably. They reflect our experiences of the world, past and present.
When we fail to honor our feelings, we register at some level that we are disrespecting an important part of who we are. We set up a conflict between opposing aspects of ourselves. When we honor our feelings, we begin the work of reconciling this internal conflict. We were taught and supervised by eminent psychiatrists, several of whom were household names in New York City, which is surely one of the psychiatric capitals of the world.
I struck up a friendship however with one of the less distinguished psychiatrists who I felt had something to teach me that was different from what I would learn from the others.
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I asked him if he would supervise me unofficially, and to my delight, he agreed. I will always remember his childlike enjoyment of the world, and the naughty twinkle in his eye that developed when we discussed some of the characters who peopled the Institute. On one occasion, he told me a story about himself in his younger days. It was as though their plates were full, and mine was half empty.
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