Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced
as birds' wings.
- Rumi, 13th Century Persian Poet
In challenging times, it can feel like everything is falling apart — like not just that person, relationship, or dream is lost, but all is lost.
In this poem, Rumi reminds us that it is in these very moments of grief that we begin to understand who we are. The loss can shake our foundation, cracking the shell of our ego, which makes our understanding of the world and our place in it open to interpretation.
Through the pain and through the sorrow, we begin to understand what it takes for us to feel at peace, to feel complete, to feel like we can once again walk the earth with a sense of connection to it, instead of in a perpetual state of skepticism and distant observation.
Rumi reminds us that the natural flow of life includes expansion and contraction, with everything constantly in motion. Coasting and flapping, opening and closing, ups and downs — that is what it takes to fly.
P.S. Does this poem look familiar? We quoted a line from it in our Resilience Guide this month. This powerful guide also explores the Japanese concept of kintsugi and how it helps us relate to our challenges, as well as positive psychology research from Martin Seligman that encourages connection to the defining moments in our lives. View the Print Art and Guide or the Digital Resilience Guide here →
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