After the Meditation

Now I see something in my listeners

that won’t let me continue this way.

The ocean flows back in

and puts up a foam barrier,

and then withdraws.

After a while,

it will come in again.

This audience wants to hear more

about the visiting sufi and his friends

in meditation. But be discerning.

Don’t think of this as a normal character

in an ordinary story.

The ecstatic meditation ended.

Dishes of food were brought out.

The sufi remembered his donkey

that had carried him all day.

He called to the servant there, “Please,

go to the stable and mix the barley generously

 with the straw for the animal. Please.”

“Don’t worry yourself with such matters.

All things have been attended to.”

“But I want to make sure that you wet the barley


He’s an old donkey, and his teeth are shaky.”

“Why are you telling me this?

I have given the appropriate orders.”

“But did you remove the saddle gently,

and put salve on the sore he has?”

“I have served thousands of guests

with these difficulties, and all have gone away

satisfied. Here, you are treated as family.

Do not worry. Enjoy yourself.”

“But did you warm his water

just a little, and then add only a bit of straw

to the barley?”

“Sir, I’m ashamed for you.”

“And please,

sweep the stall clean of stones and dung,

and scatter a little dry earth in it.”

“For God’s sake, sir,

leave my business to me!”

“And did you currycomb his back?

He loves that.”

“Sir! I am personally

responsible for all these chores!”

The servant turned and left at a brisk pace …

to join his friends in the street.

The sufi then lay down to sleep

and had terrible dreams about his donkey,

how it was being torn to pieces by a wolf,

or falling helplessly into a ditch.

And his dreaming was right!

His donkey was being totally neglected, weak and


without food or water all the night long.

The servant had done nothing he said he would.

There are such vicious and empty flatterers

in your life. Do the careful,

donkey-tending work.

Don’t trust that to anyone else.

There are hypocrites who will praise you,

 but who do not care about the health

of your heart-donkey.

Be concentrated and leonine

in the hunt for what is your true nourishment.

Don’t be distracted by blandishment-noises,

of any sort.

in Coleman Barks  –  The Essential Rumi – reissue: New Expanded Edition