I’m sure I’m not the only one with a book pile by the bed, although in recent months, with the desire to simplify where possible, I’ve tended to keep just the one I’m reading, perhaps one other, partially picked through, next to the bed. The others wait patiently on the bookshelf in my home office or in the reading corner upstairs. Two books that are always in my night stand though are ones from which I read a page almost every night, and have done for several years now. I thought I’d share those with you this month, both of which draw on Sufi teachings.
While to many, Sufism might look like just another religion, it is in fact not considered, at least by Sufi’s anyway, a religion at all. It is simply an approach to life, or a set of philosophies and practices centred on experiencing reality as love itself. For me the teachings and philosophies have often resonated, and being free of doctrine and dogma, the essence of the insights is undiluted, pure and innately nourishing.
I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Daniel Ladinsky
For many people who have not obviously encountered Sufi teachings before, they are likely to have experienced the entrancing poetry of Rumi or Hafiz – thirteenth and fourteenth century Sufi poets. Hafiz has always been my favourite, and his book of poems, “I Heard God Laughing”, is one my favourites of the favourite! These poems are beautifully rendered by Daniel Ladinsky who brings amazing light and colour to the words. There are so many vivid pictures painted within the poems that offer glimpses of Persian life, and of course the Beloved. For a Sufi, God = Love. This book is just delicious to pick up before bedtime, or to enjoy before or after meditation, or when you need a burst of inspiration, some self-love or a fresh sense of the world.
I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy on Amazon
“I wish I could show you, when you’re lonely or in darkness,the Astonishing Light of your own Being!”
The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish by Neil Douglas-Klotz
Generously collated and written by Neil Douglas-Klotz, The Sufi Book of Life is an essential go-to when one is searching for clarity, direction or comfort. Says the writer, “this book intends to serve as a handbook for those on the path, and a way to begin for those who are not.” Containing the 99 ‘qualities of unity’, it can be read cover to cover, or opened to a particular page at whim. It always has something to offer for that time and place.
Neil Douglas-Klotz grew up in a multicultural American family, hearing German, Yiddish, Polish, Russian and English. He has spent time with numerous revered teachers in the East and West, and speaks several languages. From this wide perspective and life experience, he has offered what is in a way an introduction to Sufi philosophy, and yet also a guiding hand for many of life’s lessons. And he has done this in a way that is relevant to our modern everyday way of living. Many times I’ve picked up the book, opened it to a seemingly random page, and found an insight that makes immediate sense to me. I’ll admit too, at times not fully understanding some teachings; feeling as if I’ve missed the punch line, and yet knowing on some level that I’ve received what I needed in this moment, and that next time I read it, I will gather more.
The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish on Amazon
The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
One of my favourite genres is what I think of as the non-fiction-based-novel – based on or around a historical event or story but written with a beguiling narrative and plot to engage and enchant. The Forty Rules of Love is perhaps a little like this. It’s a lovely novel that moves between the stories of a modern-day American housewife and the famous Sufi poet of the thirteenth century, Rumi. While Ella lives a comfortable life with her husband and children, she reads a novel about Rumi’s loving and controversial relationship with Shams of Tabriz – the apparent source of Rumi’s extraordinary renderings of the Beloved. Full of beautiful Sufi philosophies and two love stories, it makes for delicious and uplifting holiday reading.
The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi on Amazon
Let me know if you have favourite Hafiz or Sufi books – post below!