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By Rumi, shared by Renée Tillotson

Don’t go back to Sleep!

Perhaps you’ve been inundated these days – as I have – with reports on the benefits of sleep and warnings about that dangers of inadequate sleep time. These are all well and good, and should be heeded.

However, our dear Sufi friend Rumi, leaving us his life wisdom 800 years ago, was surely not advising us to avoid getting our nightly rest. Kindly read his poem below in the context of the little story I relate to you, and see whether he may be counseling spiritual wakefulness.

My fellow Honoring Change retreat participants and I gathered at the riverside to head out on our Solo excursions. We would be conducting our own rites of passage. We felt alert and purpose-driven.

Rather than bidding us “Farewell,” our retreat leader, Katie Asmus, began beating her skin drum, then intoned this chant by Rumi in a strong, insistent voice:

Don’t Go Back To Sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth

across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep!

Throughout the next 24 hours of hiking with a heavy pack, then solo camping in 100 degree heat, I fasted. No food, only water. We were over 5,000 feet above sea level, rather than the 6 feet above that I’m used to. I was motivated to conduct my various pieces of ceremony… I just wasn’t at my full energy level. I kept drooping.

A strange thing happened: Every time I felt faint and would shut my eyes for a little relief, I’d hear this unusual whirring sound. The first time I flipped my eyes open, I briefly caught sight of a disappearing ‘something’ with wings. By the third time, the flutter was so close I could feel the pulse of its tiny wings as they nearly touched my face. 

It was a hummingbird! A hummingbird that had evidently taken to heart Katie’s parting words to us: “Don’t go back to sleep!”

7 times total – throughout the afternoon and again the next morning – my flying friend urged me to remain alert.

And as it turned out, all 6 of the other participants received humming bird visitations on their Solos. I’m not sure about the rest of the group, yet for me, that tiny bird helped to instill Rumi’s sage advice deeply into my consciousness:


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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)