Love came and emptied me of self

by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Love came and emptied me of self,
every vein and every pore,
made into a container to be filled by the Beloved.
Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

-- from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Long-time readers of the Poetry Chaikhana know that I have dealt with chronic fatigue/ME for a long time. It has generally been much better in the last couple of years -- thankfully. My energies have been more steady and dependable for the most part. Still, it is something always in the background that must be carefully managed. Navigating my way through the activities of each day is often an exercise of careful strategy and measured choices.

I woke up this morning thinking about my journey along the way with that demanding teacher, and I returned to my commentary on this poem from several years ago. I share it again in the hopes that it is helpful to those of you who deal with difficult health issues or other challenges that can make life feel constrained. It's easy to feel sorry for oneself, to rage at circumstance, to just give up. Or we can uncover hidden vistas within ourselves...


I have dealt with chronic fatigue on and off for years. As part of that pattern, I sometimes feel an intense sensation of tremors, even though my body is entirely still. Sitting on the couch with my wife, I'll turn to see if she is shaking her foot, causing the couch to vibrate. But, no, she is quietly sitting there with no agitating movements. Each time this happens I'm surprised to find that nothing is actually shaking at all, neither my body nor the environment around me.

When the chronic fatigue symptoms are that strong I usually don't have the energy to do a full day's work, yet my body isn't at rest enough to meditate either. What is a person to do who strives to be “spiritual,” when he can neither meditate nor take action? Interesting things happen at such moments.

When the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can no longer be sustained, one option is to cling to the crumbling edifice and be injured by its collapse. Another option is to construct a new story. Or we can let all stories fall away. We can stop struggling to be either this or that. We can step beyond our stories. That is when we rediscover what we actually are. That is when hidden doorways open.
The little self is simply the sum total of all the stories we tell ourselves. When those stories fall away, the self becomes empty of itself. We then become a cup, empty and ready to be filled.

Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

This is the hard wisdom that chronic illness teaches. Any life struggle—really any experience, pleasant or unpleasant—can be transformed into a teacher of wisdom when we stop taking it personally. Wisdom roots itself most deeply when we keep our hearts engaged and our eyes open in the midst of our shifting self-stories.

What can one do but stand in silent awe of the vision that emerges, showing us how much bigger we are than even our grandest stories?

Sending love!

Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
More Books >>

Love came and