Seven centuries ago, beloved Sufi scholar and poet Jalaluddin Rūmī wrote a line that still resonates with readers around the world today. It is said that he wrote: “What you seek seeks you.”
For many, this line reflects the law of attraction – the idea that your thoughts and intentions attract good or bad things your way.
But is this modern interpretation in harmony with the religious tradition of Rūmī? And is it psychologically healthy?
This article explores the meaning of the phrase “What you seek seeks you”. It examines the idea of searching through the prism of Sufism, a mystical tradition within the Muslim faith. This tradition is the soil in which Rūmī’s poems are rooted.
“What You Seek Seeks You” is an English translation of the original Persian text.
Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist and president of the Sufi Psychology Association, offers a slightly different translation of the line as it reads in Farsi. Farsi is the name of the Persian language in Iran.
“When I read this poem in Farsi, the meaning is more along the lines of ‘What you seek is with you,'” Bozorgzadeh says.
Its reading emphasizes that what you are looking for is closer than you think. In fact, she says, it’s your constant companion.
In the Sufi tradition, finding what you want starts with knowing yourself.
“Everyone’s goal is to get to know each other. Not just your thoughts, feelings, interactions, strengths and limitations,” Bozorgzadeh says. “What Sufism is is that other part of ourselves – the ineffable part that is connected to all of existence. All you want is the.”
Knowing each other is not an easy task. Finding the time to focus on the inside can feel nearly impossible amid the demands of work, family, school, and social life — not to mention the ever-present social media stimulation.
Yet turning inward can be the key to finding what you seek.
Much of what we seek in our daily lives has to do with survival. These are things like housing, food and security. When these needs are met, we can pursue careers, relationships, better health, and social change.
These goals are often linked to deeper aspirations, such as:
- a motivation
- self-realization or the realization of your potential
- direction, or a path to achievement
- connection, whether with yourself, others, or a deeper source
A Sufi psychologist might place particular emphasis on seeking connection, especially with an inner source. This source, as Rūmī suggests, is already within you.
Bozorgzadeh describes it thus: “A metaphor that we often use involves a lamp. As psychologists, we are often concerned with how the lamp works. Does it work well? Is the wiring frayed? Is this lamp suitable for this room? But Sufism is more about whether the lamp is plugged into a source.
So how do you connect to an inner source, develop self-knowledge and find what you are really looking for?
Bozorgzadeh recommends these science-backed steps:
Meditation is a practice of intentionally quieting your mind. Depending on the type of meditation you practice, you could be:
- sitting or lying in a specific posture
- focus on your breathing
- moving through a set of steps or movements
- recite a mantra
- tighten and relax every part of your body
- remember your blessings
- view scenes that you find soothing
- commune with your inner source
Meditation can also allow you to “bear witness” to your experiences, emotions, attitudes and thoughts. Researchers note that meditation can actually change your perception of yourself.
Tamarkoza form of meditation developed by the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, has shown additional benefits in a
In the study, a group of university students of different religious beliefs practiced Tamarkoz meditation techniques for 18 weeks. Afterwards, they reported feeling more positive emotions and less stress. Regardless of their religious beliefs, many said they had more “everyday spiritual experiences” than before meditation.
Get rid of the limits
You may have thought patterns, attitudes, and beliefs that keep you from finding what you’re looking for. The first step is to identify them. Then you can replace them with ideas that are more beneficial.
For this task, some people find it helpful to work with a therapist. If you decide to try it, ask yourself if you want to work with a therapist who affirms your spirituality, even if they don’t share your specific religious tradition.
Find a teacher
You are probably not the first person to search for what you are looking for. Find someone who has done it before and listen to what they learned. Guidance from a teacher or mentor can have a profound effect on goal-seeking.
Good mentors often have these characteristics, for
- They have lived experience and share their expertise.
- They lead by example.
- They have integrity.
- They devote time and energy to the mentoring process.
- They create opportunities for those they teach.
- They provide helpful feedback.
- They know your strengths and abilities.
For Bozorgzadeh, one way to find a teacher is to read: “Read more books written by people who have followed the path. Books will inspire and motivate you.
Experience things for yourself
“You are the scientist, the experiment and the laboratory,” Bozorgzadeh says. Once you have thought, read and planned, you will need to act.
“It’s not enough for me to accept something I read without trying to apply it and make it real to me,” she says. “You need to know if it’s true for you.”
“What you seek seeks you” can be interpreted in many ways. Looking at this poetic line through the lens of Sufism, Rūmī’s religious tradition, reveals that its meaning may be closer to the phrase “All you seek is already with you”.
The path to finding what your heart desires can begin with understanding who you are – beyond your experiences, diagnoses, and physical body.
You can try looking within through meditation, changing the patterns that have been holding you back, and learning from those around you – and finding what works for you.
“Poems are beautiful things,” says Bozorgzadeh. “We turn to them when we have difficulties. Often we find that they have a deeper meaning. If something in this poem resonates with you, look for it deeper.