Finding Ourselves in Our Soul Mirror

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by my Bahraini book club.  The Bahraini women are the majority but the group includes a Mexican, a Belgium, a couple of Americans and a French woman.  We read books from an international selection of authors including Elif Shafak the female, Turkish author of this month’s choice.

The Forty Rules of Love is a multi-layered novel.  An American housewife is charged with editing a novel about the mystic Rumi and it changes her life.  Rumi was a gifted Islamic preacher and teacher who, in the book, developed into RUMI the Sufi poet after he met his soul-mirror named Shams of Tabriz.

In the novel within the novel, the dervish Shams’ forty rules are rolled out like an antique Persian carpet.

One of Shams’ rules is

“Loneliness and solitude are two different things.  When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path.  Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely.  But eventually it is best to find a person, the person who will be your mirror.  Remember, only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.”  Pg 72.

In modern Western culture the idealized life partner is called our soul mate.  But a soul mirror is different.

Rumi and Shams’ friendship reminded me of my friend YeYeIfe.

Like Ella the female protagonist in the novel, YeYeIfe was an American housewife who after raising her children discovered her husband was not her soul mate.  They divorced.  I met her when we both became students at the Immaculate Heart College Center.

She was a kind of exotic bird: a white woman wearing a leopard print skirt, armloads of African bracelets and high heeled mules.  Shortly after meeting her, YeYeIfe became an initiate of an African spiritual practice and had to cleanse herself of her previous life.  I was shocked when, wrapped in a white smock, she cut off her hair and swore off cosmetics for one year.

As we studied theology, YeYeIfe actively transformed her body, mind and spirit.  Like Shams who taught Rumi the twirling dervish dance, YeYeIfe used dance to connect with God.

I watched YeYeIfe’s progress with awe.  After the end of her year, when her mind and her time were freed, we started talking.  In her I discovered my soul mirror.  Like Shams and Rumi, we sat by ourselves in a room and talked about everything to do with spirit, God and existence.  When we were apart we wrote to each other.

A couple years later, the distance between us literally grew when I moved to San Francisco from LA.  But that did not end our friendship.

But after I married, I quit looking at my soul.  Instead I became mesmerized by my face reflected in my babies’ eyes.  During those years the distance between me and my friend became so great that we lost contact.

Now my babies are children and as I read Elif Shafak’s book I wondered, where is my soul mirror?

A Google search found her referenced in a book.  I contacted the author.  He said after he interviewed her several years ago, she moved to South America.  I imagine her like the itinerant Shams trading healing stories for food and teaching those who are called to dance.

I describe The Forty Rules of Love as Sufi-light.  It is entertaining while explaining Sufi thought without having to read Rumi and tease out the meaning behind his poetic metaphors.  Perhaps it will inspire more people to seek out their soul mirrors who can help them see God within.

An interesting publishing note: Elif Shafak’s hardcover book can be purchased on Amazon.com but not the ebook.  For the Kindle version, you have to use Amazon.co.uk.

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