Annual Rumi Celebration


We held our 21st Annual Rumi Celebration on December 14, 2019 at Tula Yoga in St. Paul.  The following is excerpted from the program for the event, that will give you some context and history:

About Rumi, his poetry & this event

Jelaluddin Rumi was born September 30, 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan.  In his childhood, he moved with his family to Konya, Turkey.  In 1244 Rumi met the dervish Shams of Tabriz and his spiritual life quickened.   Soon, Rumi was experiencing the heights of Sufi mystical union. The astonishing poetry followed.  The Sufi order, the Mevlevis and the famous Whirling Dervishes grew out of this work.  He is regarded as the greatest of the Sufi poets.  We hold this event in honor of Rumi’s Urs, his death date in December  of 1273.  In Sufism, the end of life  is a birthday into a life in the Divine.

In the eighteenth century, scholars in the English-speaking West became aware of Rumi’s six volume Mathnawi and began the first translations.  This astonishing mix of ecstatic poetry, folklore, jokes and spiritual guidance has been a fascination in the West ever since.

In the late 1970s, American free verse poets began publishing versions of Rumi drawn from scholarly translations. The story goes, Minnesota’s own poet laureate Robert Bly urged his friend Coleman Barks to translate Rumi.  Twenty years and a dozen Barks books later, untold numbers of people have fallen in love with Rumi’s verse.  It is an amazing accomplishment, that this man who lived over 700 years ago and wrote in Persian speaks to today’s spiritual pilgrims.

John Hakim Bushnell began studying Sufism in 1986.  He learned Murshid Samuel Lewis’s Dances of Universal Peace and later joined Sufi Ruhaniat International.  He has been leading sacred dances since 1989.  After travels and study in India, David Schmit began leading bhakti-yoga inspired world chant groups in 1974.  He first chanted with Hakim in the early 1980s. In that same decade, he and the Rev. Ted Tollefson, co- founder of Mythos Institute, and a long time student of Asian contemplative traditions, encountered Rumi’s poetry through their studies with Robert Bly.  In 1995, David and his sacred music theater group Meeting Rivers first performed Rumi’s poems mixed with communal chanting in the style you will hear tonight.  In 1998, Ted suggested that Hakim, David and he join up and produce this event.  The Wild Moon Bhaktas began providing music in 2009.  Over the years, Kristen Eide-Tollefson and Diane Gamm have played key roles carrying the annual event along.   (End program message).

For the program, the Wild Moon Bhaktas lead the chanting and then lay down a musical groove and audience members come up to the mic and recite their favorite Rumi poems.  We take a break for refreshments, and then Hakim leads a zikr.  It is a beautiful, organic event that has grown ever more precious over the years.

Here are some images of the event, photographed by Steve Peterson.  You can see more of his work at






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