Revel Wisdom

Rumi Wisdom: You Are An Ocean

You Are The Ocean

I had a therapist once who, in an act of great kindness, told me, “You’re only little.” She meant me to know that the slings and arrows I’d suffered — and the fact that they’d drawn actual blood — did not make me a failure. I was not supposed to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or to transcend the ancestral wounds that had been handed down to me, my mother from her mother and back unto however many generations,  my father from the generations that came before him, and both of them carrying the psychic imprint, I imagine, of the African-American slaves and Native Americans from which we are descended. I was only little, so I could be forgiven if I sometimes found myself balled up in a fetal position on the floor, arms wrapped around my belly, as if I’d received some new punch to the gut. It was normal, she wanted me to know, to carry our wounds in our bodies, to not be able to single-handedly vanquish all suffering. It was something I needed to know, I who had imagined that I might save the world or at least my family, and who came to know the hard way that the only person I could ever save was myself.

The good news is that saving yourself is how you save the world.

I once heard someone say — I’ve long since forgotten who — that we give from our overflow, not from our lack. In other words, what you don’t have for yourself, you cannot hope to give to the world. And so, cast down your net where you are. Fish in the depths of your own ocean. And what you will discover there is that you are not a tiny drop in some vast ocean,  you are the entire ocean expressed in a single drop.

Deep Rumi wisdom, but when I read it I thought, “What in the world did it mean?”

Rumi, the great Sufi mystic was undoubtedly speaking in mystical terms. He wanted us to understand that we are not separate, tiny beings. He wanted us to know not that we were only little, but that we were vast and deep and extraordinary. He wanted us to know (and though Rumi was a mystic, these are also secular teachings) that we are more than we appear to me, more than we sometimes know. He wanted us to know that we come from vastness, and that we carry that vastness with us, in our beings, our bodies, our personalities as we move through the world. We have come then to do great things — on a big or small scale, it doesn’t matter. Some of us will play on the world stage and influence the collective narrative in big, splashy ways. Others of us will influence the people and communities that immediately surround us and, through the individual lives we touch, transform the larger human narrative as well.

Rumi wanted us to sense that doing the thing that we could do — and doing it like the badasses we are — wasn’t just a little thing. It was the only thing. 


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Act Three:
Your Greater Opportunity


In the Third Act of a movie, the hero comes back from his lowest. In screenwriting we call this lowest moment the “all is lost” or “the moment closest to death.” It denotes the moment, at the end of Act Two, when the protagonist has been bested, it seems, by his enemies and by circumstance. He’s fought the good fight and lost.

Any good life has low moments like these.  They’re the moments that make us. The moments that force us to dig deep and find depths of character that we may not even know we have. But necessity is the mother of invention, no?

When push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road, we find out what we’re really made of — or what we’re really made of now, after we’ve stretched and grown into a mature and powerful version of ourselves. It’s the work of adulthood to take shape, to become, to take the raw material of our fate and make from it a destiny.

Act Two is where we become an adult. It’s where life shows us what it’s really made of, so that we can find out what we are made from.


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The Wisdom Of
Running With The Pack


This just about says it all. No matter how smart, wise and creative we are, there’s just no substitute for a second opinion from someone you trust. Writers know this like nobody else, entrusting their babies as they do in the hands of trusted readers who are willing to tell them the sweet and bitter truth. The sweet comforts and encourages (and who doesn’t need a little bit of that?), but the bitter is what helps you grow into your full potential, and there’s no greater gift anyone can give us than that, whether in writing or in our life.

At the very least, there are three kinds of outside wisdom you need: the wisdom of a good friend, the wisdom of your pack, and the wisdom of your partner in life.


A good friend will tell you the truth. She’ll tell you what you need to know so that you can step out of self-delusion into the bright light of the truth. Her truth-telling is a sledgehammer, helping you break out of your confining shell, or a gentle wind nudging you on.


A crew of friends and fellow-travelers, your pack, your posse, your tribe, is a second, indispensable tool. These are the people with whom you share a primary orientation out in the world. Sometimes this breaks down by profession —


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Rumi Wisdom: The Secret Way


If the door shuts, do not go away.

Be patient, even if every possibility seems closed.

The friend has secret ways known to no one else knows.

- Rumi -

Unknowingly, I opened myself to the secret way. And then this quote appeared, explaining everything.

The secret way is the way of minimal effort. No, it’s not the lazy way, but it is the way of aligning yourself with the natural flow of the river, the way of riding the crest of the wave. So many of us fight with life as if it’s opposed to our will. And, yes, I suppose it is opposed to our will, if our will is defined as our pig-headed intent to have things unfold exactly as we’ve planned. But if our will is aligned with our true calling, if it is aligned with how we can use our talents, passions and gifts for the benefit of both ourselves and the world, then life will not only not oppose us; it will remove every obstacle from our path and make a way, as Southern black Christians say, out of no way. I have seen it with my own eyes and lived it from inside my own life.


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How To Accomplish Anything

Small StepsIf you want to accomplish anything — from learning how to building a mind-bendingly fabulous life and career — you’ll need to take small steps everyday in the general direction of your goal. Some of those steps may be so small that the over-achieving perfectionist in you may think you’ve done nothing at all. But, trust me, small steps are enough, small steps are “the way”.

We may dream of the big bombastic moments when our lives are writ large and everyone is craning their necks to catch a glimpse of this glorious creature who has pulled it off, “it” being the seemingly magical feet of attaining mighty goals that seem beyond the reach of mortal man. We worship these “gods” who ascend to the stratosphere — these movie stars or the movie-star-like, whether rapper, actor, or presidents — and just as rapaciously we watch them fall. How else to explain the popular penchant for reading Us Weekly and People, which my friend M explained to me recently is popular for a reason — namely, because no one wants to read stories about people who’ve had easy button lives. Ironically, these are the stories I most like to read and write, if for no other reason than what I can learn:


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