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.
So yes, there’s a time for sinking into the part of you that is “only little,” the part of you that’s scared or lost or wounded, but there is also a time to stand tall and let the vast winds of your magnificent being fill your sails. You are a little expression of something that is infinite. Through you, someone else might glimpse the vast reality of who they are. Pay it forward. Be your inimitable self so that others might witness it and think, “maybe me also.”
So, go forth and do the great things you have come to do. Cultivate unshakable confidence. Live with single-minded focus. Know that you can do difficult things, maybe even impossible things. Don’t doubt it. The impossible’s been done before. So cultivate your vision, align your passions and talents and formulate goals and then execute. Learn from your successes and your mistakes. Iterate. If you fall short, correct course and try again. Hard goals are achieved by people who know that they are an ocean, and who keep dipping into that ocean for what they need.
Know this: you are an ocean. And also know this: that ocean isn’t just you. That ocean is everyone and everything. It is the collective wisdom. It is source. It is the place where every idea and every expression is born. And you are connected to it, you are part of it, you are it.
And so, you are little and big simultaneously. What a relief. It means you do not have to do it all on your own. There are great depths you can pull from. But neither do you need to play small. Neither do you need to shy away from your greatness. Admitting your greatness, however flashy or un-flashy it may be is not the act of grandiosity it seems. It is an act of deep humility, for only when we root the little “I” that we are expressing as to the big, collective “I” that we are an indispensable part of, are we able to bring forth our greatest gifts. And every gift, every life, changes the world.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Yogi Approved
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.