let the sea be you

comments 4
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

For some while now I keep seeing quotes about the ocean. It’s coming at me from all directions. When that happens I try to look at whatever it is, a feather, a certain animal, or a word and see what I can learn from it. So for now the ocean is my teacher.

Which ocean quality, among so many, is it that I’m meant to learn from? It is at times calm and at times stormy. It is both trapped and free, frightening and calming. It is the giver of life and the bringer of death…

Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not intended to get more in touch with my “bringer of death” side, so we’ll keep going.

I made a long list of terms I could use to describe the ocean. I might add the list to the comments section so that you can see how obsessive I am. Uh…what I meant was, so you can see what you might be able to add to the list. (yeah.  totally.)  Truly we could probably sit here all decade thinking of words to describe the ocean and only cover the tip of the iceberg. 🙂

I thought perhaps I should pick a quality that especially speaks to me and see what I can learn from that. I kept looking over the list and nothing really jumped out at me.  What slowly did dawn on me is not just that the ocean is so changeable but that it is full of opposite qualities and states.  It is all that it is and also the counterpart of all that it is.

The ocean dwells (and swells) in duality!

This is not new territory that I am exploring here. However, what if it’s even more than duality? Perhaps it’s something more akin to multiplicity. The ocean is many things, known and unknown, alike and opposite.

With the ocean so varied, why should we be any different? After all, we’re mostly salt water too.

Often we put pressure on ourselves and others to always be this and never be that. Does anyone actually know anyone this perfectly boring? Gratefully, I do not.

Before you think I’ve left Rumi out of it this time, do not despair! (because that’s what you were doing, right?)  I had a hard time choosing which Rumi words to pick. You could read almost any of his poems and there will likely be a line about the ocean in there somewhere. He often uses the sea as a metaphor for the soul or Spirit (capital S). It was clearly one of his favorite metaphors. He even has a line where he proclaims, “I know I am drunk when I start with this ocean talk!”  I love that. Own it. Most people get super-lovey when drunk but there’s always that one guy that won’t shut-up about the ocean… If you can’t think of one then chances are, it’s you.

I decided that the best choice for this whole idea of ocean diversity mirrored in a single human being is the following line:

“You are not a drop in the ocean…you are the entire ocean in a drop.”

This very quote was posted to my wall by a friend as I was working out all of this “ocean is my teacher” business. She did not have any idea I was meditating on this. I love synchronicity.

Most likely Rumi is referring to the idea that everything is connected to everything else.  Everything and everyone is made up of the same stuff.  Carl Sagan called it “star stuff.”  I am you, you are me, we are those people over there.  Yes, even those people.  (gasp!)

I chose to work this quote from a different angle while hopefully keeping true to the spirit (little s) of it.

Recently I found myself answering difficult questions among mostly strangers. Many of you know how uncomfortable and unnerving this can be no matter how well you know what you’re talking about. As I was listening to myself, it struck me that sometimes I hear what must sound like over-confidence. (arrogance?) At other times I hear humility.

My first reaction, thanks to my old friend, Ego, was to push away the arrogant label and embrace humility. I didn’t want to look at anything that might be construed as arrogance. It even smarts a little to admit it here. We have such an aversion to anything akin to arrogance in this society that most of us would rather be forced to listen to William Shatner (speaking of arrogant) shout Nickelback songs at us while we’re being water-boarded than admit that perhaps, sometimes, maybe we can be slightly arrogant. On Tuesdays. In May.

It was while thinking about my ocean teacher with its multiple-personality disorder that I had a bit of an a-ha moment. The truth is I am both of these things. I am arrogant. I am humble. Sometimes both about the very same thing.  Weird truth.

Surely I must strive to eliminate all arrogance, yes? No? Well, if I am the entire ocean in a drop, then I must be both the sea during and after a storm. I must be both the frigid north and the warm tropics. I must be shallow and deep.

And why the hell shouldn’t I be? Everyone else is. Why are we all striving so hard to eliminate these less desirable aspects of ourselves? It is particularly daft when you consider that our faults and our strengths are usually the very same things.

We’re chasing this illusion that So-n-so is always acting in only pleasant, appropriate, and honorable ways. Horsepucky! I assure you So-n-so is as deeply flawed as the rest of us. I don’t mean they’re better at hiding their flaws either. The only thing they might actually be is better at accepting them. Have you ever noticed that when another accepts their own flaws, the rest of us not only accept them too but find them quite endearing? Yeah.  Noodle on that for a minute.

So I am the entire ocean in a drop. You are too. Same ocean, same drop. At times dark, at times light. At times ugly, at times beautiful.  At times salty, at times…uh, briny?  Okay forget that last one.

I am not saying it’s time to turn our inner jackass loose on the world, but let’s be real, our jackass only ever comes out to defend our insecurities or to deal with someone else’s. Maybe if we embrace the jackass, he or she will be less likely to crash the party. We can choose when to let it out to play.  For there will be times when we need our jackass. There will. Maybe it’s not when our coworker took the last donut though or when somebody cut us off in traffic. Maybe we can save it for when we really do need the mightier roar.

Whatever we believe about nature whether it is designed or just came to be, we generally accept it as is. We do not judge the ocean good or bad for its moods and changes. We love its many faces.  Perhaps we could extend this same loving eye to ourselves. Maybe we can learn to love our shortcomings in order to be better able to love all the pieces of others. We really can leave this life of judging to find a new way to live, love, and be. We can be more like the sea, as nature intended… dynamic…vast…flawed. Magnificent.

I’ll end with one final quote from Rumi, one of my early favorites.

“Don’t wait any longer.
Dive in the ocean,
leave, and let the sea be you.”

It already is anyway.


Love and light,

Photo credit:  Shutterstock/Rich Carey

The Author

I am a dancing, arrow-flinging yogini from the South, but I live in the Pacific Northwest. I just like to keep things interesting. ;)


    • Aww, thanks Vicki. You are awesome. So glad it spoke to you. Maybe my next tattoo will say “sassy yet sweet.” 😉 I love that! Love you too dearie!


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