By Elizabeth Lesser
For years I have used the words of poets to guide my life. And by poets, I don’t only mean Emily Dickenson or Walt Whitman. I lump into the job description of “poet” all sorts of thinkers and mystics: Jesus, Dr. King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson… anyone who can still my restless mind with the magic of a few powerful, purposeful words.
Here’s what I do: I memorize one line from a piece of writing and I use it to begin and end my morning meditation. I choose my words of wisdom, repeat the line out loud, and then give myself 30 minutes of silence. I end with a little bow, and say the line again. But sometimes my meditation is more rushed; I do it in the car at a red light. That’s when the jolt of insight from my chosen line of poetry is especially helpful. It’s a bit like popping a vitamin pill: It offers me spiritual nutrients when I don’t have time for a proper meal.
This week I chose a line from Rumi—the Sufi poet from 12th century Persia:
Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.*
I am drawn to this line when in the process of making a decision. It’s particularly hard for women to make big decisions because our lives impact so many other lives—it’s as if there’s a jury in the room when we try to determine our next steps. That jury may include your children, your mate, your colleagues, your parents, or all of the above. When Rumi says “let yourself be silently drawn,” he is telling us to usher the noisy and needy jury out of the room, if only for a few minutes--long enough to drop down beneath the choppy waters of everyday life, into the deep stillness of the inner ocean. Ahhhh. Sounds good, right?
That oceanic silence is within you—always. And in its healing chambers, if you listen closely, you may begin to hear the voice of your authentic self. Rumi calls that voice “the stronger pull of what you really love.” Sometimes we’re afraid to get still enough to hear that voice. What if it should lead us in an unsettling, even dangerous direction? What if it tells you that what you really love is quite different from the life you are leading now? What if it messes with your head and you end up making a big, impetuous mistake?
Not to worry, because that’s not the way the still small voice works.
Imagine you are struggling with a relationship or a job. Perhaps you are asking, “Should I stay or should I leave?” The still small voice will not answer that question directly. Instead, she will wrap her arms around you; she will bolster your sense of self; she’ll advise you to trust your instincts, to speak your truth. She will lead you into honest and fearless conversation. She’ll tell you to do the following:
Rumi was able to say all of that with only a few words! Take them to heart and they will lead you to a wise and sustainable decision.
For the full poem and others by Rumi, read "The Essential Rumi" which is compiled and translated by Coleman Barks and published by HarperSanFrancisco.
Elizabeth Lesser is the co-founder of Omega Institute, this country's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, social change, and creativity. She is the author of The Seeker’s Guide and the New York Times bestseller, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. She is a guest-host on Oprah Radio, and the creator of Omega’s successful Women and Power conferences. Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, founded in 1977, is the nation’s most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. Located on 195 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats.