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Six Sufi Teachings That Give Shelter in the Storm

We all know how many struggles each of us face. Sometimes things are beyond hard, challenging, or dispiriting. I find that in situations like that an insight into the nature of the universe and how things work can help me shift my perspective and gain a toehold to move forward. 

To honor any struggle you may be in, and to help you move on out of it, I’m going to make this article short and sweet, yet hopefully profound and surprisingly satisfying.

Article adapted/abstracted from


1. The aim is not to quench your thirst. The aim is to develop the perfect thirst, so that you never stop drinking.

There is a yearning for more, more, more that we often try to fill, in vain, by buying things and taking more action. Although misdirected, this yearning for more comes from a legitimate place in the heart.

At the same time, when our hearts are uncomfortable, we often just want to get rid of the discomfort. The Sufis say to focus that yearning for more internally, and develop it so that your heart is perpetually drinking in the love. What can you do to develop your heart’s thirst?

2. Neediness is the doorway to abundance.

This is a tricky one, and deserves volumes of study. But, put simply, it’s related to the first teaching. If you need more abundance, then you have to make room for your neediness.

Neediness is the empty cup, the human as a vessel. In our neediness, in our emptiness, is where we truly come to know our capacity to receive.

3. When we face the Divine we are all children, when we face the world we are all equals.

A big part of building a business involves networking, and sometimes that involves reaching out to people who intimidate you. There are also the critics and others who have less than flattering opinions about what you are doing.

The Sufis say that every human being is equal. We face the Divine and we are all just instruments of Source. We face each other as expressions of the Divine on equal footing. No one is above you or below you.

4. Comparison comes from the devil.

It is natural and fantastically helpful to learn from other people and their examples. But taking the next step and comparing yourself to someone else has grave consequences.

Each person is a unique expression of the Divine, with a unique path and history, circumstances, gifts and challenges. To compare your achievements or your struggles with someone else is to do a disservice to the uniqueness of both of you.

5. Truth without compassion is not truth.

Sometimes we have the urge to just “tell the truth.” Telling the truth is a wonderful thing, yet you can really hurt someone’s heart by telling them the “truth.”

The Sufis say that a truth isn’t complete if it isn’t born out of compassion. Often when someone does something less than perfectly, they are doing their best. Including empathy and insight into someone’s intention can go a long way in completing a truth so that the person can hear it in a way that heals and doesn’t hurt.

6. Everything starts with “No.”

When you are trying to get a business going, it’s easy to hoover up everything in sight: a million little detailed tasks, every client you can grab, whatever. And of course there is a lot to do. Yet you need to start with “No.”

The most important phrase in Sufism, “La ilaha illa’llah” means “No! There is nothing but Oneness.” That primordial “No!” is a refutation of illusion, of anything that distracts one from the truth of Oneness. Starting with “No” makes accessing the clarity and directness of Yes.