THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
When I first read this poem by Rumi I had goosebumps. When I read this poem today I had goosebumps. Everytime I read this poem I have a visceral reaction. Why? Because Rumi gets to the heart of what it is to be human, to really experience life in all its beautiful messiness. To be open, “…to welcome and entertain them all…” The sorrows, the joys, the dark thoughts, the shame, the love–he urges us to accept all of it. Particularly difficult is opening up to the shadows in our lives that lurk around. Some of these shadows we are familiar with (negative habits that enervate us and steal from our spirit). Some of these shadows pop out and surprise us. Acceptance I have learned is not passivity, not giving up and giving in. It is an act of courage that requires fortitude, stick-to-itiveness and self compassion. When we can embrace both the good and the darkness, paradoxically we make room for change and growth. Stretching ourselves and growing does not come from criticism, judgement and beating ourselves up. Growth comes from allowing in, from softening around, from acknowledging. It is then we can shift, breathe out and let go. When we let go there is that big open field where new seeds can grow. As Rumi says, “Be grateful for whatever comes. Because each has been sent. As a guide from beyond.” We cannot see around corners or into the future so we have to access an inner knowing and a trust that there are reasons for these particular visitors; reasons that will help us develop and forward our learning and understanding of ourselves and of the world. Importantly, we need to do this with a light heart, a heart of light, “meet them at the door laughing.”