Monday, October 19, 2009

The guest house

This being human is a guest house.
                Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meaness,
Some momentary awareness
                comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!...

The dark though, the shame, the malice,
               meet them at the door laughing,
                                and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
                 because each has been sent
                                    as a guide from beyond.


I read this poem last night, just before sleeping.  As I was trying to sleep I ruminated on what kind of 'guest house' I was running.  How did I welcome new arrivals?  Was I this smiling Bed & Breakfast owner -  always on hand with a cup of hot chocolate to welcome weary and grumpy travellers? 

Or was I the gumpy manager of a cheap highway motel, with never a friendly smile for anyone?

Rumi's poem is a great reminder to me not to constantly judge each morning's new arrivals.  This morning there was pain, sadness and despair. 'Yet another day lost to exhaustion,' I thought, miserably. Instead of pushing this pain and misery away, or telling myself I just had to tough it out, I thought of this poem and tried to stay with my sensations.  'Pain, pain, misery, misery,' I repeated to myself.  

I realised what an aversion I have to feeling miserable!  Voices and images rose in my mind, all telling me that I was weak and self-absorbed to be focusing on my misery.  

We live in a culture that emphasizes positive thinking and an individualistic 'can-do' attitude.  How much, I wonder, does this culture allow us just to be sad? Just to focus, for a few minutes, on our daily pains - both large and small? I wonder if I will ever be able to sit with my difficult guests, welcoming them all...'as a guide from the beyond.' Will I ever be able to offer my sadness a cup of hot chocolate and a soft pillow for the night?

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