Gordon, BCH, CI
was a great Sufi poet whose wisdom and heart were as large
as the cosmos. His poems ring out truths that even years
after they were written are still profoundly meaningful.
Rumi wrote about the growth of the soul, about transcendence
and metamorphosis. One of his poems about tending to and
healing the emotions is particularly relevant. Here it is:
This being human is a guest
Every morning is 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're 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
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
guide from beyond.1
This is a poem about inviting in rather that locking out or
rejecting the experiences that come to us on a regular basis. It's about
seeing your illness and pain as guests. It's about the art of paying
attention to the experiences of your life. If you don't pay attention to
your wife, your child, your friend, your fear, or your sadness, the
problems can escalate. In our culture, we like to push things down, get
rid of them, banish them, drug them into the oblivion of unconsciousness
- but here we're being invited to welcome them all into a guest house.
If we suppress our feelings, they keep popping back up, like
jack-in-the-boxes. If we pay attention to them, just like human beings,
they are magically comforted, soothed and transformed.
Your pain is like a weary traveler on the road. You may feel safe
enough to open the door and welcome the traveler in. In the guest house
inside your deep inner mind, you may be doing the welcoming, or someone
else might be there at the door. Who is it? Is it Jeeves the butler?
Michael the archangel? A Great Being - or a small child? Bill Cosby's
son used to say, "Hello Friend!" to everyone he met. Simon and
Garfunkle used to sing, "Darkness, darkness my old friend…"
You have your own way of greeting your pain or suffering, of saying
hello to it. You may want to speak to it and say," Come in.
Here’s a place where you can rest your soul." You may want to
begin a conversation by asking it, "What's happening? Tell me
what's going on. What is your sadness or anger or pain like? Tell me
about it. Tell me more." First there may be some emotions rising
up. You can watch them and allow them. When you just "be" with
this pain and suffering, a shift happens, a relaxation, a change in
quality, a shift in intensity.
After you pay attention to it, you may want to ask it what it
needs. This is a great transformational question. Does it want some
comfort? An arm around its shoulder? A change of clothes so that it can
take off its disguise and reveal its true self?
Does it want to experience great love? A shift in understanding?
A chance for forgiveness? A life transformation?
At this point, the pain may have transformed into
wisdom in its pure potential. You can ask the Wise Mind to speak about
what the meaning of this situation is to your life and then what you
might do about it. Is this here to instruct you about what you're
attached to and how you can let go? Is it saying to you that it's time
for a change in your life? Is it saying that you may need a more
appropriate form of action in a particular situation? Do you need to
treat someone differently? Do you need to become more powerful? Is it
time to speak up? Is it time to change the nature and quality of your
thoughts? Is it possible to bring spiritual solutions into your life?
Watch for a great metamorphosis, and save a chair in
this guest house for any Great One who may be hiding under the guise of
sadness, anger, fear and pain. When you pay attention, the duckling
becomes a swan, the frog - a prince or princess, and the beast may
transmute into the "Guide from Beyond" that Rumi so eloquently
In this same poem, Rumi also says,
Learn the alchemy
True Human Beings know:
The moment you accept what trouble
you've been given, the door opens.
We can apply this in our own lives and in our work,
accepting whatever resistance may be and allowing in the
deep feelings that may come through our doors.
When we adopt this welcoming and allowing attitude,
we can go beyond condemnation and judgment and find a merciful
attitude of embracing what comes, and it can only serve
to expand and enlighten us.
Illuminated Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks, New York
Broadway Books, 1997