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

Easier said than done, perhaps.  Welcoming joy, excitement, or serenity, seems a far more accessible prospect than welcoming feelings like shame, rage, or malice.  What if we could begin to connect with all of the pieces and parts that make up our whole selves.  What if we could begin to deeply know, care for, and accept our shadow side, the dark corners we most often avoid or reject?  Rumi speaks to inviting in what is most difficult, he asks us to experience fully what may arrive in any given moment, even when it’s hard, even though we’re used to running or reacting.  What would it be like to pause when we become aware that we are wanting to run away from fear or rage or when we feel we must burst into reaction, our bodies surging?   We see it arising, we feel in our bodies the tightening, the heat, the incoming wave, and then we stay with it, for a moment, stay in that yearning, that shaky place?  What a practice this becomes, indeed.  Acknowledging what is real, attending, as though an old and beloved friend privy to the darkest of secrets, in these moments, would seem to have a power, a transformation that reveals something underneath, something tender, vulnerable, someone who is loveable.  Connecting in this way changes our experience.  I wonder, does not a fearful or wounded part of myself lie at the heart of my rage, is she not in the heart of my shame?  When we practice this welcoming, an unconditional friendliness with what is arising, that gesture, that energy reverberates in and through us.  Think of how you feel when you’re welcomed by someone, and also how it is to be shunned and rejected.  What if in the midst of our most difficult situations, we could begin to experience some ease, as our experience is embraced, as we embrace ourselves?   In this way we cultivate a relationship with suffering, and can find some space to relax when we’re in the midst of its embrace.  It begins with a pause.

Tara Brach, Meditation Teacher and Ph.D offers this delightful audio meditation on the cultivation of unconditional friendliness.  Listen, and enjoy a smile.

Guided Smile Meditation by Tara Brach