The Guest House | Big Emotions Welcome Here

The idea that big, difficult feelings all (all!) belong –like visitors to the guest house — can bring a life-changing shift. Even anger and resentment? Shame? What about sadness or embarrassment? You can make peace with big emotions.

Rumi and The Guest House

Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, is an invitation to mental health and self-care via a deeply spiritual path. A true intersection of identity and spirituality in just a few lines.

The first time I heard it, I reacted strongly. I fussed and bothered and stormed about it for a long, long time. It felt so contrary to logic. And it felt altogether out of control. I imagined my own interior space as a teeming Hobbit hole — dwarves running amok. Chaos and clattering all over the place!

At the time? The thought of willingly opening the door to any kind of feeling was very scary. Raised a proper Christian girl, the two acceptable emotions proffered were happiness and sympathy. Full stop. Put on your dress and smile, Girl! Feeling rage-y and confused and wounded and activist-y? There’ll be none of that! Here — have a cookie and stuff all of that ugliness downdowndown so deep!

Some years have passed since my first reading of Rumi. I’ve made friends with the out-of-control-ness of his jarring invitation. It has taken different imaginary shapes over time: I’ve experienced my own guest house as a silent and safe space of solitude. It has been home to the entire cast of Downton Abbey (I mean… there is a part of me that is a lot like a snarling footman, a terrified housemaid, a lord-of-the-manor…). Sometimes there’s a big ol’ mess in there. More often, now, it’s an earthy, natural, spacious, calmly inquisitive sanctuary.

The heart of it? Invitation. What would it be like to notice, name, and tend the difficult feelings that accompany the Stuff of Life? In what ways might we become more whole, more our Selves, by turning toward them with compassion and curiosity?

How does it settle in you?

The Poem

The Guest House (~Rumi~)

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’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 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.

Your response?

What happens in you when you read Rumi through? Can you picture your own interior “guest house,” and what it might be like to laughingly invite all who knock at the door?

Looking for someone to talk to?

We’re here to settle into conversation about some of life’s more confusing and complicated questions. What does it mean to welcome a “crowd of sorrows” into the guest house of our lives? And gratitude? For the “dark thought, the shame, the malice…”? How is that possible?

By Being With disruptive, big emotions like resentment and sorrow, we find a way through them. This sounds frightening. We might even imagine that if we begin to explore such things we will become mired and stuck in them forever. Exploring these disrupted and stuck places in the hands of a capable and detached companion can make all of the difference.

What others have said about Spiritual Direction…

In spiritual direction/compassionate listening we’ll be co-learners in wrestling with ideas like Rumi’s. Find out more about what this might be like for you.