the guest house
“The Guest House” by Jalaluddin 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.

Did you happen to read the Dear Annie column last month that included this 800 year old poem by the Muslim mystic Rumi? The letter Annie is responding to is from a man (help my insecurities) who is driving his girlfriend crazy because he keeps asking her if she’s happy and ok? Annie points out that he’s projecting his own feelings of insecurity and sadness and suggests that he start every morning by writing down his feelings and welcoming them. To emphasize her point she includes the Rumi poem as a spiritual source for acknowledging and accepting our feelings.

The poem rang true to me for two reasons. First, the title of the poem is so similar to the title of my next novel, The House Guests, which will be published in June and really lines up well with the theme of the poem.

Secondly, Annie’s advice is fitting for all of us as we face the pain and grief of dealing with Covid and its many repercussions. The first step towards healing is welcoming our feelings, no matter how dark and difficult they may be, and then once they’re acknowledged we can appreciate them for the gifts they bring.

What feelings do you welcome into your guest house?

8 Comments

  1. DELORES on December 6, 2020 at 7:37 am

    Interesting! Opening up and acknowledging all the different emotions going through my head right now is a challenge. I am normally easy going but find all the continued turmoil over the election and the damage I feel is being done to our country, both at home and internationally very unsettling. So much venom spewing forth! It’s a lot to deal with.

    • Emilie Richards on December 6, 2020 at 1:36 pm

      Right now the number of emotions we’re each feeling is beyond counting. Hang in there.

  2. Kathleen O'Donnell on December 6, 2020 at 9:38 am

    It’s very hard to know how to feel these last months, especially with the holidays ahead of us. I feel that I should stay home and at the same time I should be with my family. We experienced a horrific loss this year and I think we should all be together, especially for my youngest brother and his family. Then I worry about myself, as they live in a part of the province that is a red area lockdown. I waffle about what to do and I am angry that the people who should have been wearing mask and doing as the government asked us to do to keep everyone safe. We have been following the rules and yet we are the ones who are punished at not being able to see loved ones and friends. I hate feeling like this.

    • Emilie Richards on December 6, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Kathleen, I am so sorry for your loss and for all the limitations on the way to best grieve. Please stay safe whatever you do. I know you’ll carefully balance all the elements and make the right decision.

  3. Kathryn on December 6, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    What an amazing poem, its one I want to keep. To welcome all kinds of feelings instead of pushing them away or being ashamed of them.
    The cover of the book is so gorgeous. Love it every time I see it.
    I do hope you will all be safe over Christmas. I have a little guilt that we (at the moment) are Covid free in the community, only at the border. It means we gather as we wish. However I do count it as a blessing knowing so many can’t at the moment.

    • Emilie Richards on December 9, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      I am glad that NZ can be a beacon to the world. Now if only the rest of us can follow in your path.

  4. Lynn Ross on December 7, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    This was food for thought! I’m a fan of Rumi. I don’t welcome stressful feelings per se, but i follow St. Paul’s advice: “in all things give thanks”. Both my metaphysical/spiritual studies and my life experience has taught me that there is a blessing in all situations, even the challenging ones. Therefore, part of my communion with our Source is always to thank him/her for “all things”. When I have unpleasantness walk through my door, I’m like most people, I react in a purely human way. However, I spend less time at my pity party these days. Instead, I seek the blessing or the lesson in the situation and try to patiently wait until it is revealed. I do plan to spend some time trying to embrace my guests. It makes a lot of sense when I think about it. Thank you for your wisdom and friendship.

    • Emilie Richards on December 9, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      You’ve obviously given this a lot of thought and work hard at your own spirituality. This was lovely to read. Thank you.

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