The Guest House by Rumi

Rumi’s poem The Guest House is a favorite of mine. I love the part where he writes, “he may be clearing you out for some new delight.” As a therapist I invite clients to join me in creating a safe, protective, and containing space in which we can manageably explore feelings. The safe container, the slow pendulation between safe and unsafe feelings, and the intentional focus of the two of us exploring together are what allow for painful experiences to unwind and transform into something less threatening and more play-withable than before. From this place of loosening and flexibility we have more capacity to allow for what wants to happen next, and next, and next. And then, hooray!, something new and more congruent with one’s spirit begins to show up underneath and within the pain. And the safe space allows for this newness to be tried on for size, safely and slowly, so as not to be jarring and overwhelming. And the guest, the fear, the burden that initially walked through the door becomes something new, here unto unavailable, delight.

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.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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