The Guest House

On Mother’s Day, I think of the great responsibility that comes with playing the role of Creator–an eternal responsibility that asks and demands much of women, of me, of caregivers, day in and day out.   Every day, what hangs in the balance is the difference between what we need to do with our lives and what we want to do with our lives.

It is said, ‘Necessity is the Mother of Creation.’  And at the root of creativity are needs waiting to be met.  I notice how my life is driven by need right now, not want: the need to cure my son’s intermittent vomiting condition, the need to pray, the need to write to understand this life.

The need to welcome each unexpected visitor who arrives at my door whether it be an illness, a sadness, a joy.  I think of The Guest House, by Sufi poet Rumi, a poem my sister most recently shared as I grapple with the likes of uncertainty and know this is everyday reality.

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’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.

~ Rumi ~

I am reminded of our impermanence.  How precious it all is.  I am a mere visitor on this planet.  A guest in this house we call life.

4 thoughts on “The Guest House”

  1. Happy Mother’s Day Monica! I recently read the following quote and thought of you “some pursue happiness, others create it.” You certainly have done this for your boys, for me, your sister, and I know for many others. Thank you for bringing me an ever deeper meaning to Rumi’s “The Guest House.” Is Rumi saying that if we label what is coming to/at us as “good” or “bad” our own ability to blend and be with life becomes limited by our emotion, our lens, our limits? To me, this poem is not about making “lemons out of lemonade” it’s about understanding that labeling life’s moments in categories works against me staying open to understanding more of the nature and paradox of what is and that life’s impermanent journey is made much more beautiful by being as awake to as much of its true nature and unusual gifts and connections as we, with our limits and apparent separateness felt as human beings, can possibly be. This to me is the gift that has been sent as a guide “from beyond” (the last line of the poem) – from beyond…our understanding, from beyond..our knowledge, from beyond.. our current limitations, from beyond..our feeling of being separate from what is around us, from beyond…our small, partial ability to be truly present to our life.

  2. This entry on The Guest House is poignant, not only your thoughts, but the poem itself. Agreed that right now, your life has involved some “unexpected and unwanted visitors,” but, I am confident that some new delight is on the horizon. I genuinely believe that God (or the guide from beyond) only sends us what we can handle – although these visitors can be troublesome. I believe that by writing this entry you are contributing to your goal of writing to understand the complexities of life. Nice work, Monica!

  3. I am taken by the spirit of, and can so relate to this post Monica, and the poem. I’ve enjoyed reading the Coleman Barks translations of Rumi for years now — ever since a dear friend gave me a first publication copy of Bill Moyers’ “Language Of Life” in 1995, upon the tragic death of my son Aaron.

    I found then, and still find the book very comforting and inspiring. It was the catalyst that reengaged me with my poetry writing, after having carelessly abandoned it in the mid 1980’s. Coleman was one of the featured poets. I bought the multi-cassette collection of “Language Of Life” shortly after receiving the book. I still maintain a cassette player so I can listen to the collection. Hearing the voices of the poets Bill interviewed for the book, at the now sadly defunct Dodge Poetry Festival, is very exciting. Someday I’m going to have to move into the future, get rid of my worn cassettes, and upgrade to the CD collection.

    This was an excellent post Monica. Though you wrote it last month, given some significant challenges I and my family currently face, today was the perfect day for me to discover it. Thank you for writing it… 😉

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