Mystic Mondays July 11, 2016
I had a strange confluence of images enter my world this week and they sort of crashed together like two waves coming into the bay from two different directions.
Earlier in the week as I scrolled down through some of my Facebook posts I was reminded of one of my favorite Rumi poems, “The Guest House.” “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival” it begins.
I have used the spirit that lies beneath this poem as the basis for much of my spiritual contemplation. Nearly ten years ago (hmmm…about the time I was suddenly divorced) I began a practice of writing Morning Pages as described in Julia Cameron’s book The Artists’ Way. Morning Pages is a sort of stream-of-consciousness form of journaling where you write whatever comes into your head and follow the words and images as if you were following a trail of breadcrumbs to some hidden treasure.
One of the gifts from this practice has been that I have learned to not judge what I feel. Every feeling has a message of some sort. There are no good feelings and bad feelings. Every feeling has the ability to tell me on its own merit how much credibility it gets or not.
The second stanza of Rumi’s poem spells out a handful of those new arrivals (various feelings) that enter the human guest house–A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
I have spent years learning to treat feelings equally as if they were guests in my house. Sadness gets just as much attention as joy. I may enjoy the feeling of hope more than hopelessness, but I treat them same as if they had paid the same amount for a room in my soul.
But this week was different.
As the wave of Rumi’s poem neared the shoreline of my heart a different set of images came crashing in from the other direction. In rapid fire succession we were served a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday plate of shocking violence–the killing of a black man by a white officer in front of a convenience store; the killing of a second black man by a white officer after being pulled over for a broken taillight; and then the horrific retaliation against Dallas police officers by a well-armed black man.
I have practiced for years to let the waves of grief and sadness, anger and rage flow through me as if they were just temporary visitors passing through. I have learned to trust that these feelings are not permanent and I do better to honor them as friends rather than to fight them as enemies.
But I will admit that I am struggling this time. It’s as if my body cannot physically handle all the emotion associated with our current self-destruction. My hands shake. My stomach churns. My eyes sting. I find myself nearly wanting to shake my fist and shout, “Fuck you, Rumi. I don’t want these feelings in my guest house. This is too much. This is too painful. No more!” Even innkeepers have the right to refusal, right?
Yet I do know better. I know that in the end denial will not serve me well. I know that the longer I hold my real feelings at bay the more they will fester and poison my body and my soul. I know that the only true way through this is to follow Rumi’s poetic wisdom. I know to treat all the emotions that are flowing through me with respect as if they were truly honored guests in my home.
Hesitantly and nervously I welcome the grief and the sadness, the anger and the rage–not because I enjoy them, but because they are gifts.
To feel nothing means is to be less than human. To feel something is to invite the possibility of healing, joy, forgiveness and reconciliation. I don’t want to feel this way. But I also refuse to accept the alternative.
Here is Rumi’s full poem:
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.