The Hospitality of Being a “Guest House”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:35 am

The Hospitality of Being a “Guest House”

Rumi’s mystical poetry often helps me regain perspective on life. In this poem, I love his notion that being human is like being a “guest house.” Unexpected visitors occasionally show up and stay for a while, including some you’d really like to throw out!

Welcoming them and learning what they may have to teach you, or where they may lead you, isn’t always easy. But in my experience, it always pays off — if for no other reason than it hastens the day of their departure!

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.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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