Rumi – 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 whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I absolutely LOVE this poem by Rumi and I've felt called to read and share it a lot lately. It so wholeheartedly speaks to the yoga journey and offers great material for meditation practice or self-study. I recently read an amazing article on spiritual bypassing that got me thinking about this poem even more. Rumi is getting to the heart of the kleshas (5 human afflictions) and addressing our perception of 'positive' vs ' negative' feelings.
Yoga encourages us to be intentional about our energy and attitude. Does that mean we get to remain in a bubble of bliss? Of course not. We cannot avoid suffering in our world or within our own lives. We must be open to fully experience ALL passing thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, as we move deeper into yoga philosophy, we can slip into a subtle pattern of unintentional self-righteousness, mistaking our ego for spirituality or a good attitude.
The word ego (asmita) is one of the 5 kleshas or human afflictions. In the context of yoga philosophy, ego does not translate to 'egotistical' or self-centered. It just means anything that causes us separation. Sometimes ego does manifest in narcissism, but it is often much sneakier, showing up as gentle comparisons or just labeling things as 'good' or 'bad.'
Whereas a healthy ego would allow us to accept, study and welcome all energy within ourselves and others, an imbalanced ego wants to overlook 'non-virtuous' experiences such as anger, jealousy, frustration, fear or depression.
There is definitely value behind controlling our emotions and practicing positivity (high-vibration energy). But what we must remember is that high-vibration and low-vibration does not necessarily translate into positive or negative. That concept can be hard to grasp, but evaluating energetic frequency begins with our intention and our perspective toward the situation. If we don't allow the feelings that we perceive as negative to exist, we are simply avoiding pain. Dvesha is another klesha that means aversion and this avoidance habit causes fear and lack of compassion.
Rumi's poem also speaks to the transient nature of being human. Our bodies are a vessel for the soul, but our spirit is what lives on. As humans, we often mistake our bodies and our lives for what is permanent. This mistake and klesha is avidya (ignorance), the root of all human suffering. Not only are our souls a guest in our body, but each new day is filled with passing feelings that we can choose to view with avoidance or awe.
How useful to imagine each and every feeling as a special guest. We could be delighted and interested with each daily surprise. Personifying our feelings might also offer a helpful way to avoid the pitfall of associating any of our negative feelings AT another person. Taking ownership of our feelings allows room for forgiveness.
How might you begin to incorporate this perspective into you life? Especially within difficult situations or conflict, can you see that the challenge is happening FOR you, rather than TO you? Can you accept the good along with the bad without labeling them as such? Beginning today, practice welcoming each and every new feeling as an honorable guest, a teacher, a mentor or a guide. Perhaps even print it this poem as a reminder to include within your yoga practice, tuck inside a journal, or tape to your bathroom mirror.