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
As I’ve sat with the realities of the pandemic, moments have emerged which brought forth such a sense of heaviness, of sadness, of utter confusion and disorientation to what I saw before me, what I read, what I heard from others: Tragic losses of lives and livelihoods…aloneness…smiles masked.
A couple months into this pandemic, these moments still visit me. But, they’ve also brought some beautiful guests. Some of these guests are familiar to me and have sat with me throughout the years in times of both joy and some deep sorrows. Others feel as though they are more luminous versions of these familiar guests, almost like grandfathers/grandmothers of Life itself…Kind eyes, deep wisdom felt in weathered age.
These gentle and wise teachers have unmasked and unveiled the ways my ego, my pride, my self-will, had distanced me, in subtle ways, from myself and others, when there was no lockdown. They’ve facilitated a “life review” of sorts, and asked me to be gentle, to be kind, to listen with the fullness of heart they were offering me.They've visited old flames, mistakes I made, unwise and foolish choices. They've touched the love I've known: from parents, family, friends, and old flames. They've taught me to listen to the past...some of the ugliness and her beauty as well. They beheld these moments in sacred embrace: Generous love, forgiveness and possibility for myself, those closest to me, and some aspects of our world.
Is this ecstasy? I don’t know. But, I do know I want these grandfathers/grandmothers of Life to continue their visits to me. Whether they’re with me in a sit at home comforting a part of self that can feel wounded, hurt or misunderstood in a moment; or, if they come in a flash of lucidity on a perceived enigma, I welcome their teachings, their love, their ease of acceptance.
And, their visits may not be limited to solitary moments of stillness: They can have a felt-sense presence in a group Zoom in which another person shares a vulnerability, a kind thought or insight; or, they can appear as something far more mundane and just as lovely: Looking out my window and noticing all the verdant shades before me, reminding me to go outside and use my legs, my eyes…the gift of my physicality, for this day-I'm alive! I have health...in body, in mind, in spirit.
Is this ecstasy? If in ecstasy there is surrender to what is, then I ask for more moments of this kind of ecstasy. A desirable surrender to a fuller, more open heart…a human heart that learns to surrender and transmute some of the challenges of life to gifts that are generative to Life, for and from each of us-in our own, unique way.
If this pandemic has activated memories, lovely and not so lovely, they are all invitations to experience and receive "guests." Some of these guests may feel uncomfortable; some may feel familiar. It's okay, welcome them to your table, break bread with them, and before you send them on their way, honor the messages they've given you. They may return; they may not. It's all ok, and exactly what it is...