“The Guest House”

Anxiety, disappointment, gratitude, joy – our emotions have run the gamut this past month as we adjust to our altered lives. In “The Guest House,” Sufi poet Rumi offers some sage advice for dealing with emotions as they come our way.  This poem is as relevant today as it was in the 13th century when Rumi wrote it. No wonder it’s the most popular poem read at mindfulness retreats. 

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.

Jalaluddin Rumi

Click here to listen to The Poetry Series read “The Guest House.” 

Sure, it’s easy to welcome joy and happiness into our proverbial guest house, but what about some of the darker emotions like fear, anxiety, or sadness? It takes practice to greet them at the door with open arms instead of hurrying to hang the “no vacancy” sign. 

Who’s staying in your guest house these days? Which emotions are you turning away? How do you greet unwelcome guests? Sometimes it helps to just name them like Simon and Garfunkel taught us with, “Hello, darkness, my old friend.”

“The Guest House” by Jalaluddin Rumi, from The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks, 2004 Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes

Photo: Tiny guest house Portland_1 by IDesignArch

9 thoughts on ““The Guest House”

  1. All poetry is welcome at this discouraging time. I am reminded of a line from one of Terry Anderson’s poems…
    “Faith’s what you find when you’re alone and find you’re not.” Pat Sullivan patsull@mindspring.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome, Pat, so nice to hear your voice. I didn’t realize you were following along. Thank you for the Anderson quote. Stay well!


    2. Hope you’re surviving well Patti…difficult times for all of us.


  2. Great poem. Love the irony of highlighting the benefits of an “open door” policy during this time of lockdown!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s so true!


  3. I have never read this poem. I love it, and it’s so helpful now. I’m going to print this out for myself, Patti, so thank you. I’m not sure anyone’s saying this anymore, but I’m definitely “feeling all the feels,” too. In case it’s of interest, this article is making the rounds in education (and elsewhere too, I’m sure): https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great article, Shel. Lots to chew on. Thanks for sharing it here!


  4. Anxiety is waiting at my door and needs the NO VACANCY sign to be hung! oxox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they want a cup of tea or some of your awesome homemade bread!


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