THE GUEST HOUSE
Jalaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)
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.
Source: Rumi: Selected Poems, trans Coleman Barks with John Moynce, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (Penguin Books, 2004)
WHAT THIS POEM MEANS TO ME
The Guest House has been a significant poem for me as I have worked in my counselling practice. When we imagine ourselves as this guest house experiencing new "arrivals" such as different feelings, emotions, and life circumstances, it may feel daunting at times. What I love about this poem in relation to counselling is how the author describes welcoming and making space for each new "arrival." Counselling is all about working with each part of our mental health. It is not only about ridding ourselves of pain and anxiety, but about working with these feelings, experiencing them, and understanding them as we move towards a place of acceptance and eventually, healing. When we honour our feelings and welcome each one of them for a better understanding - even the pain and the hurt - we can gain a deeper appreciation for who we are and the experiences that have shaped us as we move through the counselling process towards healing.