This is a season of gatherings…some of us are hosting “Friendsgiving dinners”, or traveling to, or hosting, Thanksgiving dinners and then throughout the Holidays we may naturally find ourselves either as hosts or being guests. It is a time of ease and joy, but also high tensions and difficulties. How shall we meet this varied array of challenges, often which are rife with high octane energy and feelings?
Recently I was reminded of the 13th century mystic poet Rumi and his poem (translated by Coleman Barks,—and if you have never heard Barks reciting Rumi, I heartily commend this to you.)
The Guest House, is the perfect way to consider this time, it seems to me:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
It’s true, isn’t it? We never do actually know what a day will bring! We open the door to a new morning, and it may reveal a delight or a surprise challenge we never before dreamed of encountering…especially in these times, when it’s possible loved ones may hold differing world views than ours.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Unexpected, yet, very real and present, and right at the very “door” of our experience. And then comes the advice:
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.
Ah, regardless of what’s presenting itself to us, we can be gracious, we can be kind.
In mindfulness practice we may use the Pali word, “Metta”, or Loving Kindness. We can take a breath, and relax, creating some much-needed space where we can “choose” how to respond. The payback is enormous. It can save a friendship or ease a close relationship.
While there is certainly much suffering in the world over which we have no control, we can, however, have a choice as to how we respond to what happens to us. And this changes the narrative, and most important of all, it changes our relationship to the narrative.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
No matter how dark, we find it’s actually possible to create a space between whatever the stimulus is, and our own response to it —where within the space, there is the freedom to choose how we respond.
Well, all right then, no matter what, we can meet what arises, with kindness.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Kindness, and also the gift of gratitude.