The Guest House: A Poem By Rumi

The Guest House by Rumi

Originally published March 25th 2021

The Guest House is a beautiful and insightful poem written by the 13th Century Sufi mystic Rumi, which you will often hear recited on mindfulness courses and retreats.

Its powerful message encapsulates one of the most important lessons in mindfulness training—learning to embrace whatever shows up in our experience with an attitude of openness and non-judgemental acceptance.

When we experience difficult thoughts, feelings or emotions, the natural tendency is to reject them and try to push them away. We believe there is something ‘wrong’ with them being there and want to get rid of them. The trouble with this approach is that the more we resist, the more power our thoughts and feelings have over us, and the more they disturb our peace. What you resist persists.

Rejecting them adds fuel to the fire and only serves to make them stronger.

In the Guest House, Rumi suggests a different approach. If these ‘unexpected visitors’ are there anyway, why not work with them, rather than make enemies of them?

 

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’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
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.”

— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)

 

The following is my own interpretation of Rumi’s words.

The Guest House Unpacked

“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.”

In the first line, Rumi compares being human to a guest house with random visitors showing up at the door daily—a good analogy to describe how our minds work.

We have little or no control over the thoughts, feelings and emotions that appear in our experience. They are self-arising and show up randomly and uninvited. When certain patterns, for example anxiety or depression, appear as frequent visitors, it can seem like they are part of our identity, part of who we are.

But Rumi points out that these visitors are not permanent guests. They are not part of the furniture. You are the guest house and your feelings and emotions, however solid they may seem, are visitors passing through.

“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 honourably.”

Normally, when we experience feelings or emotions we don’t like, the natural tendency is to reject them and try to push them away. In doing so, we give them more power over us.

Rumi’s advice: Embrace all of your thoughts, feelings and emotions with open arms. Or, as my teacher used to say, “roll out the red carpet”. This doesn’t mean you have to like them. Simply recognise that the more you reject them, the more you will suffer.

Seek to embrace them for your own benefit and peace of mind. If they are there anyway, it’s far better to work with them rather than against them.

And besides, they have a tendency to dissolve when they meet with no resistance. Try it and see!

The more you say ‘yes’ to whatever arises in your experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, the more peace you will experience.

 


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“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.”

Every difficult experience in life can be viewed in two ways. We can see it as an annoying inconvenience, or as an opportunity for growth—a chance to practice tolerance and understanding, a chance to grow in love. Life’s difficulties are often the catalysts that help us evolve and become stronger and wiser.

The most difficult people and situations in life can be our biggest teachers— if we use the opportunity for our own growth. From this perspective, they can be looked upon as gifts in disguise or, to use Rumi’s words, as ‘guides from beyond’.

 

The Guest House—In Conclusion

The two greatest barriers to our peace are resistance to what IS and identification with the mind, and Rumi addresses both in ‘the Guest House’.

Learn to embrace, rather than fight, whatever shows up in your experience and recognise that you are the guest house and that every thought, feeling and emotion is a temporary visitor that comes and goes. See what that does for your peace.

 

If you’d like to learn mindfulness, click here to find the dates for my next course.

living in the moment

If you enjoyed the article, please leave a comment below.

 

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4 thoughts on “The Guest House: A Poem By Rumi”

  1. Beautiful poem and wonderful comments. I totally agree and although it’s not always easy this life-advice is the best and most truthful to achieve permanent inner peace..
    Thank you

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