The Guest House (Rumi poem set to music)

This is quite a thought-provoking poem (of course it is, Rumi wrote it!). A creative way to look at moods, feelings, circumstances – not necessarily the only way. It’s a good balancing idea for someone who was raised to resist negative emotions, give them no quarter, don’t let them take control.

I’m fascinated with the idea of treating every new mood, thought, happening, as a guest in the house of my life. You give your attention to a guest, interact with them, ask how you may serve them – but you, as the host, remain the master of the house. So you don’t let these guests take over your life, you simply pay attention to them, treat them with generosity and hospitality, until they inevitably go on their way again.

(What I’ve found is that trying to “resist” a negative thought or emotion is really an impossibility – if it’s here for you to notice, then it’s already a reality. Of course you can keep yourself from acting on this negative emotion, but trying to pretend that it isn’t there at all doesn’t make it go away – it might just sneak in your back door and take up residence in your basement, and one day you’ll wonder, what is that awful stink?)

Things like love, joy, wealth, health are desirable guests. Rage, depression, poverty, sickness – not so much. Welcoming these things as guests feels close to the idea of loving an enemy. You are welcome here, but there are house rules, healthy boundaries, that I as the host will require.

In the act of serving a difficult guest – seeking to meet their needs, sharing conversation with them – you may come to understand them better – why they are here, what they need to move on. In the act of serving a delightful guest – turning your attention towards them – you may gain even more delight, deeper memories that stay with you after the guest has gone.

Beneath the video I’m including the lyrics I made and then the English translation by Coleman Barks that I worked from.

Each human life’s a guest house, each day brings something new
A joy or a depression might come and visit you
A moment of awareness, a miserable mean streak
Could end up unexpectedly walking up your street
Welcome and serve them all

And if a crowd of sorrows violently sweeps through
And empties you of everything, still this way is true
Give honor to each guest who comes into your life
They could be here to clear you out to hold a new delight
Welcome and serve them all

Dark thought and shame and malice, arriving in their time
Meet them each with laughter, invite them in with kindness
Be grateful for whoever comes, for each and every one
For each one has been sent as a guide from beyond
Welcome and serve them all

Coleman Barks translation:
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.