"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.
The Guest House, By Padrig O'Tuama
I have been thinking of these words a lot for the past several weeks.
I was introduced to these words of Rumi’s by Irish poet and theologian, Padraig O’Tuama.
The second-to-last page of his book, In the Shelter, holds a reference to this poem and O’Tuama’s words flowed into me and have stayed with me.
Often I read something and my brain or my heart, or both, love it but it doesn’t always stick with me.
I am grateful that these specific words have stayed with me because they have the power to impact my everyday life and attitude and as Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
“This being human is a guest house.”
O’Tuama brings his idea to Rumi’s words with the thought that our bodies are a guest house. I have taken that idea and tried to bring that thought with me throughout my days.
To reside in my human skin as a guest means I treat myself differently. It means I interact with my surroundings (people, dishes, trees) differently.
When I am a guest, I often bring a lot more awareness and intention to myself, my behavior, words, etc. As I view myself as a guest within myself, I do have more awareness and intention with what I experience.
Being a guest means I am in borrowed space.
My grocery store is a borrowed space. I have every right to enter but being there requires that I understand and accept social rules about being in that space.
Friend’s homes are borrowed spaces, and in some, I am a little less guest. My beloved friend Brandon never treats me like a guest. We are often in his home cooking and sharing food and ourselves with each other. When he moved into his new home a couple of years ago, he took me into his kitchen and opened cabinets and drawers to show me how he had
Organized his space because he invited me to cook with him as a partner in his kitchen. I love the ease in which I move throughout Brandon’s home because it is another home of mine. A space in which I exist most peacefully. But ultimately I have to leave that space. I am a guest and so as comfortable as I am there I can’t stay. (Mostly because he keeps his house too cold and I would freeze to death in a corner over a vent wearing one of his hoodies. No! That isn't how it would end. We’re both fantastically introverted. We would lovingly embrace each other as we push each other away so we could be alone!)
I am a guest at work, though I am invited to move throughout the space empowered to do my job with authority, I’m not the boss, I don’t have an office. It isn’t truly my space. I just occupy some space for a few hours every week to hold responsibly.
I'm technically a guest in my home as I am a renter and ultimately have to abide by terms set by others.
I think as people we are guests in more spaces than we know, but I think we unconsciously behave as residents and struggle with that tension
We behave as residents because that is what we want.
Our DNA pushes us to plant and root and lay claim so we can survive.
But the truth is we are only guests.
In this world, in our skin.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.”
And I know that often “new arrivals” come just as easily at 10 pm as at 6 am.
Which means we take as our guest into our lives the knowledge that we are ourselves guests and we live in that space.
Perhaps that is the space where we reside. A space where we can root down and rise up and live fully.
And from that place of residence, the place where we live as a guest, we have the strength and courage and ferocity and ease and openness and love to receive,
“A joy, a depression, a meanness...” And to
“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.” And most importantly to,
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
So may we find our residency not in ourselves but in the space between ourselves and others. May we live out of that space with generosity and kindness no matter the guests that come into our lives.