I love this poem by Jalal al-Din Rumi (Coleman Barks translation).
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 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 the beyond.
Rumi encourages us to see the important lessons and seeds of growth that lie in many of those situations we label as “bad”, “negative” or “unpleasant”. Easier said than done, right? Our tendency is to turn tail and run fast in the other direction. After all, this is messy business and we do not like messy. Messy can be painful. There is another way of looking at it, however.
The next time you are faced with a challenging situation that brings you to your knees, consider the possibility that Life is shaking things up for a reason. Maybe you lost that job because a new and more suitable one is becoming available. Perhaps your current relationship fell apart to create space for a new and more wonderful partner to enter your life. Possibly the illness you are experiencing will change you into a more compassionate and loving person. Sometimes, just asking the question “What am I to learn from this?” shifts your outlook on the situation. When you stay open to new possibilities for growth, they have room by which to enter your life. When you shut down and retreat, nothing new can get in.
Following Rumi’s guidance requires trust and patience – a lot of trust and patience. The answers to our questions rarely come as quickly or as clearly as we would like. Sometimes we have to connect the dots backward for them to make sense. Only from a distance can we see how the “bad” thing was an agent for change.
I encourage you to heed Rumi’s advice when sorrow comes to your door. It could have been sent “as a guide from the beyond”.