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Welcome it all

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”.

 

The wisdom of Autumn trees

 “Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind. Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things. Their language has been lost. But not the gestures.” – Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

 

I have the good fortune to live near a wooded area. As I look out my family room windows, I am entranced by the beauty of of the October trees looking back at me. These majestic, silent spectators stand tall and strong dressed in their autumn finery. While it may seem as though they change over night, I have observed that leaves turn slowly. At first the color appears in small patches, then it gradually covers the whole leaf. Each leaf allows this transformation to occur in its own time. Before you know it, the entire tree has morphed from lush green to glorious crimson or golden yellow.  When the winds blow and the rains fall, the tree drops its leaves with ease, knowing new buds will take their places in the Spring.

We can learn much from trees as we witness their metamorphosis. They encourage us to welcome change into our lives, to be patient during the process, to drop what no longer serves us and to make space for something new to emerge.  

The next time you are crunching through a pile of leaves, give some thought to what no longer serves you and then let it fall away. Who knows what may come rushing in to fill the void. It could be something wonderful.

The human experience

“He who has not looked on sorrow will never see joy.” Kahlil Gibran

 

During the last two weeks, friends of mine have experienced a variety of life changing events –  the birth of a first grandchild, the wedding of a son, serious illness of a mother and death of a father.  The juxtaposition of these events got me thinking about the joys and sorrows that define our human experience.

We are blessed to feel the elation of a new baby joining our family as well as the joy of two people beginning a life together  These events fill our lives with excitement and meaning. At these times, we often look more closely at new possibilities in our own lives and our commitments to ourselves and those we love.  Our family story continues in the life of a new baby and in the lives of a new bride and groom. The world seems “right” and we are happy.

Illness is difficult because we don’t want to see those we love in pain. It is however, an opportunity for us to develop compassion and to demonstrate our love by caring for our loved one’s needs. This can be challenging, but can also add depth to our soul. Of course the death of a loved one, especially a father is difficult to bear. When we lose a parent, we lose a piece of our story. This loss forces us to redefine ourselves and our place in the world.

Each of these experiences brings with it a gift to be treasured. It is easy to see in the case of a baby or wedding, but in the illness or death of a loved one – not so much. We have to dig a little deeper to find it. The gift is hidden in the pain and sadness, just where it hurts the most. That gift is a more compassionate and loving heart. Without it, we could not truly appreciate the joy and beauty in our lives. Without it we could not have a real human experience.