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Embracing emotions - inspired by 'The Guest House' poem

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

Rumi 'Guest House' poem meditation
Welcoming all emotions, as if they were old friends

One of my favourite poems is Rumi's 'The Guest House' which explore how one can relate to unpleasant emotions and experiences. When I first heard the poem I thought it was about accepting difficult aspects of life, but months later I heard it again and noticed the word 'welcome'. Welcome the unpleasant emotions as special guests. I have had a taxing afternoon trying to deal with computer issues, of which I am pretty ignorant and also impatient! So right now, I am feeling frustrated and a bit shaky. Let's see..... "Welcome Frustration! Welcome Annoyance! Welcome Shakiness! Come in, make yourselves at home, warm your feet by the fire." If I do this to try and get the feelings to go way, they stay lurking around me. But when I am genuinely embracing emotions, welcoming them, showing gratitude for their presence - they have given me a focus for writing this after all - I can feel myself gaining some perspective and am less stressed. Welcoming the unpleasant experiences is a step further than softening resistance to them, it gives me a sense that I am cheerful that they are around, instead of being their victim. Pleased to see them as old friends who have come to visit unexpectedly.

When I heard the poem at a later date, I then noticed the word 'laughing'. Can we meet our troubles at the door laughing? Sometimes this seems such a peculiar thing to consider, it actually lightens my mood when I see if I can do it.

I sometimes actually say the words out loud, "Welcome..... Come in. Anyone else out there? Ah, Anger, Hurt. Hello, come in, come and join the others." I appreciate this might make me seem a little mad - the bizarreness of talking out loud to my emotions as if they were some sort of live being does often make me laugh a little which also helps relieve my mood.

You can read more about this approach in my mindfulness blog with suggestions for when we're feeling emotional and don't want to be.

I imagine I am a Himalayan mountain and there are charming little guesthouses in my foothills. The emotions float towards me and, once I have welcomed them, I point them in the direction of their guesthouse. Sometimes I imagine them as children whose hands I am holding as we walk along. But that will be another blog. I sense I am putting off greeting Frustration once more as I go back to my computer tasks. So, "Welcome Frustration and "It shouldn't be this way". Please come in.

And I notice shakiness has gone and some sense of calm and gratitude have arrived. But I will keep the welcome mat out as no doubt other visitors are on their way!

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