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Can You Welcome the Unwelcome?

Updated: Aug 7, 2018

I came across the poem ‘The Guesthouse’ by Rumi the other day. I was staggered to learn he was a Persian poet in the 13th century, given how meaningful the words remain today. Using a guesthouse as a metaphor for our lives, the suggestion is that it's in our interests to turn toward rather than away from negative feelings.

My take is that this isn’t about being resigned or ‘giving in’, but it is about staying open to what life brings – good and bad. We’ve probably all recognised how ignoring something can let it get a good foot hold. Addressing it, even if it might get messy, will play its part in our growth as people, and crucially, how we handle change and uncertainty.

I also think it’s a useful reminder that good or bad, these feelings are just visitors and not taking up permanent residence!


'This being human is a guesthouse.

Every morning a new arrival

A joy, 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 honourably.

He may be clearing you out for some 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.’

Rumi