Jelalludin Rumi was a Sufi mystic who lived in the thirteenth century and was a contemporary of the Zen master Dogen. Rumi’s poetry transcends cultural and religious borders to appeal to a vast readership, mainly on account of its humanity and sincere ecstatic engagement with life’s questions. In this poem, The Guest House, Rumi was encouraging his students to see the daily deluge of emotions as visitors passing through a house that should be welcomed no matter how negative they initially appear to be; that every state, every humor is ‘a guide from beyond’ also reminds us Shunryu Suzuki’s advice about our relationship with thoughts: “Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.”
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 are 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.