Jelaluddin Rumi, a 13th century Muslim scholar and Sufi mystic, is now one of the world’s most translated poets. His poetry has become extremely popular in the United States and is used in a wide range of settings — from yoga classes to mindfulness retreats. "The Guest House" is one of Rumi’s most frequently recited poems. Its message of welcoming whatever life brings is central to self-compassion and compassion for others. Its message is also valuable in preparing for conversations, especially emotional ones; if we can apply it to ourselves and to our conversation partners, we are much more likely to achieve a mutually beneficial understanding.
Begin by reading the poem.
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 beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi in The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
First, practice self-compassion as an exercise in self-hospitality.
- Notice what you’re feeling and welcome the emotion.
- Ask what this feeling is telling you about yourself. Ask how this feeling might be guiding you.
- Cultivate gratitude for this feeling and self-discovery.
Then, practice hospitality for your conversation partner.
- Notice what the other person is feeling and welcome her/his emotion.
- Ask yourself what her/his feeling is telling you about yourself and about the other person. Ask how this feeling might be guiding you and how it might be guiding the other person. Cultivate gratitude for this feeling and the discovery in yourself and in the other.— Habib Todd Boerger