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
Entertaining a crowd of sorrows is what my people do best. Beneath the surface shimmers a pod of anxiety whales; singing in the distance their chord of unease. They sing about suicide bombers, car accidents, avalanches, bacterial infections, viral infections, falling bookshelves, kids with guns, our nuclear arsenal, and unattended boiling pots of water.
We live in fear of all encompassing sorrow. That we will survive and have to go on living. It is the fear of this kind of pain that drives our decisions. We wash our hands, we vaccinate, we wear seat belts, buy organic; we tense up on crowded trains/buses/concerts etc. or avoid them all together.
Many of us have been visited by this kind of pain over and over again and it can make our fear grow stronger. Or, if we let it in, like a flood, let it ruin our house and then recede… we can start again.If you fight current you will drown. We must float on it. We must let it carry us out. So we can calm down and see clearly a place to swim in.
If we can sit with sadness and pain for a while then we wont have to feel fear later on. Because we wont be afraid of pain. We will know that we can sit with pain and sadness and not be ruined. Because we can. Because when we come out on the other side of that pain -that sadness – we are stronger than we were before.
Something learned from childbirth; you cannot hide from the pain. There comes a point when you cannot distract yourself. You must sit inside of it. At the very heart and focus deeply on it. Because that is the only way out of it. No way but through.
Pain and sadness are the best teachers. I see this everyday watching my kid. The only way he learns about “hot” or “cold” is to really feel it. The only way he learns not to hit his friends is when his friends hit him. He feels the pain and the sadness. He learns that he doesn’t want to feel that way or make others feel that way.
I am always tempted to jump in front of him and a small injury. My instinct is to make the other kid share the damn toy.
But I can’t protect him from everything. Being human means that we will suffer. We will feel pain and sorrow. There will be more bombings and more shootings. Someday my little boy will get his heart broken by someone or some job or some childhood idol.
The only way I can help my son through this world is by letting him feel the little pains and sorrows of everyday life. Not by shielding his eyes. But by keeping him open and raw to it. Helping him value every single life on earth. Teach him to make eye contact. To understand the pain of others. To see the humans, not numbers. So when he grows up and knows real pain or sadness…he wont go out and shoot people or punch his partner, because he will know how to be sad.
I want him to be someone that invites them in, because he will know that he is strong enough.