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Welcome All

I love January because it’s the start of a new year and I always start the year off with resolutions, sometimes with just one but often more. Today I wrote about my intentions for 2022 (paint and write more), things I want to accomplish (lose 13.5 pounds, fix up the house), ways I’d like to change (get back to my regular exercise routine) or places I want to go (Greece, the Riviera Maya, the Tetons, NYC, California). This year, though I have many intentions, I have one resolution only, and that is to take this poem by Rumi to heart.

The Guest House by Jalal al-Din Rumi

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.

I LOVE this poem. I have loved it for years. What I love about it is the idea of allowing. Allowing difficulty and loss through the door, because they’re going to come in, regardless. Might as well welcome them. Don’t we all need this idea right now? Along with the good and kind and loving who stop by regularly, we do have unwelcome visitors, too, so unwelcome that we’d much rather shove them away. But can they really be guides from beyond? If we let them in, aren’t we really just being passive? I think not. I think it takes strength to stay open to whatever comes. It’s not easy to relax into being changed for the better by the unwelcome. It’s not that easy to relax with difficulty or loss, at all. We use tough words like fight and battle and win or lose around illness, social issues, grief, just about anything. And when we want to make positive changes, we use hard words like workstrive, and resolve. What if we tried to use a new language of gratitude and acceptance?

I love, too, that Rumi includes as unexpected guests our own dark thoughts, shame, unkindnesses, of which I certainly have my share. What can we do with those, instead of furiously growing them bigger and harder and meaner inside us? How could we welcome them in, laughing, and thank them for opening our eyes to ourselves? And when we recognize those dark thoughts, could we let them teach us rather than shame us and make us smaller in our own eyes? We could.

So here are some questions I plan to ask myself when something bad or difficult happens, when I’m feeling injured by the news, a loss, a word, or when I have an unkind thought.

a) Am I willing to be changed for the better by this?

b) How can this help me grow?

c) In what good ways can I be changed by this?

I haven’t had a big party in a long time. I’d like to metaphorically open the door, spread my arms wide to every guest, and call out,”Welcome! Thank you for coming!”
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”
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