Rumi’s Guest House–changing one’s way of looking at depressing and anxiety-creating thoughts.

English: Guest House Guest House opposite Neth...

English: Guest House Guest House opposite Nether Alderley Mill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rumi was a Sufi poet who wrote about 800 years ago.  I’ve recently been introduced to his poetry, and find it full of humanity and wisdom.  I’m also not an adherent of Sufism or Islam for that matter, but I respect people of different religions, and I respect the human wisdom in all religions, even if I see my own path (Christianity) as the most important to me.  People interested in learning more about Sufism may find this Wikipedia article of interest.

Not that I’m a huge fan of poetry, but I have found poetry to be a wonderful way to learn more about who we are as people.

Rumi wrote one poem in particular, which is great for understanding how to deal with depressing and anxiety-creating thoughts, titled “The Guest House”.  It may be found in the book, Essential Rumi, a translation by Coleman Barks.

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.

So, there are a couple of things which are helpful here.
First, we can choose how we relate to our depression.  We can see it as a monster, or we can welcome it in, laughing.
Second, depression (and anxiety for that matter), can be sources of spiritual growth, if we listen to it as a “guide from beyond”.  A great example of this is my stock phrase for suicidal people:  Is it (the suicidal thought) really telling you to die, or is it trying to tell you that some situation needs to change?
Be a guest house to all your thoughts.  Be a guest house to all your feelings.  Welcome them in, laughing, and let them depart.

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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