The 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.–Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Last night it poured. Rain punched a hole through the sky and came in a torrent, upsetting the fat mother spider on my porch, interrupting her dinner of a stink bug I had caught and placed in her web earlier that day. The plants outside became floral fois gras, swollen through the roots by the early fall monsoon, and I worried for them, wondering if I should move them inside–they’d had enough water for two weeks! Surely this will kill the poor things! And then I thought, “Ah, fuck it. Let it pour, come what will come.”
I opened the door to the porch, and was greeted by a thunder clap. I watched mama giant spider ride her web through the storm, bending, moving, dancing between drops, in accord with nature. She accepted what was and went with it, on some level of consciousness. I allowed the two slugs to crawl inside on my carpet and gently wrapped them in a paper towel and pitched them over the rail. I let the moth that floated in like a wayward drunk stay inside so he could dry off on my table lamp. I stuck my feet outside and let the rain wash them, in a sacred ceremony for a weary traveler seeking respite on his journey. I let it all pass through…it’s only rain, bugs, and slugs after all.
One of the gifts of my current unemployment has been discernment–a strengthening in my ability to choose the things I want to attach to, wrestle with, stroke, pet, soothe, worry over, and ponder. I have time. Lots of it. This is both a blessing and a curse.
I am an Olympic Gold Medalist in the Obsession and Worry biathlon. I’ve been training since I was a child, spending hours in my mental gym not only lifting the heavy weights, but walking around still carrying them with me. I got strong in my ability to hang on to weight I should never have picked up to begin with…50 lbs. of depression in one hand, 50 lbs. of anxiety in the other.
My current remedy in the midst of the change I’m navigating–job loss, uncertainty, a sweeping lack of kindness and compassion from a couple of previous co-workers, thinly veiled accusations that I shall never full know, understand, or be allowed to address or defend myself against, and a deep abiding sense of loss and sadness that my tenure could be swept out the door so very quickly, so very unceremoniously–my remedy is to simply not carry it. Set it down. Become softer, not harder. Surrender. Every day, every hour, every minute. What I resist, persists. What I cling to may just suck me dry like a leech. What has happened is beyond my control, therefore, why attempt to control it? Not my circus, not my monkeys.
And so it rains. Rain passes through, soaks in, washes away, and nourishes. It provides growth, transformation, and sometimes has the fierce power to wipe the slate clean. And though a clean slate can be a terrifying thing to view, it reminds me that nothing is permanent.
Nothing. Is. Permanent.
If I allow it in, whatever it is, it will eventually pass through–as long as I open a window or a door so it can move on. Either just a crack, or by flinging wide the drapes and throwing back the hinges…if I allow space for things to move, they don’t get stuck or fester quite so easily, for quite so long.
So my lesson, friends, is this with everything in my life: Allow my career, my job, my social standing, my economic worth, my health, my lover, my friends, my enemies, my ecstasy, my passion, my fears, my anger, my past, present, and future disappointments, guilt, shame, joy, education, wonder…all of it…space to move through, and move on, change, grow, and transform. There is great power in this, and there is great risk in this practice.
For the greatest secret of all is in the knowledge that nothing is permanent, it only comes to visit. I own nothing, I welcome everything. At most, I rent this physical space on Earth, this body, this ever shifting impermanence. The only thing that is permanent is Spirit, which is also an ever changing, evolving, revolving tumble of God-ness beyond my understanding. It is sacred. It is a mystery.
What I am inviting all of you to do, myself included, is to understand that while the concept of “Let it go” and “just move on” may be harsh, difficult to accept and even more difficult to practice, the idea of “leave your windows cracked, your door ajar, and your heart unlocked for every guest–front door to back door–so nothing gets trapped, and everything moves through” is a gentler way of traveling a bit lighter through all of it.