“The dark thought, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi
It is a source of deep astonishment and wonder that long before Freud, Jung and Adler, in fact over seven-hundred years ago, the poet Rumi pronounced a wisdom that would be at home in depth psychology today. His amazing poem The Guest House reminds us that hidden within the darker responses of our lives are gifts. Recently I was reminded of this poem by an incident in my own life that did not seem welcome at all when it occurred but as Rumi predicted has become an avenue for my own growth and learning.
The genesis of my experience rests in the fact that my sister Chris’s sixtieth birthday this year and my wonderful
niece Amy, musician extraordinaire has been attempting to organize a special event to celebrate the occasion. Her entreaties to her mother were met by a distinct lack of cooperation. “I definitely don’t want a party; in fact I am not sure if I want to be here” was the response. “So mum if you could have anything you wanted what would it be?” “A bodywork session with Dana Barton in Vancouver.” was the somewhat flippant response but it caused the resourceful Amy to spring into action. Considering Vancouver is approximately 4,700 miles from where they live and there were four of them to consider, this was no insignificant task yet within two weeks Amy had organized dates, accommodation, the requisite bodywork appointment and flight bookings were in process.
This is the point that I had an iChat conversation with my sister Chris; Amy had spoken to me earlier and I had received information on the timing from a mutual friend; I could see my sister was absolutely thrilled by Amy’s thoughtfulness and organizational skills and I offered to host a dinner for her birthday at my place. Her response was not what I expected as she told me that Amy who was organizing a restaurant dinner for a group of mutual friends who had already been invited. She then suggested I could host a dinner another night and to my horror I heard myself say “No, it’s your birthday or not at all.” Even as the words were leaving my mouth, I knew I was being triggered. This kind of reaction and the energy I felt in that moment is always a sign that something in me is disturbed. I felt astonished and embarrassed by my response and I did some rapid processing that I rightly or wrongly shared. In the moment I was trying to explain why I had said something so ridiculous; I have learned to recognize that when I react with that kind of energy, hurt feelings are somewhere in the mix. At first I thought it was because I had been left out of the loop and the last one to hear of their plans. However upon reflection the wound seemed too new; I have worked before on the wound around “being taken for granted” and this felt like something I had not worked on before. It was not until the following morning that the pieces fell into place. At the core of my reaction was having my gift rejected. As I journaled about the interaction with my sister I could feel a visceral, body response of sadness and shame at the rejection. It was the response of a child to having a gift spurned by a parent, I sense that at some time my father may have failed to appreciate a child’s loving gift and the sore spot was created, waiting for the appropriate moment to surface.
So why now? I think that most men have learned to stay well away from these old irritants because we learn to avoid emotion because it hurts. However I have made a very concrete commitment to attempt to break down the barriers around my heart and this is a way the soul brings the experience of healing. It may be painful but as Rumi suggests it is a gift from beyond.
The Guest House by 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 are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of furniture. Still treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”