The 13th century Persian poet Rumi wrote:
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 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life is see yourself as a home—to feel okay no matter what’s happening inside of you.
If you’re like me, you’re almost always checking on yourself. Am I okay? How do they see me? Am I being “mindful?” And on and on and on.
It’s so much easier to change things externally—by losing weight, getting a new job, quitting an addiction, which are all still difficult to do. But to treat all your thoughts and emotions “honorably,” to accept and welcome them, will challenge you all the way up until your last breath.
That’s what makes mindfulness meditation so powerful. It’s a practice for welcoming the guests.
You relax your body and watch your mind. Thoughts appear. Wild thoughts. Sad thoughts. Evil thoughts. Boring thoughts. Emotions follow and show up in the body. A burning chest. A tense stomach. A scrunched face. You just watch.
You let it all be, and then you let the thoughts go and return your attention to what’s alive in the present moment. You refocus on the movement of your breath, sensations in the body, and/or the sounds around you. You come back home.
Don’t worry about someone breaking in and stealing everything, because whoever comes in is an old friend (as Rumi says, a “guide from beyond.”)
If you’re like me…
…part of you gets anxious and grabs a beer (or a cigarette, or Netflix, or Facebook, or…) for distraction.
…part of you beats you up inside, saying you’re never good enough and that only never-ending, hard work will make you happy.
…part of you wants to be worshipped by others so that you’ll finally feel the love you’ve always thought you deserved.
…part of you is terrified of being alone, so you manipulate others into wanting to be around you—often to no avail.
Just like me, you have habitual patterns that have been part of you since early in your life, which you created in an effort to protect yourself when you felt vulnerable.
Mindfulness allows you to see these patterns for what they really are. They aren’t you—they’re guests. Welcome them all. Hell, love them if you can.
When you can love the parts of you that were previously unconscious, that’s when real, deep, lasting change can happen.
Free meditation cheat sheet
I’ve come up with a cheat sheet to help you start and stick with a regular meditation practice. Get it for free here.
Listen to my podcast Meditation for the 99%
On Meditation for the 99%, I take meditation out of faraway monasteries,expensive retreat centers, and Corporate America, and bring it to work, relationships, and, especially, politics. Listen everywhere podcasts are available.