Welcoming Guests

Part One

Today at our gathering, participants began with paper and pencils and were invited to draw, in response to the following suggestions…
Picture a guest house…perhaps it’s a B&B…or a holiday house… design it however you like…
Choose any location for this guest house… suburbs, coast, countryside…wherever you like…but locate in a place that is transient…there are people coming and going pretty often…

Now picture the guests… Who is arriving each day? What are they like? What do the bring? Do they have a lot of baggage? What expressions are on their faces? 

As the owner of the guest house you are obliged to let everyone stay…it’s your livelihood… but how do these arrivals effect you? Who irritates? Who is enlivening? Who is amusing? Who is annoying? Who is demanding? Who is undemanding but deserves some attention?

When finished with drawing, people shared their illustrations…what kind of guest house they had drawn, what kinds of guests were coming or going…

We then shared this poem:

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 honourably,
s/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.

 رومی محمد الدینجلال
Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī


Participants then reflected on how the words of the poem interacted with their artwork, now that they see the Guest House as being themselves. IF the guest are our emotions, arriving unexpectedly, uninvited from day to day, how do we interact with them? Are we welcoming of all guests? 

We wondered about the ways we name the different ‘guests’ that arrive in us each day, how we react and respond to them, how we greet these guests, deal with them, speak with them, manage their demands…
What have been our reactions to these guests in the past week or so?

Shut them in the back room? Close the door? Ignore? Welcome openly? Shake off? Distract yourself with them?

We discussed what it might mean to welcome all guests?
Why would we welcome anger or grief or meanness?

What do we usually hear as strategies for navigating so called negative emotions?
What it might it feel like to greet them? Serve them? Entertain them?
What does honouring each mean?
What does the line ‘meet them at the door laughing’ open up as an image?
What might each guest offer? Teach? Guide us towards?

Part Two

From an extensive selection of photographs of doors, participants chose a door that appealed to them, for any reason.
They then looked at the photos again, and let one choose them…

In pairs, we studied the photos in more depth and asked:
What do you notice? What wasn’t obvious at first? What was your initial reasons for choosing it? What details seem important? 

Now Imagine one door is the door to your inner world. Your inner world is your place of constant thoughts, feelings, memories, consciousness…

If this first photo is a door to your inner world, what does it suggest to you and how do you respond to that?
How often do you open it? How often do you go through it? How do you pay attention to what is behind it or beyond it?

Now Imagine the second door is the door to your inner room. Your inner room is a metaphor for your deepest interior, your contemplative space… the inner place that is beneath the inner world of thoughts and feelings.
How often do you open this door? How often do you go through it? How do you pay attention to what is behind it or beyond it?

Consider – the inner room is the place of ultimate hospitality to self, where we are beneath the constant chatter of our inner world and held in a deeper reality. To come our from this inner room into ourselves and into the world enables us to live with a different kind of energy. We can experience a truer sense of identity, a whole different way of sourcing ourselves. Our awareness of our own inner room can enable a different kind of responsiveness to all that arrives in us as ‘guests.’


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