Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Guest House Mindfulness: Thoughts for June 17th NVMG
This Tuesday, I thought it would be nice to continue to reflect on the talk Arinna gave last week. One of her teachings that has stayed with me this week is how profoundly constructed our minds are to want pleasant experiences. There is of course nothing wrong with this, however, part of practice is remembering that pleasant experiences don't reflect all of our mental states. We all have latent tendencies towards wanting, not wanting or confusion, which can give rise to unwholesome feelings and emotions.
It is when we become trapped in unwholesome feelings (as we so often do), that problems arise. Our beliefs about the world in the moment become distorted, and no matter how certain we feel about the current situation in that moment, we are always wrong. In anger, we may feel justified in our condemnations, out of fear we may feel righteous in our opinions, caught in self-doubt we may feel superior in our gossiping – but in the end all of these views are distorted. All eventually cause suffering for ourselves and others.
Dealing with our emotional demons is one of the gifts/practices of mindfulness. As part of my practice in dealing with my own unwholesome emotions (anxiety being a big one) I have always looked to poetry for inspiration. One poet who has always inspired me to work with my emotional difficulties is Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet from Afghanistan. He has won a place in my heart for his wonderful insights into love, sensuality, spirituality and intimacy with the immediate world.
I believe his poem, The Guest House, beautifully captures the image of accepting, allowing and staying presenting with all our emotions. Pleasant or unpleasant, Rumi simply advises us to see them as a visitor knocking at our guest house door.
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.
Interestingly, the Buddha also used the same metaphor in 2500 AD and gave two talks entitled The Guest House. In one of these discourses he provides guidance on taking responsibility as a host in order to have “direct knowledge” of the guests. He says
…understand what is to be understood about the guests,
…let go of what is to be let go about the guests,
…realize what is to be realized
…and develop what is to be developed.
The Buddha and Rumi remind us that guests turn up as different kinds of feelings, welcome and unwelcome. The Buddha also recognizes that we cannot always be grateful for our guests, but encourages us to give them our fullest attention to see clearly, see the roots of our suffering, and then let them go.
By practicing “Guest House Mindfulness,” we can develop the view that in all things unpleasant “This too will pass.” We can begin to face our emotions and feelings with more courage and optimism. We can learn to let unwholesome feelings arise and pass. This can help us cultivate wholesome emotions such as loving-kindness, gratitude, compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy, and forgiveness that are the root vessels from which right view emerges.
This Tuesday I would like to focus on the mindfulness practice of befriending our difficult emotional states, as inspired by Rumi and other poets. Are there any poems that inspire you to practice? Feel free to bring a poem to read on Tuesday and share it with the group.
May we all cultivate right view. May the world learn to live in peace.