Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Guest House

The Guest House – 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’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.

My childhood home was basically a guest house.  Not officially of course, but my mother took in strays of all kinds.   My mom reads my blog so I’m sure she’s laughing already reading those words, and I’m sure she’ll forgive me for sharing the intimate details of my childhood!  While I was growing up we had Fresh Air Fund kids during the summer, a babysitter who lived with us for a while, moved out, got pregnant and moved back in and stayed until her daughter was around 9 months old, a stranded Israeli, exchange students who came through the school at first, and then came back just to hang out numerous times (and are still coming back, now with children of their own!), foster children both official and unofficial, and as we got older, friends who were on the outs with their parents or significant others. Often these people would show up uninvited, knowing that they would be welcomed by my family regardless of their circumstances or ours.  They would stay for varying lengths of time and some of those times were easy and fun and some were really challenging, but we all learned and grew as individuals and a family as a result of all those guests. 

What I took away from my upbringing was that when someone shows up needing something, you not only invite them in, but you welcome them.  Whether they have been invited or not, whether it’s convenient or not, whether you know they are going to violently sweep your house empty of it’s furniture or not (fortunately this never happened).  I think my parents recognized that these folks showing up at our door were in fact guides from beyond, and even though the relationships were sometimes challenging, these people came into our lives for a reason.   As children, my 3 siblings and I learned hospitality, and these experiences encouraged us to be open, accepting and flexible.

When you open yourself up with gratitude to who or what arrives, knowing that each has been sent into your life to teach you something about yourself or life in general, you open yourself up to deeper relationships with those around you and with yourself.  This is not always easy to do, I’m sure many of us can appreciate this even more during the summer months when vacations often send us into close and even cramped quarters with family and friends, and travel often bring unexpected guests in places we don’t expect them.  So this is really a perfect season to cultivate generosity of both home and spirit.  When you open your heart to even unwanted guests you cultivate tolerance, hospitality, and generosity, and your life becomes so much richer as a result of these relationships. 

Welcome each and every experience – every thought, injury, and setback, every friend, family member, acquaintance, and stranger, and meet them at the door laughing.  Invite them in and know that your life will only become richer, more varied and interesting if you can approach these guests with a smile and a namaste.

Off the Mat:
Be aware of what “guests” are arriving on your doorstep – maybe it’s in the form of an actual family member or friend or even stranger.  Can you welcome them in with open arms, even if the timing is not convenient, and their presence might disrupt your day or week?  Perhaps your “guests” arriving are coming in the form of challenging situations, emotions or thought patterns. Welcome them, allow them to move in and sweep your house clean, making room for some new delight.

On the Mat:
In my classes this week we are working on split leg poses (lunges, Warriors, Tree, kicking up to handstand, ultimately leading up to Hanumanasana, or full split) with the focus on the widening aspect of inner spiral of the back leg to make space for “guests” to move into, and outer spiral of the front leg to balance that action and be able to stretch more fully into the pose and into generosity of spirit.

Open To Grace: Stand with awareness in your guest house – inhabit it mindfully and completely.
Breathe deeply, and with each inhale welcome in all guests that are arriving in your life.
Soften and welcome all “guides from beyond”.
Breathe in and light up every room of your guest house, the familiar and the unfamiliar, the lived in, and the ones filled with cobwebs from neglect.

Muscular Energy: As you hug the midline, pull in every dark thought, every malice, every emotion and joy.
Draw from the outside into every part of yourself, from the basement to the attic.
(In standing poses) Draw in every emotion, every joy and every sorrow from your feet and your torso into your pelvis.

Inner Spiral: (In split leg poses) Expand your back leg inner thigh wide and back, and open to every joy, depression, meanness.
Widen your inner thighs back and apart, broadening your sacrum back to make space for new “guests” and experiences to arrive.
Broaden the sit bones back and apart, opening up to whatever lodger is arriving in your house.

Outer Spiral: Scoop your tailbone and let the visitor settle into the guest house.
(In split leg poses) Invite your front sit-bone forward and sit deeply into your front leg, like you would invite a guest to sit in your favorite armchair.

Organic Energy: Let your guest house sparkle like a home lit up at night for a summer party – shine light from the windows of the eyes.
Light up your guest house and let it shine brightly from within.

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