Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Guest House

What matters most is how we feel, regardless of the circumstances that surround us. All the new age advice asks us to feel what we want to create in our lives, in order to attract it. So simple, right? So simple that I choose completely relaxed and at peace now, come on feelings! Hmmmm, great advice and I get it, intellectually- but my head ordering my heart around has a history of failure.

After ten months in Bali, I made the big shift back to the US. As my plane descended in the cold winds of San Francisco a few months ago, I witnessed the familiar bustle of the landscape all around me. My former home of ten years looked so familiar- freeways buzzing, boats in the deep blue bay, a bright, hilly landscape of movement, action, and ambition.

As our plane landed, the feeling came immediately: pressure. Pressure to make money, pressure to be disciplined, pressure to....I'm not even quite sure. It was a sudden and dominant feeling, this stress. We taxied to the gate and I felt the walls of it enclose around me. After nearly a year of lolling around on a tropical island at a pace I haven't known since the slow summers of my rural childhood, this anticipation of rejoining urban western culture was a shock.

I looked out across the gray tarmac, making a meager attempt at stretching my achy limbs after twelve hours in flight. Through keen observation I physically felt the tension enter my body- taxes, storage unit, cold wind, the rental crisis. Eeewwwwww, not feeling good. I took a breath and tuned in

The feeling of this tension came on so quickly- what if I could acknowledge it, accept it, breathe, and let it go? I tried. Stresses still lingered, but I was immediately able to acknowledge these feelings without becoming them. This is my practice- this ability to witness.

How is it done? By arriving in the moment! We cannot always choose what emotions move through us, but we can observe them as they arrive, that's for sure. Yoga teaches us to feel feelings without becoming consumed by them, to connect into that deeper self that is solid, peaceful, and unchanging. As so beautifully written in one of my favorite poems by the great Sufi Mystic, 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 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.

-- translation by Coleman Barks

Sitting at the gate at SFO, my ability to witness the emotions 'sweeping my house' immediately comforted me. It awakened my awareness of a deeper consciousness- my "house." I squeezed my husband's hand and felt grateful for the safe flight. As I looked out at the fabulous light of the California sunset, I relaxed, and just as instantly curiosity and excitement returned. 

We host so many visitors- day by day, moment by moment. Curiosity, excitement, tension, stress. All just guests, passing through. Contentment is visiting me now, as I'm cozied up in my Berkeley cottage, eating organic berries in my post-acupuncture lull. Grateful is back as well. 

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, thank you for this post. I love this practice too, and I'm glad for the reminder!