The Desert Fathers and Saint Benedict in particular held the idea that everyone should be honored and welcomed, not merely as an honored guest, but as a revelation of the Sacred. This means the poor, the traveler, those of different religions, social class, or education, offer an opportunity and a place to encounter God.
Imagine then if we held that kind of respect and hospitality for others, because we had learned to hold the same kind of hospitality for ourselves. Yet, most of us struggle with emotion. We live in a world that has taught us to suppress them and offers multiple of options for doing so when they pop up.
As I struggled and processed through a rough week of what have inwardly and outwardly often been categorized as unwelcomed emotions, I practiced the posture of welcoming all parts of myself, especially those places that have previously been rejected, labeled or ignored by others or myself.
The thing about emotion is that it causes the worst kind of vulnerability, emotional risk and exposure. Suddenly all the bobbers that had been tied down start popping up to the surface and most of us scramble to dessert until “normal” returns, yet popping emotion is actually normal!
Personally, I have never liked the randomness of excessive emotionalism, because I’ve been told my whole life by southern and religious culture to contain it! But when we stow and reject what we are feeling we cut off parts of ourselves and become people who don’t know what we are feeling. I’m learning to welcome these parts of myself instead of orphaning and resisting them.
You see acceptance gives me a choice of how I want to experience my emotion instead of reacting to it, which means I am being controlled by it. Instead of maintaining the stance of I’ll wait until the noise passes by, I am unfolding my hands from my lap of suppression, opening the door and dancing with my surprise guests, listening for the wisdom of what they have to tell me, instead of dubbing normal emotions as dirty little secrets.
What would happen if we were the friend that could sit with us in our despair or confusion, that didn’t try to quickly move us toward happiness, or oblivion do to our own discomfort? What if we were that person with sweet hospitality that could hold the line for ourselves and for others when the bobbers were popping?
By making space for those who might feel invisible and forgotten in their pain, we are saying that emotions like grief, anger, fear, are normal and not dirty little secrets that we have to stow away to make others or ourselves comfortable.
In this version of the poem, THE GUEST HOUSE, poet Rumi writes beautifully about this kind of inner hospitality.
The Guest House
Darling, the body is like a guesthouse. Every morning someone new arrives. Don’t say “oh, another weight around my neck”, or your guest will fly back to nothingness.
Whatever enters your heart is a guest from the invisible world. Entertain it well. Everyday and every moment a thought comes like an honored guest into your heart.
My soul, regard each thought as a person. For every person’s true value is in the quality of the thought they hold.
If a sorrowful thought stands in the way, it is also preparing the way for joy. It furiously sweeps your house clean in order that some new joy may appear from the Source. It scatters the withered leaves from the bow of the heart in order that fresh green leaves might grow. It uproots the old joy so that a new joy may enter from beyond.
Sorrow pulls up the rotten root that was hidden from sight.