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Returning to The Guest House

Posted on Feb 2, 2014 by

Pink and yellow tulips

So I’ve been away from writing at this site for some 16 months, and I want to start again. But it’s clear that if I’m going to find my way back to writing here, then some cleaning and reorganization of this site is going to be required.

It’s a bit like I’ve decided to open the door and step inside after a long absence and I’m looking around and I can see all the work that needs to be done—the cleaning and sweeping and rearranging. (I’ve never had a summer home but I’ve seen them in movies—everything covered in white sheets and waiting for the season to start up again.)

I’m pulling back the white sheets. I’m also aware that, like any project, this re-opening and renovation is going to be a step-by-step process: first one step and then the next and the next.

I’m extremely happy to have left the Dalai Lama at the top of the page in my absence—a good teacher in residence—and I want to still give him a good place. So, the first step—I’m starting a new category here for teachers.

The second step: an excerpt from Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House,” as a kind of reminder and anchor and metaphor for the work:

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.

This is the metaphor I want to hold at the center of this work as I return and start writing again: this notion of treating each guest honorably—the Dalai Lama and chaos and joy and sorrow and whatever else might arrive—all of it—all of the voices—and this notion that writing to navigate all the arrivals, including the difficult and challenging ones, can work as a broom—can catalyze another layer of healing work—clearing us out for some new delight.

My own delight this week: two and a half days out of school for snow—with time at home in the quiet to write and to think about writing here again. And pink and yellow tulips in the window.

Wishing for you many, many good things with your own writing and sweeping. And many delights in the new year.


The full poem, “The Guest House,” by Jelaluddin Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks, can be found at