“The Guest House” poem by the poet Rumi is often quoted by mindfulness teachers because it gets at the core of the meaning behind being mindful: being peaceful with all of our emotions, whether positive or negative. “The Guest House” poem by Rumi, although extremely relevant to our lives today and seemingly written by a new age self-help guru, was actually written way back in the 13th century! Jalaluddin Rumi, Sufi poet, wrote many lovely poems, and this is arguably one of his best.
There are few mindfulness poems as powerful and that help enlighten the reader in so few words as “The Guest House.” Rumi poems are all full of passion and depth, and “The Guest House” by Rumi is no exception.
The Guest House by 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.
— Jellaludin Rumi, Sufi poet
translation by Coleman Barks
Guest House meaning: Conclusion
In this conclusion I will discuss “The Guest House” meaning. There is a lot of power in the imagery in “The Guest House” Rumi uses the metaphor of each human being as a guest house from the first line: “This being human is a guest house.” In fact we could take that line to have two meanings. One is that Jalaluddin Rumi is using the guest house as a metaphor for our humanity and our experience. However, another interpretation of “This being human is a guest house” could be that we ourselves are simply temporary guests in our bodies. The first interpretation seems more strongly supported by the text, but, given Jalaluddin Rumi the poet’s Sufi mysticism, he might have meant it both ways.
The poet Rumi then personifies our emotions as visitors in this guest house and suggests that we welcome these “visitors,” even if they are terribly unpleasant and “violently sweep your house empty of its furniture”. The reason we should welcome even the worst of the guests is that they might be “clearing you out for some new delight”. Jalaluddin Rumi the poet believes that even the worst emotional experiences happen for a reason and that the growth that we experience will come to some fruition.
The last line is very powerful. In it, the poet Rumi again personifies emotions, but now, they are not only guests, but actual guides from “beyond”. Jalaluddin Rumi is saying that our emotions have come to teach us something and that we should therefore welcome them with open arms and learn what they have to teach us. “The Guest House” Rumi poem is very popular because it gets at the very heart of what it means to be mindful, which is often something that is difficult to explain. Many people don’t really understand what meditation is. “The Guest House” Rumi poem helps provide clarity, illuminating the meaning in a few succinct verses. This is why it is a poem that is well known and popular many centuries after it was written in another language. “The Guest House” meaning has great depth to it and can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but I think I have captured the essence of what Jalaluddin Rumi was trying to convey.
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