The Guest House
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.
~ Rumi ~
(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)
Draw the guesthouse of your heart with colored markers. Delineate all the emotions and how they take up residency in your heart.
This exercise can also be used to focus on one specific emotion. At The Creative “Righting” Center, poetry therapists-in-training were asked to explore Depression. Where does this visitor reside (attic, basement or living room)? What kind of furniture is in the room? What are the colors, sights, sounds, smells?
Susan W. Fusco, Roselle P. O’Brien, and Kathryn M. Fazio share their art and writing below. Try the exercise yourself or use it to inspire a group that you are working with. A special thank-you to Susan, Roselle, Kathryn … and, of course, to Rumi himself!
The Guest House
A sinewy line,
through the front door,
like any other guest.
A black line of depression – –
Hopelessness, Sorrow, Grief,
Helplessness – –
enters any or every room.
Depression wanders along and through
unknowing corridors, familiar hallways, and unsuspecting paths,
into spaces and places where it is not invited, not expected.
Unpredictable, sometimes spontaneous comings and goings,
I have learned that depression walks everywhere,
enters all rooms.
Courteously knocking? No, there is a
passing through – – through iron doors, wooden doors,
locked doors, gated passageways.
And I have been advised
to embrace its journeying,
dealing with, and conversing with,
its many faces.
The faces of depression show no fear;
They delight in watching me build fences and defenses.
They know that their own powers increase by my
No, I shall confront depression
in whatever room it chooses to visit.
I shall deal with it.
Face to Face.
–Susan Wirth Fusco
Sit With Me
Depression sits with me in her chair.
I’ve had the chair since I was eight.
It’s in storage now, the chair.
In a week I’ll take it out and brush away the dust.
Depression rocked in the white chair with golden
leaves painted on the head rest.
It’s a rocking chair,
Bigger than my sister’s.
Its spot is in front of the closet door,
cozy on the midnight blue shag rug.
There are two windows,
blue outer curtains with white sheers between.
The window by the toy box looks out over the porch roof.
The other a gateway to the leafy horse chestnut trees in the yard.
Depression didn’t look out the windows much.
We’d rock together, she and I,
hum songs in our heads
louder and more persistent than the silence and alone.
There’s a place, you know,
Depression showed me.
A place to get to if you just rock the right way,
or fast enough,
or if I’d slant out of the seat sideways.
I never got it figured out.
Depression changed the rules and then stopped caring.
The wallpaper was white with tiny bunches of blue flowers.
I had a vanity table with a white ruffle
and a small three-way mirror like a triptych.
Depression would sit with me there
and we’d stare and stare into the reflection
until my face became a monster’s face,
I miss the blue rug.
–Roselle P. O’Brien
Where Is the Guest?
Depression resides in my bed.
It’s a bed in my living room.
A cramped studio with a window of joy,
A tree I did not put there . . .
What a sanctuary of sorrow I lie on each night!
Mattress ruffles . . . invisible.
Only when I look out the window do I find joy.
Gratitude resurrected in a sanctuary constructed
Well before the menial concept of me.
I watch as empathy glows around a window,
Much greater than myself
Or the apathy I concern myself with.
And how is it, I would never treat any other person
With such a punitive ruler or measuring stick?
Pry them open.
Probe for value.
I love the rainbow
Above a bed I must leave.
It is true, I can no longer pay the rent on this dwelling.
And should I shoulder it to my next residence . . .
I pray gratitude will show up like a ditto mark and scatter
Into the room of chaos I call depression.
Books contain my anger.
Remind me . . . I am not the publisher.
Make me aware there are others who suffer through this script.
Others who sprawl on their beds between the covers of depression and sorrow . . .
–Kathryn M. Fazio