Clinical psychologist Dr. Samantha Goldwater-Adler takes you through the Guest House meditation, inspired by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet.
Meditation is an excellent tool to help navigate these uncertain, stressful times. There are many different meditation exercises out there. This one is great to help us be more aware of and tolerant of difficult feelings as they arise. It’s based on a classic poem by Rumi.
Find a comfortable spot, where you will not be disturbed for about 10 minutes. Sit up or lie down with your back reasonably straight, and your palms facing up. Take a few nice deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Once you feel settled, imagine your ideal guesthouse. Somewhere safe, beautiful, airy, and comfortable. Mine is a spacious log cabin in the woods, with big bright windows and a nice warm fire burning in the fireplace. Others have imagined their guesthouse on the beach, with the sounds of the ocean waves coming through the windows. As you imagine your guesthouse, keep taking nice deep breaths, in through your nose out through your mouth.
Now, imagine yourself walking to the door of your guest house and opening it. Notice which emotion you feel at that moment and picture a personified version of that emotion standing at the door. Imagine yourself smiling and graciously inviting that emotion in, even if it’s stress, anxiety, comfort, irritability, or shame. Invite that emotion to sit somewhere comfortable in your guesthouse, such as on a cozy cushion by the fireplace. You’re not trying to change that emotion, avoid it, or fight it — but rather, just to make it comfortable, as you would any guest in your home.
Once that emotion seems settled, imagine yourself going back to the door. Open it and notice which new emotion has arrived. Smile and welcome it in. Find a cozy place for that emotion to rest, perhaps on a big comfortable couch with a soft blanket.
Keep repeating this exercise until about 10 minutes has passed.
Painful emotions are part of being alive and are not there to hurt us. When we try to fight or avoid experiencing completely natural painful feelings, it’s like having a bouncer at the guesthouse door and bars on the windows. This just leaves our booted emotions feeling worse, and doesn’t make for a very welcoming place for more pleasant and comforting feelings to enter.
(Photo: Jared Rice // Unsplash)