Guest Houses of Old and of Today

Feb memeOnce a month I conduct what I call A Ritual of Gratitude and Letting Go.  It is based on the four-point spiral that guides the Work That Reconnects of Joanna Macy.  The WTR is focused on spiritual engagement with climate change; this particular ritual that I have developed is more generalized.

dandelionspiralOne: We start with gratitude.

Two: We next name our pain and then let it go (through the transforming power of fire).

Three: Through poetry, we see through new eyes.

Four: We go forth, back into the world, singing.

I have collected poems from among my favorite poets (Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Jane Hirschfield, Rumi, Rilke, and others).  Participants read a chosen few aloud at the third point of the spiral.  So far, reading Rumi’s The Guest House seems to be a necessary poetic element for encouraging our hearts to become unstuck and encounter the world in new ways.

painted by Karen G. Johnston
painting by Karen G. Johnston

Sometimes I find myself rummaging through poetry I was writing a decade or so ago, when I was active in the grassroots poetry movement in my hometown and performing — which really means, embodying — poems for sparse, but enthusiastic and loyal audiences. I recently came across this one.  Not anywhere as wise and insistent as Rumi’s offering.  In fact, it’s more on the mediocre side than not.

But it is my contribution to the impulse of opening our hearts to whoever or whatever comes knocking, whoever or whatever crosses the threshold, messenger of mysterious origins and unknowable consequences.

Today’s Guest House

I do not court disenchantment,
yet she is at the door.

I could shut her out,
close curtains, cut the lights,
sit in the furthest corner,
Pendleton wool covering my shoulders,
rocking back and forth.

Even the thought of it is soothing.

I could.

I won’t.

At the gesture of my open palm,
I wonder what she will do,
as she crosses the threshold.

I will not tighten my arms to my trembling torso,
but wrap them around her graceful waist,
usher her in with a ballroom twirl of surrender
to the mystery my teacher tells me to embrace.

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