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  • Julie Merritt Lee

The New Arrivals

When the world around us begins to unravel, and we climb up and over the ash heap, sometimes the landscape we see is unrecognizable. The familiar markers are not there. In the case of living in a pandemic, we often find ourselves disoriented by the lack of familiarity and the rhythms that guided our lives.

What’s also true is that whatever we stuffed down for a long time, in the case of when things are stripped away, all the repressed material comes rising up like lava we can’t escape. It’s no surprise to me that our country is seeing an avalanche of activity around the pernicious racial inequalities and the need to right wrongs that were never really healed. This is an example of what happens at the global level when humans get still long enough and realize what’s inside their soul that can’t be silenced any longer.

On a personal level, those “dark” emotions that we try to keep at bay such as anger at a friend, grief over a former loss, or fear of the unknown come tumbling up. Rumi in his great wisdom points to this in his poem “The Guest House.” But instead of suggesting that we just move on or push those feelings aside, he says to invite them in! Show them hospitality, as if they are guests in your house, that have something to teach you. Hear his words:

“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.”

It feels counterintuitive to welcome the shame and malice, the grief and sadness. But the truth is, even these are gifts--”clearing us out for some new delight.” And in fact, unless we lean into them, we won’t make space for new growth. It’s turning traditional wisdom up on its head--to invite the pain and not resist what the “dark thoughts” or “depression” or “meanness” have to teach us. In the same breath however, we must lean into a support system that can journey with us when we get weary of this new house clearing. We can’t minimize how hard this is. We need each other to hold onto as we do this massive house cleaning.

So hold on tight, allow the new arrivals. And trust the Source. We are going to get through this--together. And we will be better collectively and individually for it.

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