Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I am trying, these days, to be (not vaguely, but *specifically*) aware of my feelings when I am with patients or families or staff or colleagues. It's really hard work to be aware!

I found guidance from Rumi this week. His work normally only appeals to me when I am either in some altered state of consciousness, hopelessly in love, or very very tired. I'll let you guess which of these (or which combination of them!) I found myself the other morning after being on-call and awake most of the night.

For Rumi, all moments are times of ecstatic knowing. His work, even though written in the 13th century, is very timely for me. I include his poem below that speaks about knowing one's inner state. Between the lines, he calls me to know God.

During the on-call intervention between 2:45 and 6:00, I was keenly, specifically, aware of my feeling very helpless. It was a horrible, sudden illness that happened to a beautiful young adult and her family. Rumi's final line of this poem helped me find some redemption in my helplessness.

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 honorable.
[She] 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.

Always check your inner state
with the lord of your heart.

Copper doesn't know it's copper
until it's changing to gold.

Your loving doesn't know majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.

- From Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks

1 comment:

  1. A friend sent this poem to me after my mother died. But it did not include the last three couplets. I'm so glad to know the rest of the poem, especially the last two lines.

    This is a great poem for Lent, too! I found myself giving thanks recently for "joy in Lent."