Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi, in his poem, “The Guest House,” compares being human to a dwelling, in which emotions come and go, not only as unexpected visitors, but as potent teachers and guides from beyond.
We are a Bed and Breakfast for our emotions.
They come unannounced, at all hours, with different agendas, and they want to be fed our attention.
Rumi tells us to meet them at the door laughing, to invite them in, and to entertain them all. They will leave when their time is up. Some will be frequent guests. Others may visit every so often. Sometimes they may come all at once, while we scramble to get them settled. And at other times, we find ourselves standing quietly at the door in their absence, but knowing full well that they will return as events unfold throughout our lives.
Running our inward Bed and Breakfast takes some skill. It takes emotional intelligence — the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage our emotions in positive, effective ways. When we are aware of our emotions, we can be proactive in relieving stress, communicating effectively and empathizing with others, facing and overcoming challenges, and defusing the bomb of conflict.
Upon meeting our emotions at the door, we find that some can be very intense, demanding, and quite petulant, while others are more low-key, quiet, and peaceful. Some throw tantrums; others remain calm. Hosting some of them can be quite the challenge. But the gracious host or hostess knows how best to serve each guest.
Hosting our emotions starts with knowing our attitudes and knowing our emotional comings and goings. If you find yourself feeling unexpectedly strongly about something, ask yourself why. Put a label on it, admit what you are feeling, identify why you are feeling it, and then take the steps to rectify it. This is an exercise in self-honesty. Many times, you’ll find that what you are feeling is ego-centered, rather than spirit-centered. Controlling your emotions isn’t about pretending they are not there; on the contrary, it’s about acknowledging them so that you can move forward without the extra baggage.
Some emotions require a serious time-out. They come in like a storm, blowing the doors wide open, nearly knocking us out of our place. Emotions are physical responses. Our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure skyrockets. Our immune system becomes compromised. These physical changes are led by the way we breathe. We literally have to catch our breath. We can deal with these changes by resetting our breath. Stop. Inhale slowly. Exhale even more slowly. Know that your out-breath will calm everything before heading into a discussion with these emotions.
Our emotions need our guidance and direction as much as we need theirs. They show up at our doorstep because we are a place where they feel safe. When we acknowledge them by offering our hospitality, we can learn a great deal about ourselves. But, if we cater to them too much, we enable them to overstay their welcome, causing us to react blindly, often with unintended or unwanted consequences. As we come to know them and ourselves, we can channel their energy into constructive productivity for our highest good.
Getting our emotional house in order will ensure that we are not strangers in our own house whenever our emotions come for a visit. Prepare to meet them. Give them the attention they deserve. Learn from them. Channel their energy. Be grateful for their gifts.
Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our emotions are some of our closest neighbors. Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.
Denying our feelings and emotions leads to a host of physical issues and health problems. Now is the time to voice your unexpressed emotions.
Think of a challenging event or relationship in your life. It could be something you have done that incurred much guilt. Or, it could be someone you have not been able to forgive.
Take a piece of paper and write down all the negative things you’ve felt, done, said, and thought.
Now, shred it into pieces. You can either bury them in the yard, or build a fire and watch them burn. Notice how you feel as you let go.
In your mind, surround the situation or person with the white light of healing and transformation, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Repeat this ritual until you feel a shift. You will feel lighter as a result because you are making a difference with your efforts.
Be sure to forgive yourself, too.
Thank you to my spiritual mentor and friend Merv for inspiring this post.