Life is full of joys and sorrows. At one moment a baby is being born and at the same moment someone is dying. Someone is getting married and another is getting divorced. Someone just got the job of their dreams and another has been fired and faces eviction. Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness around all of these states of mind and body.
The 13th century Sufi Poet, Rumi, wrote “This being human is a guest-house. Every morning a new arrival, a joy, a depression, a meanness…Welcome and entertain them all!” We might say, welcome and entertain them all? Are you crazy? Why would I want to welcome and entertain these horribly uncomfortable feelings? All I want to do is get away from them, far, far away. Some of us stay in bed with the blankets pulled over, others self medicate with drugs and alcohol, while others pour themselves into work so they don’t have to feel.
The only issue here is that these uncomfortable emotions have no where to go, they’re still within us. We cannot push them away, because they are unable to leave the boundaries of our minds. In this pushing and struggling we give energy to the distress. It’s like sending hate to a blob of negative energy, it just eats it up and grows bigger.
Sarah was a client I had who developed a severe case of panic attacks after having children. She got to a point where she didn’t want to leave her house because everything “out there” may trigger her into another attack. After working with her for a while in therapy and having her, step-by-step, become able to approach, instead of avoid, these uncomfortable feelings, eventually they stopped having the same triggering effect. She realized she could learn to “be with” them instead of trying to fight against them and that eventually they would pass. We may all know this intellectually, but when we’re in it, it’s difficult to grasp unless we’ve practiced it and realize it through experience.
Rumi continues, “still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” In essence, each may be here to teach us something.
Now Sarah sees her panic attacks as a gift as they exposed her to an entirely new world of learning how to be more kind and present to herself and others in daily life. She sees herself as more confident and trusts that she can handle her anxiety with a greater sense of ease and calm. In her case, the sorrows led to joys.
It’s not going to be easy and there may be a lot of pain, but see what comes up for you when reading Rumi’s words. If you are struggling with severe anxiety, panic, depression, or addiction, I encourage you to seek the help of a healthcare professional. If there is not one in your area, continue to stay connected to community for support.
As always, please share your thoughts, insights, and questions below. Your engagement here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2009