A House for Guests

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is 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 whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

—Rumi

This quote really spoke to me because for almost 24 hours I felt swept up with much anxiety tinged with slight resentment, which has mostly dissipated. Two nights ago I woke at 2:30 am and did not get back to sleep even when I did my 4-4-4 breathing-Inhale for four counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale 4 counts. Hold for 4 counts. Repeated several times.

A couple of months ago just days after I learned that my dad died, I received a phone call that the owner of the house I rent has chosen to sell. The sale involves three properties. At that juncture, I experienced much calm and clarity. I knew I could handle whatever came my way, that I could let the property management company know my preference to stay-in case the new owner chose to invest, and that I would look at other houses for rent in my community. After ten showings, there remain no offers on the table.

I continue to have my strong preference to stay here as a renter, to not disrupt my life with a move. When I drop into my heart, I feel much love for where I live. I realize I cannot be grippy. I can be grateful.

In my home here in North Carolina, I had not experienced any uninvited guests.

Then an experience last Friday tripped the wire to the anxieties. A stranger began unlocking the front door of my home as I sat working in the living room. Thinking the person had a package to deliver, I jumped up, and opened the door before he did.

“Can I help you?”

“There’s a showing here at 1:30 pm,” said a man with a realtor tag.

“I received no notification. Shall I leave with my dog right now?”

“Uh, no. You can stay. We’ll be just a few minutes. My clients are almost here.”

“Okay.”

In a few minutes, I opened the door to let them in with no embarrassment about the fact I hadn’t yet showered after my morning run, that I had many layers of clothing on including a hooded sweatshirt as the top layer. I did not walk after them explaining myself or the condition of my home. My former self would have apologized profusely for my appearance, for the less than immaculate physical space, and for not leaving.

The young couple and realtor walked through talking the entire time for about fifteen or twenty minutes. They thanked me as they walked out the door. I locked it behind them.

The delayed reaction of this unexpected visit happened over the weekend as DVR’s from my past played. All the moments that my physical space, including homes I lived in as an adult with my children, had been entered without invitation by challenging, sometimes toxic, individuals. This regularly felt like a violation of my privacy and safety. And they were unwanted intrusions. Even when I made verbal and written requests to honor my privacy, to call to see if it was workable, they’d appear uninvited, out of the blue. For a decade, I ended all communication and stopped opening the door. When I moved to North Carolina, I left no forwarding address with any of them.

For over a month, strangers have been walking through the place I live. It’s a designed, permission granted, welcome into the space. Furniture, artwork, personal photographs, and belongings all remain out in full view for all these “guests.”

During this time of anxiety, difficult memories showed up in the guest house that is me. Many younger versions of myself came bearing vivid scenes with entire conversations, fully felt experiences from my early adulthood. Like ghosts they came to be seen and heard. Gently I appreciated all of them as they shook with fear, cried many unshed tears, and then made their way out the door of my wide-opened heart. Embracing these types of emotional “guests” takes great courage and compassion. My current adult inner witness anchored in much peace and strength rose up for the task. Healthy enough to handle this next layer of trauma residue, I engaged this important releasing work.

When you are safe enough in your life circumstances and inside yourself, you can allow the past hurts, memories, lived experiences in through the door of your being. You can take the time to free yourself of these experiences which supports an ability to see your current life situation with fresh eyes. Your circumstance may have the scent impressions of a distant difficulty which cues you. You can notice how your response softens or is completely different. No longer defending against tigers leaping out of cages, you can observe the current situation as a gentler nudge rather than a trigger that pokes the roar of undistinguished, unresolved pain. You recognize these characters; they have visited you many times.

Our bodies remember even if our minds don’t. Certain months of the year may be loaded with anniversaries of past experiences. Autumn is one of those loaded times of the year for me.

A gentle letting go of another layer allows you to see with wide open eyes the present, the reality right here, right now. Your brain and nervous system shift away from survival into a healthier way of interacting. You can celebrate the ability to pause and respond in a new way, to see the ground you’ve taken, to notice how you actually embrace all the guests in the house that is you. They have interesting wisdom to bring you. Thank these “guides from beyond” each day for they want you to heal, to live free from their imprint, to flourish. May a softer calm emerge when the house of you has been emptied of detritus. May you live safer and more secure in this home of your soul.

Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla.

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  1. Laura… All that you’re saying is ringing through with my situation. I finally bought myself a house and will be moving in December! I think about when you came to my house and you worked your magic through feng shui and our few day relationship that was as if we are friends forever! We hit it off like nobody’s business and had a wonderful time embraced by laughter and love. I cherish that time and plan on using your tools tips and techniques to do the same with my new home. I want to make my home warm and inviting to invited guests as well as the unexpected as you have talked about! As a teacher, I take many under my wing including my students and their families, which leads me to say that I used feng shui in my classroom as well! Many are struggling and I choose to embrace them whether inside the classroom or out! Your teachings inspire me to be my best and I gratefully thank you for that! Continued blessings to you!

    • Susan!! What a thrill and joy to hear from you!! Thank you so much for all you have shared about your experiences using the tools/practices of feng shui-our work together-which I remember like it was yesterday-you ran with the ideas that inspired you, that you discovered in our tears/laughter conversation! I’m excited to learn that you’re moving, that you continue teaching-as all those young people benefit from your joyful, wise, vivacious presence in their lives. I’m completely touched by all your words and celebrate the home you created (and will create) and the life that you’re living from your huge heart and passion!! WaHooooo!! Many wonderful blessings to you, too, my friend!!

  2. “Our bodies remember even if our minds don’t. Certain months of the year may be loaded with anniversaries of past experiences.” Indeed. Sometimes I’ll notice my mood and energy are low, and I cannot really find a reason for that. And then I’ll look at the calendar and realize I’m coming up to the anniversary of my friend’s son’s death, or my father’s death, and I’ll realize what has been bothering me. It’s such a relief to find that reason for my sadness, knowing it will be around for a few days, and then I’ll be able to work my way back out of it.

    Beautiful sentiment here, Laura, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    • You are so welcome, Sarah. Yes our houses and our bodies/beings hold many life experiences-impressions, emotions-anniversaries of difficult times hold great opportunity for a deeper flush as well as much gratitude, curiosity, opportunity to reflect, remember, and release what’s no longer necessary to cling to about that past experience (if there’s been clinging to the leaves-I learn so much from the trees in autumn!) Thank you for sharing honestly about some of those poignant anniversaries for you. May your sadness remind you how deeply you love others-then and now. I appreciate you and your reflections.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Laura, and for opening yourself up again so that we too may learn, grow, and share in our experiences. As Melissa mentions below, your essay reminds us that our space is more than four walls. It’s emotion, memories, milestones, and millions of moments that make it a home.

    I love what you say here: “Our bodies remember even if our minds don’t. Certain months of the year may be loaded with anniversaries of past experiences. Autumn is one of those loaded times of the year for me.” Autumn is that time of year for me too. As much as I love the season, there are triggers from now usually through January that amp me up. The good news is that I recognize it and acknowledge it, and am trying diligently to manage the emotional tailspin that comes with this time of year.

    As always, an insightful and inspiring read. Thanks for sharing your gift with us.

    • Thank you for your insights, kind words of feedback-the ways this essay resonated with you, Laura. Seasons of the year can bring with them unresolved patterns, emotions, memories, opportunities for deeper healing and shifting to live as awakened as we can-as whole as we can. May you find a place of grace amidst the tailspin, an anchor inside of you that can hold space for the processing of those triggers. Know that I’m doing this too in almost every aspect of my life. If I could hold your hand (if you like having your hand held-or look in your eyes) I would. I know you know that you are not alone. Neither am I. I’m grateful for your thoughtful comments.

  4. Oh my, Laura… this one really resonates with me. I’m currently working with a realtor to downsize my folks from a house to a condo. They have never moved in their lives and the thought of strangers walking through their home is intrusive and a complete invasion of privacy to them. Your post makes me realize that our space is more than four walls and a roof. It’s precious and the host of memories and experiences. Thank you for this valuable message today. Your timing couldn’t be better!

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