Fear is a guest

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 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.
~ Jalal al-din Rumi

My grandfather used to cite a Yiddish proverb about guests. The English translation was something like, “Fish and guests begin to stink up the house after two weeks.” I’d like to be able to openly welcome the guest of fear whenever it appears on my doorstep, but sometimes it seems like it takes over the “house” of my mind and I feel paralyzed by its power.
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Zen medicine – part 2

During a mindfulness retreat at the end of 2000, I caught a stomach flu and began to develop grave symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s colitis). I could not sleep more than two hours at night because I woke up throughout the night to pain in my side, telling me it was time to go to the bathroom. I ate only small amounts of the blandest of foods and I was running to the bathroom all day and all night. I managed to get back to my aunt’s house in Connecticut and the symptoms continued to worsen.

My step-mother called me and told me that she and my Dad wanted to help me get to Indianapolis, where they lived, so I could be under the care of their friend, a gastroenterologist. So she set up a flight within just two days.

I had hoped for a good night’s sleep the night before I traveled but it did not happen. I slept only about two hours and started yet another day feeling exhausted. I knew it would be a particularly long day. The whole trip would last ten hours from door to door. But I knew I would only survive if I focused on my sense of peacefulness. I could carry nothing but that peacefulness. I also knew that I would have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get through the day. More

Unbreakable

It can’t break you apart
You are too whole
Pain sears your insides and
you collapse into aloneness
Wondering why it keeps hitting you
Wondering why it is so hard
Just to get up
Just to get up
The pain steals your will
And yet you keep rising
To the challenge
The pain steals your choices
And yet you keep choosing
To live wholly
The pain consumes you
In moments of despair
And you break free
Again and again
Reaching up
Reaching out
To those who love you
You are the unbreakable ones
The heroines who catch yourselves
Even when the pain pulls you
Tears you
Strikes the core of who you are
You are unbreakable
You find love
You find compassion
You find your voice,
your strong, determined voice.
The pain will never break you
You are too whole

–I wrote this poem for the women in my dissertation study. They all suffered from chronic pelvic pain. I felt so inspired by their grace and perseverance.

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