Gentle Learning?

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.

~ Rumi ~

It’s odd how things circle and loop sometimes.  I was first introduced to this poem two years ago whilst on Pause for Breath (http://www.originate.org.uk/Pause%20for%20Breath.pdf) and I remember hearing it read very beautifully by someone and loving it. At the time, however, I’m not sure I fully “got” it.

In recent weeks I have been exploring the Nature of my Practice for the MSc at Ashridge. The path I’ve taken is to ask peers, colleagues, clients and a few close friends how they experience working with me. The poem was offered to me by a colleague during this period of inquiry – and this time, it landed beautifully and well…. Because MAN I can be tough on myself.

My story of late is I’ve found myself at times in some weird introspective, introverted, critically reflexive bubble. I’m not saying I’ve had a full-on crowd of sorrows violently sweeping my house, but I’ve not been picnicking with Teddy Bears,either. While this is not wholly comfortable or familiar territory, I’m kind of learning that this is my process. I’m action orientated – so in order to truly learn, I need to go out and do stuff; seek widely, absorb loads, go through a period of playing & poking & battering into the information – leading to sense-making (the exhausting part, I’m learning) and ultimately I’ll have some deeply-fought for understanding and take-aways…

..and yes. I get that there is fighty- battle language in the above. If I were coaching me, I’d have a word!

This process is exhausting at times –I could seriously do with a gentler one…. And I’m figuring that in order to create a new, kinder process, it might be useful to understand the battlefield I currently seem to occupy when I’m learning.

So Rumi’s poem reminds me to laugh and smile and be a little wry in the face of HUGE new learning. Watching the inspiring Brené Brown in Her TED talk Listening to Shame: http://youtu.be/psN1DORYYV0 reminds me that my inner critic is louder and harsher than anything offered to me by those who have been generous enough to share their thoughts, time and words to enable my learning. She asks us to “dare greatly” – and to do this with empathy and vulnerability – not to battle ourselves into submission.

So I’m looking to not hang out in the introspective, existential room for the next few weeks. Looking to lighten up and show myself some kindness and empathy – in the hope that looking after myself thus will allow me to look after others better. I’m looking to do this and I will forget at times… and I’ll need to be kind to myself when I forget. Ah well… this being human is a guest house.

I’ll end on my favourite quote from Caitlin Moran in the excellent How to Be A Woman, because I use it often: “But the problem with battling yourself is that even if you win, you lose”

Yup. I concur.

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