This weekend, I let some bad-ass guests come into my home. In fact, I invited them in. It was an experiment. One that yielded surprisingly good results.

It all began last week when my women’s circles explored the notion of “unconditional friendliness”, and played with inviting all of our thoughts and emotions to come inside ourselves, as if they were visiting guests in our home. Welcome ones. The conversation was inspired by Rumi’s poem:

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…
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.

Fast forward a day and I find myself out on a run. An ugly one. I’m out of shape and I feel it. I start to berate myself for the slovenly choices that have gotten me to this point, but then something has me catch myself. I think of Rumi and his guest house and I decide to give it a try. What have I got to lose?

So I open “the door”, wincing a little, I’ll admit, and invite the long line of visitors that have amassed on the porch to enter into my guest home. I acknowledge each with a curt nod, saying their names as they enter: Disgust, Shame, Pity, Panic, Anger, Disappointment, Apathy, Fear, Denial, Sorrow, Regret… With each passing guest, I find I am more easily able to meet their eyes, adopting a “more the merrier” sort of attitude. I made a game of it.

To the casual observer, I was a woman plodding along at a slow jog mumbling things to herself. But I knew I was having a major moment.

Then the oddest thing happened. I started to laugh. At first it was a chuckle, then it was an outright guffaw as I looked at the pathetic parade of characters I had just let into my house. I felt strangely lighter, more free. Not so combative or resistant to the experience I was having.

Just then, I happened to look to the left, and there, on this triangle patch of park, a toddler was learning to walk – squealing with delight at her ability to move freely. And that’s when I truly understood what Rumi meant when he said , “meet them at the door laughing…” Because as I watched this young child take each step, it seemed like a preposterous notion for her to worry, berate herself or be mean-spirited at a time of concentrated effort. She wasn’t lamenting all the weeks she could have been out there practicing walking instead of sitting chewing on cloth donuts. She wasn’t comparing herself to her friends in the park who were walking faster, without wobbling.

She was simply reveling in her moment.

What I noticed in the wake of this experience is that I felt more inspired to work out the next day. I had a spring in my step and an attitude that was much more forgiving and gentle. I kid you not, when I say it was truly amazing what shifted in me as a result of that exercise. Who knew? All those years, I had been baring access to those bad-ass figures on my porch, and they were the keys to my freedom!

So open your doors. Invite everyone in. You might be amazed at what those unexpected guests will offer you.