Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Persistent Guests in My House

It's become clear now who are the guests that linger in my inner dwelling. 

First is the workaholic who obsesses over what's next at the office. I encounter 'her' while I sit, while I walk, and in my dreams. She populates my mind with many thoughts, and preoccupies herself with planning and multiple projects. She acts as a barrier between myself and the present moment. She is not really a person, but rather a constellation of habits, emotions, and thoughts. She is driven by another, much older character, to do with my early years as a child. That one is a scared little girl, still living in what felt like an unpredictable home with a father given to unpredictable rages. Fear is her modus operandi and her first line of response. Those two guests take turn in dominating my day to day life. 

'Take turn' is no longer so accurate, though. I should say 'have taken turn' instead. Things are changing.

Another figure, much more powerful than those two is establishing itself. She is wise, and knows how to put the other two guests to rest, using the qualities of insight, patience, mindfulness, equanimity, concentration, investigation, and loving kindness. In this moment, there is only breath coming and going, and hands typing words on the computer, and body sitting a bit slouched in the office chair. The rest, the scared 'I' that makes itself felt in the pit of the stomach, is to be put in its place. A persistent guest, a product of automatic responses from body and mind in need of being calmed, using the breath, and concentration on the task at hand. 

How humbling to realize that this mind, this body do not really belong to me . . . Otherwise, right now, there would be only be the peace of breath, moving freely in and out of boundless body. 

Who are the guests in your house? How do you put them to rest?


  1. constellation of habits, I like that! a wonderful way to describe these aspects of self. And who is this "me" that " that this mind, this body do not really belong to"?

    Fear is a constant house guest for me, vigilance, not good enough, and sometimes I notice how deeply comfortable I have become with them, that when I usher them out, I feel a hole where they usually are, a slight discomfort. Awareness and choice are the guys who show them the door.

  2. My good master lived far from cities. A distant country road led to the farm where he worked that summer and as I approached the old wooden swing gate, a small sign with smaller words was thumbtacked near the handle, as if to remind guests the key to entry is at hand: "Try Being Human"

    You are doing a fine job at that, My 0wn Self, Marguerite Manteau-Rao

  3. http:/meditation and the me 12, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Have just come across your blog and like what you have written. It strikes a similar chord.
    Thank you,

  4. http:/meditation and the me 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Carole, yes! Awareness and choice as ushers, out of the door. Until the next visit . . .

  6. This is a terrific blog. I did an 8wk mindfulness course and felt it changed my life, which it did, but I need to get back to more regular practice so I can again feel that lightness of being and cope with day to day stresses, of which there are many.

  7. Yes, mindfulness is such a gift. And it is hard to sustain without the support from a mindful community. Do you have access to such a community near you?

  8. And some comments from folks on Google+:

    Yota S: Loved your entry Marguerite and the poem also. I don't think I'm at the point of putting the guests to rest yet. Still working on making friends with them and understanding them. My little girl needs to be welcome and held, finally, after all these years. She needs to know that she has the right to feel what she feels and that I'll always be there for her. I'm mothering her along side my daughters. One day at a time, one breath at a time and, yes, things are changing:-) Thank you!

    John S - Reminds me of another commentary on House Guests; Rumi - If we can only get to know them...

    Bob Z - True.

  9. Hi Marguerite -- What a nice post! Well-written and sparing, the metaphor is a wonderful way to look at these, our alter egos. It's impolite to ignore them, because they come from ourselves and those we've loved. But "putting them to rest" is a good way of saying not to let them take over the house ;-)

  10. Yes, Jeffrey, that has been my experience, that for most of us, those guests will always be a part of our lives. Putting to rest implies taking an active role, and being gentle at the same time, which I like a an attitude.

  11. What a great post, Marguerite! My old friend Fear seems to be my most frequent visitor, although often cleverly disguised as Laziness and Annoyance. They tend to dissolve with kind attention until, as you say, next time...

  12. Yes, fear. It has been helpful for me to attach it to the thoughts and circumstances that awaken it. Fear without any context takes longer to assuage, I find. The more I investigate, the more I see how unified all the Dharma is. Hindrances, not self, impermanence, extra suffering, are all connected. Clinging . . .

  13. A very accurate description of the "selves" in our house. Nice that that new one has risen. Is this thanks to meditation?

    I find that the ones we'd prefer not have living there anymore (i.e. fear) need, indeed, to be embraced and lead to a safer, lighter room in the house. This works more and more, but at times i find that i fall and find myself running back to the dark corner of the room.

    I'd love to hear your and other people's thoughts and experience on how you do manage to consistently calm that "resident" down and pull it out of the dark rooms.

    I enjoy your blog.

  14. Thank you mariposa.

    Not so much that it has risen, as it is now seen, thanks to mindfulness and wise investigation.

    And, yes, agree with you, it's not easy learning to live with those guests in our mind. We need to be kind and firm. Applying to tough love to ourselves.

    What's been very helpful for me, is the practice, and also teachings from teachers such as Gil Fronsdal (see my series of posts on not self, including references to Gil's explanation of selfing).

    I wish well in your practice.

    Thank you.