Let Gratitude open your door
I like to use this metaphor when I am managing challenging emotions. The image of an open door is welcoming and inviting. An open door implies a level of trust to all who enter. What if you think of your heart as a door and that Gratitude could be the loving friend who opens it for you to all emotions that knock? What would happen if you saw each emotion as one there to teach you or bring you a new way of being instead of something to resist? Too often, we run away from anything uncomfortable but when we do this, we lose the opportunity to grow and in all honesty, we expend far too much energy in fighting it instead of flowing with it.
Rumi, one of my favorite mystics of all time, put it best in his poem, The Guest House:
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 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
Just absorb that for a second. Seriously, go back and read it again even. It lands for me a different way each time and never loses its power. My favorite line: "He may be clearing you out for some new delight." How do we know what each emotion is here to teach us? How do we know that any emotion is "bad" per se? If we take an approach of inviting them all in with curiosity and wonder, we can form a kinder, gentler relationship with ourselves and with life itself.
I will offer myself up as an example since I am the one writing here. I have had two challenging emotions knocking (loudly) at my door lately. One is sadness and the other one fear. You may know them, they seem to visit many of us, and often.
Sadness...This time my sadness is from an old wound, a deep pain that even after I make friends with it, it seems to return at times like a unwelcome family member who invited themselves over. Now, that I have practiced this open-door-gratitude-greeter-policy for so long, my reaction is so different. Before, it would have been irritation and frustration that it had returned, yet again. Now, I get merely a glimpse of, "Not again, seriously, it's you?" (I am human, after all.) What I have more of is a sense of "Oh, look who is here again. I wonder what you are bringing me this time?" And a sense of gratitude that by touching my deepest wounds yet again, I have the opportunity for even deeper healing. Now, don't be fooled. None of this is without tears and heartache. But receiving the sadness in this way helps me understand that resistance is not the smoothest path. Nor does fighting it help me heal in any way.
Same goes for fear, this time an emotion I don't have often but who has visited me of late in full force. A fear of starting new things. An unsettling kind of fear, the kind that makes you anxious and hyper vigilant. Now, with this one, I know that the fear is here for a very obvious reason. To signal me about the unknown. Again, I let it in. Instead of seeing the fear as something to "resolve," what I see is that the fear is here as an affirmation that I am treading new paths in my heart and anything new can be scary. But the more fear I feel, the more I realize I am approaching an important edge of my comfort zone. And probably a very important approach to make if my heart is quivering in such a way. It's not critical to understand it fully, just to let it be so that you may move through it.
I break this down to help you see how emotions can be welcomed. I purposefully am not explaining what my fear or sadness or about so that you don't get caught up in my story, but rather see that my sadness or fear could easily be yours. We all have uninvited visitors every day. How long they stay is variable but one thing I know for sure, trying to push them out of the door before they are ready is futile.
Instead, can you invite in whatever comes to the door?
Can you let gratitude greet them?
What if your heart remained open and curious so that you could be "...clearing out for some new delight?"
In this way, gratitude can be what you lead with instead of resistance. When we do that, we open the door to a different relationship with our emotions. We enter a world of gentle conversation instead of shouting and fighting.
Try it, today as emotions come your way, think of them knocking at your door.
Think of them as guests in your home, welcome or uninvited guests, but guests all the same.
Open the door to them. Offer a cup of tea.
If you unlock the door with gratitude, I promise your visits will be more harmonious.