My teacher here is named Abdu. He asked me to meditate on this passage from Rumi as we drove three hours across Morocco to the coast. He said he had something to show me.
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.
Abdu asked me if I was sure of what I saw when a guest entered my home. Sensing it was a trick question I said I could see what I could see and name what I could name. He laughed. He asked me to think of the goats I have seen in my life. I have seen many and in Haiti, ate many of them on Sundays after a week of petting their heads on my way into the house. I have seen goats in Russia, Romania, Jerusalem, Kenya, Argentina – the list goes on.
As we drove west, it was apparent from the signs that he was taking me to a seaside town and then he suddenly slowed down just 17 miles from Esseouira. He took my hand and said “You think you know goats but there are goats you know not.” Smiling, he pointed out the window at this tree with these goats grazing it its branches.
We humans are a kind of guest house, says Rumi. We welcome guests and we make all sorts of quick decisions about them as they arrive. We label them good, bad, right, wrong. But what Abdu was driving me three hours to learn was that when we label the feelings we feel or the things which enter our lives, we do not always know what we do not know. Ten minutes previous, Abdu might have asked me “Do goats graze on thin tree limbs?” And I would have said “no!”
Sometimes what we think is just what we think. Sometimes what we have labelled one thing is begging to be reconsidered in a different light and with new information.