Complex Simplicity

Complex Simplicity

Poetry continues to be the best way in which I can feel the world and my place in it. It has gotten me through some of the worst my depression and anxiety could offer, and, I feel, it can provide those that do not live with mental illness far more than an analytical understanding of the disease.

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Treat Your Thoughts as Honored Guests

I read this poem in the waiting room of a yoga studio in San Antonio, TX. I was fortunate that the hotel hosting a NASO Officiating Conference was located by a quality studio and a tremendous food truck park.

I was struck by Rumi’s idea of treating every thought as an honored guest. Happy, bad, good, evil, inspiring, depressing - the thought does not matter according to Rumi. What matters is your reaction to the thought.

This is not an easy idea to accept, and it is an even harder one to put into daily practice. I don’t think this way all the time, but I am getting better at recognizing my reaction to the thoughts that arrive at my mind’s door. And I try to be a good host.

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.

Jalal al-Din Rumi,

translation by Coleman Barks

Canto XIII - The Violent Against Themselves

700 years ago Dante Alighieri published his “Divine Comedy".

  • The Inferno - Journey Through Hell

  • The Purgatorio - Journey Through Purgatory (limbo)

  • The Paradiso - Journey Through Heaven

Dante wrote in Italian, rather than Latin, so his story would be accessible to the “common” readers. In the 1300s in Tuscany, people lived their lives following the guidance of the Church. Heaven and Hell were real places according to scripture, but Dante brought these places to life in memorable detail in a language that the masses could easily understand.

I hope to do the same with this website in regards to Suicide Awareness and Prevention. I write what comes to me in accessible language that, I hope, removes the veneer of silence from mental illness and suicide.

Here is a synopsis of the The 7th Circle/Shelf/Abyss in “The Inferno":

Nessus, [a Centaur], carries the Poets across the river of boiling blood and leaves them in the Second Round of the Seventh Circle, THE WOOD OF THE SUICIDES. Here are punished those who destroyed their own lives and those who destroyed their substance.

The souls of the Suicides are encased in thorny trees whose leaves are eaten by the odious HARPIES [sic], the overseers of the damned. When the Harpies feed upon them, damaging their leaves and limbs, the wound bleeds. Only as long as the blood flows are the souls of the trees able to speak.

Thus, they who destroyed their own bodies are denied a human form; and just as the supreme expression of their lives was self-destruction, so they are permitted to speak only through that which tears and destroys them. Only through their own blood do they find voice. And to add one more dimension to the symbolism, it is the Harpies - defilers of all they touch - who give them their eternally recurring wounds.

John Ciardi, The Inferno