Quantum Impulses, Chemotherapy, and the Guest House

Quantum physics has taught me that Reality (with a capital R) is basically impulses of energy and information. My reality (with a lowercase r) is made up of my own personal stories about those impulses and my interpretations of the information.

Our shared reality is made up of our shared stories and interpretations. We attach labels to the components of Reality. The basic set of labels about events, persons, and relationships tends to be good-fortunate-blessed or bad-unfortunate-cursed.

The impulse to “hold,” we label kind (and good) and the impulse to “hit,” we label mean (and bad); the impulse to gather with others is labeled sociable (and good) and the impulse to isolate, unsociable (and bad).

We have all kinds of fixed interpretations running through our heads, filtering Reality into nice neat categories. They seem “set in stone” because they’ve become so habitual and automatic. Yet we do have a choice about the stories and interpretations we use to make some sense of our lives, challenges, and relationships.

I like Ecclesiastes and its “seasonal” interpretation: there is a time to hate and a time to love, a time to build up and a time to break down, a time to accept and a time to flail against what is. Isn’t it true that the universe is both violent and creative, both destructive and cooperative? That dissolution is as essential in the dance of life as creation and conception? Isn’t it true that birth, death, and rebirth are partners in that same dance?

My friend Karen and I memorized Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” to prepare for her surgery. We spoke the words to each other through her hysterectomy (during which surgeons “swept her empty”) and through subsequent chemo-treatments.

Rumi’s words remind me to neither elevate nor despise any of life’s twists and turns. Today I receive them as seasonal, not harsh, as energetic shifts, not evil or good occurrences. Today I choose to look at my life through the lens of Rumi’s poem, even when my friend Karen died, even when a “crowd of sorrows” violently swept her from my life. Even then.

This being human is a guest house. Every day is 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’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He or she 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 it. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

What filter do you use to make sense of your life? Was it inherited or chosen by you? Is it expansive enough, gracious enough to hold both and all aspects of the micro and macro universe: dissolution and creativity, dominance and partnership, life and death? This being human is a guest house. Every day is a new arrival.

Patricia Lynn Reilly is the founder of Imagine a Woman International. If you’re ready to author your own self-understanding, read about IAW’s self-guided retreat “Author Your Own Life” here: IAW’s Remember Yourself Retreats. If you’d like to join our Team of Certified Coaches, visit here: IAW Certification Program. Patricia is also an accomplished photographer whose photos are available for viewing, showing, and sale at www.OpenWindowGallery.com.


  1. Wow! Okay, total serendipitous moment when I read this blog entry. I recently memorized “The Guest House” as a gift, of sorts, to a dear friend of mine. He is in prison and “The Guest House” is one of his favorite poems. I memorized it so that next time I go visit him (hopefully in just a few weeks) I can recite the poem for him from memory. I’ve been thinking so much about him and hoping nothing happens to keep us from having our visit. Then I see this poem turn up on your blog and it just felt like a sign, a reassurance from the Universe that things will be okay. Maybe that’s wishful thinking but regardless, running across this poem today was a bright spot for me. Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Cindy. Thanks for sharing your story about The Guest House and your friend. Keep us posted about your visit. How fantastic that Rumi’s words support us to embrace a variety of life circumstances with gratitude. We are all in this together!

  2. When I meditate, I always say, “I am receiving and accepting the blessings that are falling on me, falling into my life at all times.” One day, I realized that every event that has ever happened to me is a blessing. From each occasion and/or interaction, I’ve learned something – usually something about myself. And now I see that these occasions and interactions have shaped me. Each is a blessing I have received and accepted and use for personal growth. Every day, every moment is a blessing.

  3. Just WOW!

  4. I love this!! To me it is so important to hold both aspects of things. To elevate one doesn’t mean to devalue another. That all experiences have value and are valid. Accepting and making peace with the duality of reality. Thank you for this!!

  5. Karen Zwart says:

    I appreciated reading this today. I just wanted to “like it”, as on facebook. Thank you.

  6. Patsi Maroney says:

    Hi Patricia, hope you are doing well! I started to skim through this the other day when I first received it, and realized I needed to give it more than just a quickie read. Just sat down and Really Read it today. Thanks again; I’ve always appreciated your ability to word things so invitingly and so beautifully. I’m going to forward it to Scarlett in case she didn’t get a chance to see it, too. Sending cyberhugs your way!!

  7. Hi Patricia.

    Thanks for this timely article. Again a confirmation that God provides all the time! .This article really uplifts me in this very moment. Our family is going through a very challenging stage of our life..
    My warmest regards.

  8. Carol ODwyer says:

    Patricia, my condolences on the loss of your friend Karen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this beautiful poem. When i did a search on my computer to see if I had this poem saved somewhere, I found another poem that I had forgotten about. That poem affirmed a profound transformation I had this weekend during a class on poetry and dreams. I cried joyful tears as Imagine a Woman was read to me in the background. Thank you for being part of a powerful shift in my life. xxoo Carol

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