Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House

This morning on my way to work I was listening to the podcast of Oprah interviewing Jack Kornfield for SuperSoul Conversations. Every sentence of that interview is food for the soul (as are all Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations) but for some reason when Jack quoted the first verse of the poem “Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House” by Hafez’s (also spelled Hafiz) it really resonated with me.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house
I would like to see you living
In better conditions

These first three lines are so simply worded, but carry with them so much truth. Living in fear is no way to live. We are all absolutely perfectly made, spectacular Beings that deserve to live in the absolute best conditions – to have the best life possible.  But being afraid that you are not good enough, afraid that people won’t like you, afraid of doing something new, afraid of disappointing others, afraid of not measuring up to other’s expectations and many other thoughts of fear keep us from reaching our full potential and saying “I’m Awesome and I deserve only the best! I don’t want to be stuck in the dingy basement – I want the top floor master bedroom with en-suite and wrap around balcony!”

I got all of that from only the first stanza. The rest of the poem is just as meaningful.

Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House
By Hafez (q.s.)

Fear is the cheapest room in the house
I would like to see you living
In better conditions,

for your mother and my mother
Were friends.

I know the Innkeeper
In this part of the universe.
Get some rest tonight,
Come to my verse tomorrow.
We’ll go speak to the Friend together.

I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Somewhere in this world-
Something good will happen.

God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.

– Khwaja Hafez Shirazi (q.s.) (1326-1389 CE)

Did you also feel hopeful after having read the whole poem? I certainly did. I felt like Hafez was showing us the problem, giving us the solution and the reason why we should change.

So if living in fear is the problem, what is the solution?

The answer is to be the opposite of fear – to be love and make love-based decisions. I’ve learned that the best way to to make love-based decisions is to take a breath before speaking / writing / acting to evaluate whether what you are about to say / write / do is coming from a place of fear or from a place of love. In that breathing moment ask yourself why are you feeling the way you are (is it feeling based in fear, or based in love) and then choose to act differently if you have to.

Also remember that fear is not who you are, it’s what you are feeling. It’s separate to you and therefor it is possible to take a moment of quiet to look at the feeling from outside of yourself. Eckhart Tolle says “Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not “yours”, not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.”

Divan von Hafiz.jpg
Divan of Hafez, Persian miniature, 1585

To help us further, Hafez gives a suggestion for how to stop living in fear:  have conversations with his Friend (God) in the form of prayer and this will lead to “good things” happening. Notice that he is not saying good things will happen to you, but rather “somewhere in the world”. That’s a biggy. And it’s a very love-based way of thinking. Because we should not be praying or meditating only to benefit ourselves. We are part of this world and share it with many, many, others. What you wish for someone else, you wish also for yourself. So pray for yourself – of course – but share the love by praying for others too.

The last stanza is a message of hope and the reason why we should stop living in fear. When you realise that the “greatest witness” you can be of God is not to live in fear, but to live in such a way that you have “love and playfulness” in your eyes, you will be spreading love wherever you go and to whomever you meet! We should be happy that “good things” are happening all around us and celebrate them.  This then brings us on to gratitude which is a whole separate powerful topic!

One poem, so much truth.

I’d love to hear your comments on Hafez poetry, what you thought of this poem and the fear v. love way of living.

(Can I just say here that I’m no Persian poetry scholar so my interpretation of this poem (probably the first poem I’ve read since High School) is really just that – my interpretation. I may be totally off track or even missing out on some profound wisdom, but for me, for now, this is what I felt when I read Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House.)


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