It was a misty, humid evening, as our group gathered in the Victorian building of the Spiritual Life Center, here in San Francisco, for the first of the three-part mini series on Radical Hospitality. Sitting in a circle, we began our evening with a few moments of silence, focusing on the breath, and allowing ourselves to settle after a busy day.
In our first session, we explored hospitality as an inner stance, an attitude, and a disposition of the heart. Some of our guiding principles came from the book Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, by Lonni Collins Pratt.
- Real hospitality isn’t about what we do—it’s about who we are.
- Hospitality requires not grand gestures but open hearts.
- The biggest obstacle to hospitality is not the state of the world. It is the state of our minds and hearts.
We started by reflecting on the hospitality we offer ourselves. We slowly read the poem The Guest House, listening for what words or images leapt out and spoke to us. We sat in prayer, letting the words deepen within. We then shared our insights in an open-hearted way with each other.
I invite you to take time to slowly read this poem several times, and allow a phrase or image to speak to you. You may want to write in a journal to deepen your insights and understanding.
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
During the course of the evening, we also reflected on a time when we received hospitality, remembering what that experience felt like. I shared my experience at the Abbey of Gethsemani, and the hospitality, welcoming attitude, and kindness I received from the monks, and in particular from Brother Rene. For me, the power of hospitality I received came from being accepted and seen for who I truly was, and for where I truly was in my life. Recall a time you received hospitality? What made that experience so welcoming?