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Build Compassionate Communities

Promoting Hospitality as a Way of Life

Introduction: The Value of Hospitality

Hospitality is a valuable spiritual asset for community building. It is a sacred ancient art that makes room at the table of consciousness for everyone, stranger and guest alike. In the genuine warmth and welcoming spirit that hospitality is most known for, it spans cultural divides as a nonviolent pathway, transcending background and nationality.

Moreover, its inclusivity extends to all creatures and to our environment. While unique social customs may apply, a shared system of spiritual values and principled attitudes that create hospitality’s pure essence remain. And, as with all spiritual values, it is deeply embedded within human consciousness.

In this section, we will provide a working definition of hospitality, and note its importance in community life. Through personal stories and examples, we will show how community workers might apply it in community building, and suggest how it might be further developed and promoted. We will then conclude with some challenges and reflection questions regarding its current use.

Therefore, may you allow this discourse to be more of an invitation – a banquet of ideas to feast upon – to drop into that deeper space from heady logic into heart-felt expanse where you may encounter a resonant field from your own experiences that gives you permission to broaden your scope of perception, to open your thoughtful arms wider, and to embrace yourself, your family, your community, and humanity at-large. Then this very table is set just for you.

To prepare the ground for a rudimentary understanding of hospitality's richness, the Bible will be our initial guide, for it contains libraries of ancient oral stories replete with symbols of hospitality. Comprehending spiritual values is commonly accomplished through symbols that change with every new era. As a result, we can understand the symbols of today from the wisdom of yesterday.

Three stories of wisdom about hospitality have been chosen here to stimulate thought, expand spiritual awareness, and illustrate a new way to process ideas. The first story is that of Abraham, the patriarch of three major world religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – who is often considered the father of nations and the father of hospitality. The second is from Jesus, who gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. And the third is a contemporary story, based on the author’s own experience as a chaplain in today’s correctional institutions. Each of these stories provides an approach that not only touches our sentiments and inspires us to act, but also gives us clear guidance for how to systematically cultivate hospitality through observation, thoughtful questions, and gentle experiments that test our inspiration by moving us out of our comfort zones. In this way, we embody the spiritual values linked with hospitality, enabling them to vivify our way of life.

Especially noticeable within the stories and just as applicable in our times, authentic hospitality and hospitable behavior are able to conquer our fears of refugee migration and various crimes against humanity – hostility, bad blood, genocide, terrorism, and others. The importance and relevance of this understanding for our communities today cannot be overstated, for there is no condition where being the essence of hospitality in our relationships – toward each other, our environment, and all creatures, in all types of communities – will not bless our wide world.

The Story of Abraham

Abram, later renamed Abraham, was the Biblical patriarch who exemplified faith, fidelity, and hospitality. Genesis:12 tells the story of how Abraham was called by God to follow a step-by-step process of inner spiritual growth prior to becoming a successful community builder of developing nations, as was his promised destiny. He would need to:

  • Follow God’s command
  • Separate himself from his own heredity, heritage, traditions, and tribal views
  • Transcend his own sensory indulgences
  • Overcome great hostility from others, as experienced in the war with the five kings
  • Be rewarded by the hospitality of Melchizedek, King of Salem (Peace), who appeared with nourishment – bread, wine, and blessings – for Abram's perseverance in seeking, finding, and utilizing his newly-discovered spiritual assets with each step taken
  • Be renamed Abraham, personally identifying with those spiritual qualities as his own nature

By performing these tasks, Abraham was prepared to humbly provide a true sense of hospitality to visiting messengers through rest and comfort; he offered them shelter and food; he washed their feet; he served and protected them. He was then rewarded with safety for himself, and the promise of a child.

Lessons from the Story of Abraham

Each step Abraham took, and each challenge he overcame, was rewarded by others until he was able to provide that same sense of hospitality to others through his now proven advanced spiritual qualities. Only then would God’s Biblical promise be fulfilled and multiplied throughout the communities and nations that Abraham would father.

This same pattern will work for us in building the true sense of community – our promised child. That definitive step-by-step process, from individual spiritual awakening to trusting the guiding principles, will cast out preconceived notions and obsolete traditions, leaving us with the hospitable nourishment that provides peaceful resolve for the day. Despite today's faster pace, we can tap into our own intuition to release antiquated belief systems that may prevent us from serving our communities from a peace-centered standpoint.

As community workers, we too will be faced or even blind-sided at times with various issues or challenges from co-workers, authorities, or political figures. Therefore, to prepare ourselves, it is well to ask, “Can I expect hospitality to save me from engaging in direct conflict?” and “Can it shift my perception to taking no offense from others’ ill-timed remarks, so that we may all continue to move forward in advancing the community?” When true hospitality is acquired, the answers to these questions will be a resounding “Yes.”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

In the Biblical books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the cornerstone of hospitality is presented:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might....and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(Deuteronomy 6:5)

And further:

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt....

(Leviticus 19:33)

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus exemplifies these laws with his answer to a query of temptation: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). Through the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus then gives an answer showing how hostile brutality could be overcome through a relationship endowed with the full range of hospitality:

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. … Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?"

The questioner said, “He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

(Luke 10:30-34, 36-37, World Bible)


Lessons from the Parable of the Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan displayed an unequaled sense of hospitality that incorporated moral courage in the midst of hostile territory – the courage to be honest, responsible, respectful, fair, and compassionate. And in practice it is "the willing endurance of significant danger for the sake of principle." (Kidder, 1996).

The road where the Good Samaritan happened upon the brutalized stranger was known as “The Way of Blood,” due to the constant, savage muggings normally ending in death. He, therefore, risked all for the sake of this principle – that all life matters – and proved that it is not enough to have spiritual values: Those values must also be put into action.

The Good Samaritan's response also illustrated a new and more advanced model of hospitality, one calling us to aid another in less than welcoming, even abhorrent, circumstances. And possibly even more profound was the fact that Samaritans were hated by the Jews. They were considered a blight on the face of humanity, mortal enemies, despised half-breed outcasts with no access to God or the Temple of Jerusalem.

Yet, here was a Samaritan with a consciousness so undefiled, so pure, that he did not see an enemy. He would illustrate what representatives of the religious and political arenas did not – great empathy, demonstrating compassion and love so lavish it knew no boundaries. The Samaritan bound up the man's wounds, carried him to an inn, cared for him through the night, and also gave the innkeeper enough money to continue his care for two months with the promise of more if needed – an unlimited sense of love without end.

For community builders, this parable leads us to ask ourselves: “Am I willing to become a spiritual activist of hospitality, as was the Good Samaritan?” “Am I a neighbor who loves lavishly in an unqualified way?” “Can I demonstrate love that knows no limitations to my family, let alone an enemy?” “Am I to show the same degree of hospitality to others within my community practice? If so, how?” “Do I understand that as I exemplify these core spiritual values of hospitality in daily practice, this gives others – recipients and observers alike – permission to do the same?” “What will my story be for my community: hospitable behavior, or a detached, apathetic attitude that walks on by?”

Hospitality in the Face of a Hostage Situation in the Justice System

(A recollection from Linn Moffett, the author of this section.)

As a chaplain in seven jails for over eight years, I have seen hospitality shine brightly in some very long and dark corners.

As a bit of a maverick chaplain, I once took action to encourage a county sheriff and guards to allow a separate meeting time for mentally challenged inmates, housed in their own cell block. The guards were ever finding ways to discourage activities for chaplains, and felt that they had the perfect solution to stop my persistence in attempting to bring adequate inspiration, spiritual, moral, and ethical teachings, hope, and comfort to the inmates.

On one of my appointed times for a group service for the men, the regular inmates were ushered into the chapel. The doors were closed and locked, with no attending guards on the inside. This act in itself was completely in violation of the rules. After a short interval, the men from the mentally challenged cell block were brought into the mix and we were all locked inside the same room. Again, with no attending guards. An added violation, as the mentally challenged were never to mix with the regular cell block inmates.

Mayhem ensued, as several guards watched through the back wall of bullet-proof glass, sneering and laughing. To their chagrin, I was completely unafraid as I sat in the front of the room. Then, one of the regular inmates in the front row, a very large man attempting intimidation in the midst of this chaos, stood up, puffed up, faced me directly, then boomed, “Well, honey, are you going to save us all?”

My initial reaction was a giggle. I then humbly responded, “No sir, that is not my job. I leave that up to the Christ.” He silently stood still for a moment, turned to the room of yelling inmates with flying debris, and with authority insisted that everyone sit down and be completely quiet or they would answer to him. Within moments the room was quiet, chairs in place with everyone seated, and there was a tangible presence of respect, honor, and gratitude. I continued the service, not only without any further scene but with a full complement of respectful attention.

This incident completely baffled the guards and brought a renewed respect for the office of chaplain from that time forward. One of the guards inquired, “Why weren't you afraid?” “How could you maintain composure through all of that chaos?” And, “Why did you not seek retribution from the participating guards, including me, in their power play, their complete abuse of the justice system, and your being put in a hostage situation by those who were paid to protect you?”

I gently smiled and advised him that I never did count on any of them for my protection. My protection came from embodying those spiritual qualities belonging to hospitality – an open, receptive, and nurturing love for humanity, along with drawing on the inner peace that calms and comforts no matter the storm. He became very pensive. This story was later circulated among the guards throughout the different maximum security jails. It even rippled into inmates’ cells across county lines as news travelled out into the communities, since it was considered a miraculous event. Having been shown actual evidence of a radical and spiritually-based hospitality, this one incident blessed even those chaplains of different faiths.

Lessons from Hospitality in the Face of a Hostage Situation

A key lesson from this story, and from the other stories cited above, is that to act hospitably sometimes means moving out of one’s personal comfort zone; and it can mean taking some risk. But hospitable action is an incredibly powerful way to expand mind and heart.

So, can you let these stories become subjective? Can you allow them to manifest themselves in your home, in your business, in your thinking, in your body, and in your life – and then to go even beyond action, as we learn the art of being hospitable? After all, this is not only our true nature that we are contemplating; it is our true employment in the rebuilding of our individual natures – for ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Definition: The Nature and Scope of Hospitality

As we have seen through the above examples, hospitality is a compound idea – one that incorporates a number of spiritual values, tightly woven together. Its overarching essence is Love – a love for all of Life's manifestations, taking into consideration the artful details of ambience, service, cuisine, entertainment, and protection that warm and enchant the senses, satisfy the heart with attentive care and tenderness, promote festivity, provide a rhythm to life's expressions, and furnish a safe haven. As such, hospitality is a multi-faceted jewel with a treasure trove of virtues and spiritual values.

Hospitality's roots are derived from the Latin hospes (masculine) and hospita (feminine), and also, according to the Oxford and Webster Dictionaries, from the Old French hospitalite, all pointing to “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Then, as modified by time, “… the business of entertaining clients, business delegates, or other official visitors.”

We also discover from its root that hospitality can refer to both host and guest, or to a traveling guest, or stranger. It is easy to recognize many of the derivative forms that it takes, such as hospice, hostel, hotel, hospital, host, and hostess. The innkeeper was considered as presiding over a house of God, providing a sacred place for shelter and sustenance for travelers, but more to receive strangers as guests.

Hospes/hospita, as stated, is also the source of the word “hospital,” “a word that in 14th-century English referred to an inn; took on in the 15th century the meaning of a refuge for the homeless, and was being used widely by the 16th century for an institution that cares for the sick.” References at the end of this section will allow a more in-depth investigation.

The French scholar and prolific contributor to the Encyclopedia, Chevalier Louis de Jaucourt (1704-1779), describes hospitality as “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.” He pointed out that historically a variety of cultures – in Egypt, Ethiopia, Persia, Italy, Greece, and Rome – expanded hospitality to include edifices built to receive and house foreigners beyond peoples' individual homes, whereas the Israelites narrowed their concept of hospitality when their commerce ended with neighboring communities.

The Germans, Celts, Gauls, and Atlantic peoples considered it sacrilege to close one's door to any man, known or unknown. Asians spared nothing in hosting their visitors, including the washing of feet or full baths prior to their welcoming festivities; afterwards, they would invoke the protecting gods of hospitality to watch over and care for their honored guests. And Indians, the most hospitable of all, treated slaves as themselves and welcomed travelers through the “establishment of hospices and specific magistracies for furnishing travelers with life's necessities,” even to the extent of “taking care of the funerals for those who died on their land.”

Since both giver and receiver were considered blessed through their coming together, it was an accepted form of gratitude for both to leave a gift that marked the hospitality given toward individuals, entire families, and even cities. A coin, piece of wood, or ivory would be cut in half and given to each party for posterity to mark the occasion as sacrosanct, much like the love heart half-necklaces and friendship bracelets of the 20th and 21st centuries. It was also generally accepted across cultures that if hospitality was not granted to an individual or group, it was considered a crime against humanity

Globally then, we discover that hospitality was considered a sacred art that united all nations, until commerce broke the ties of benevolence among individuals and shifted their focus from a love of people to a love of financial interest. Now, through a detached sense of humanity, the wealthy pay for the services of hospitality, further severing the ties that bind the hearts of men in fellowship.

Do we now understand that being authentically hospitable is a matter of our whole orientation to ourselves and to each other, as it redefines all of our relationships? It might also help to consider how blending the elements of hospitality enables us to touch the sentiments, creating a definite feeling of hospitality. A hospitable person is likely to exhibit tangible generosity of spirit, confidently comfortable and co-operative charitableness, unsparing graciousness, ungrudging sincerity, and an all-inclusive welcome with open-heartedness and festivity.

So as we sit on the hearth of hospitality, in the warmth of its grand array, we may contemplate the infinite range of its expression. We can hear its call, inviting us in to partake of this consciousness so vital to our own needs and that of our communities.

The Importance of Hospitality and Hospitable Behavior for Community Building

The Relevance of Hospitable Behavior

As we begin to understand through our definitions, stories, and a few real-life examples of hospitality, every layer of hospitable behavior reveals something new about the cohesiveness of the larger community of mankind. These lessons are not only relevant, but imperative for our health, welfare, and general living conditions.

People are hungry for community, and for communities that connect us in meaningful ways, especially when events, such as our current immigration crisis, challenge previous societal norms. As Michal Vasecka, a university sociologist from the Czech Republic, has stated: “We are deeply uninclusive societies. Migration reveals this unpleasant truth about ourselves.”

It is true that these are extraordinary times, uncovering our deepest fears. Could there then be a better time for authentic hospitality, inspired by love, to re-appear? Community builders have the potential to alter unhealthy barriers and welcome newcomers into a true community – one that is rich in diversity, conscious in acceptance, and where there is room at the table for everyone. Being hospitable can transform all of our relationships.

The Convergence of the Sciences and Spirituality in Hospitable Behavior

An emerging and exciting trend of consciousness studies is that neuroscience and psychotherapy are including and adopting spiritual practices. These in turn are re-creating practical approaches to overcome addictive spirals, and to help people heal from old, even generational traumas, so that they may live full, productive, and empowered lives. Those lives may then serve their beloved communities from a hospitable, healed space instead of being held hostage to their wounded places and combustible fear-based behaviors.

The neurosciences, supported by interdisciplinary scientific collaborations, now have definitive proof that the human nervous system responds very effectively to those spiritual characteristics inherent within hospitality. More than that, evidence shows that new pathways to higher functioning are simultaneously created – the brain actually lights up, creating a sense of euphoria.

Some sample developments:

  • Heartmath, which utilizes modern technology to teach people how to live from the heart, is just one of many scientific organizations that recognizes humanity's need to move from learned habits that are less than hospitable and that negatively affect the health of mankind. It emphasizes technological tools to enhance spiritual-mindedness.
  • Bruce H. Lipton, a pioneering biologist, has shown in his Biology of a Belief and other books how our limited and temporal belief systems shape patterns of behavior that affect every cell within our bodies. Negative input appears as disease, whereas spiritual-mindedness filled with positive input appears as a co-operative system that is able to spontaneously evolve.
  • The Science of Being Institute takes a different approach, by redefining human anatomy as a system of temporal beliefs that could keep mankind entangled in a false framework of reference ruled by selfishness instead of selflessness. Such systems can train us out of our basic spiritual essence, even though we are naturally open to the heart of humanity, and can spontaneously evolve with a spiritual understanding that elevates the human race.

These are just a few organizations and individuals dedicated to re-educating and helping humanity that take a different direction to heal old wounds for the betterment of our communities and all their residents. If we can therefore cultivate and develop those characteristics that create hospitable behavior, we will get a direct payoff by living better and caring for each other all along the way.

The Effectiveness of Hospitality in Community Building

The effect of hospitality on an individual and/or community is to stir the human sentiments to a more loving standard of being – cooperating and cohabitating as neighborhoods within communities.

Community builders will discover that to be truly effective, a few key elements of hospitality must be perpetually present: mutual respect, the ethics of reciprocity, and friendly, interdependent co-operation. These powerful components help gain trust that builds personal confidence in relationships and therefore helps construct a thriving and sustainable community, where individuals continue to be inspired to work with each other for the common good.

However, many times it is more difficult to be effective with people that we do know or have been working with, since we have made assumptions about them. It may be easier to be hospitable toward those we are not close to. If we discover this is true, it is a definite call to check our motives. Do we actually embrace the qualities of hospitality as part of our own nature, or is it just surface appearance? If it is superficial, we are in for a rude awakening, since the deep-seated truth of any situation will eventually rise to the surface, compromising the health of any relationship and certainly any joint effort.

Recalling the Good Samaritan's supremely effective hospitality, we should ask ourselves: “Will we walk on the other side of the street or not even look into the eyes of that homeless person, thereby depriving him or her of being considered worthy of membership in our community?” “Have we ever shared a sandwich with them on the curbside or under a tree?” “Do we understand, or just underestimate, their predicament?” “Are we able to care, to take the time to talk with them, and not think that by giving them a dollar we have fulfilled our quota in being a community builder?” That has never been an effective solution.   

It is true that some are mentally challenged, and others abuse the system from learned responses to poverty; but it is also true that some have fallen prey to the economic crisis, forced migration, or an abusive situation, and that any form of hospitality would bring relief to their suffering.

And are we conscious of those in need within our communities? This is not to imply that we should look for problems that are not there, but rather to be conscious and ready to extend a helping hand to all living beings, whether by providing directions to a stranger with the gift of a warm smile, by picking up a baby bird that has fallen from her nest and gently putting her back in, or by helping a senior bicyclist who has found the only pothole in the street and crashed in the midst of traffic.

All these scenarios and certainly many more are invitations to become conscious of our community surroundings and to promote hospitality as an effective and health-giving solution, both in minor details as well as in major community projects.


Photo by Davide Bonaldo | Dreamstime (ID 94761829) Immigrants March

Favorable Conditions for Being Hospitable

All conditions are favorable for being hospitable, but some are more favorable than others. It is especially desirable and useful to be hospitable when:

  • There have been particular conflicts in the community.
  • There is a particular opportunity for community leaders and members to promote hospitality, such as when there has been an influx of new residents to the community, whether as job-seekers, refugees, or otherwise.
  • Some members of the community have been criticized, rejected, or physically or emotionally harmed simply because of their association with a particular group or category.

But another favorable and necessary condition for hospitality involves personal, spiritual, and physical preparation. If such preparation has not been made, it is much more difficult for true hospitality to be expressed. For real change, transformation, metamorphosis – whatever term appeals to you – is ushered in only through spirit-infused messages as when heart speaks to waiting heart. It is important to ask yourself if you are ready and able to have the humility that it takes to allow these changes to take place.

As an example, let’s consider a community meeting I once chaired as President. It had escalated into hostile expressions of strong differences of opinion. One person's passionate reaction, voice tonality, and body language had been triggered by a single word in a discussion and immediate hostility ensued, leading to verbal battle. But as Chair, I engaged in a full array of hospitable behavior, as sacred listening, empathy, a peaceful resolve, and mindful (not reactionary) response were welcomed into my thought. The situation gently defused; the atmosphere shifted to the positive, demonstrating that hospitable behavior strengthened the group, with the added benefit of providing an example of how hospitality can pro-actively resolve conflicts.

Across the globe, the world convulses with old and new forms of more aggressive acts of oppression, tyranny, and terror, because the collective consciousness is being fed through negativity. Yet this is exactly where heartfelt hospitality is able to break down such negative influences. Through inner stillness, the qualities of hospitality provide the balance innately woven within the structure of each one of us, our beautiful planet, and our universe – from a blade of grass to the cosmos and everything in between. We just need to be reminded of who we really are and how we can attune to this larger system, since our lives extend far beyond our perceived limitations.

That is, a fundamental aspect of hospitality and of our human experience is that all life is interdependent, operating as an integral whole. We need each other. As translated down to our everyday experiences, it is not necessarily what is said, it is rather what the other person hears that has everything to do with how we make them feel. Therefore, the qualities of hospitality play a crucial role in every part of our everyday life – not just in the basic courtesy or warm welcome extended to a guest in our home, or even to an action to reconcile a disagreement. In this sense, the definition of “home” can be extended and redefined to be that sacred place called spiritual consciousness, which is always hospitable.

And yet, some of the bigger questions remain. To what extent are we ready to take on a commitment to being fully hospitable? How far will we go to advocate for an individual case, service, or cause that would raise the community to be a model for others to follow? Do we have the courage to really listen to the community's heartbeat, move into its rhythm, and participate at any level? Is it our responsibility? Are we willing to move out of our perceived comfort zones to extend comfort to others right where they are?

My personal experience has been that if you are the one that is presented with a community challenge, then it is yours to meet; for at some level you have been prepared for it to show up and teach you higher levels of hospitable behavior for the community and its people. We must learn to take off self-imposed limitations to discover our freedom and therein find moments of free time to serve our communities and both create and sustain more favorable conditions.

How to be Hospitable: Stories and Lessons of Hospitality in Action

As community builders, there are almost unlimited opportunities to provide hospitality, in widely varying settings. And offering such hospitality can allow us to express our creativity in ways that can not only involve sharing a festive meal, but can also enchant the senses, furnish a safe haven, and satisfy the heart with attentive care and tenderness.

Let’s give some examples. In this part of our section, we offer some varied stories and lessons about hospitality in action.

Hospitality across Cultural Divides

An assignment from a major Japanese corporation was for me to provide hospitality to a young Japanese couple who had just arrived in America on a five-year contract. I was chosen to make them feel at home in their new culture – a high honor, since Japanese people are known for their hospitality. This position drew upon the full range of what I knew about hospitality and had been using as a daily practice of service to humanity.

Our first meeting was mildly successful. The twenty-something couple came to visit for a casual lunch. They were gently curious about everything and requested a full tour of my modest home. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I had a penchant for Orientalia, they exuded excitement as they came upon a triptych, an original artwork by a famous Japanese artist. My guest explained that this work represented the ancient art of Chokin, originating in 10th and 11th -century Japan to decorate Samurais' armaments, and that the original meaning of samurai is “those who serve.” The core values of a samurai and of hospitality are much the same.

The next week, my husband and I were invited to their apartment and treated as highly honored guests. The husband and wife, donning their beautiful kimonos, greeted us in deeply held low bows of stillness. They explained their social customs as we were humbly led through the rituals of bowing, shoe removal, and sitting on the floor. There we received small hot cleansing towels and then experienced the full tea ceremony with freshly prepared confections and a gentle conversation that continued for about three hours. The tea was a delicious extravagance from Japan. Attuned to my sensory delight, they presented me with a generous supply of tea as a gift.

Their every movement was an exquisite display of fluidity, poetry, and attentiveness – an art where every motion was accomplished with such conscious awareness as to paint beauty into the atmosphere being breathed in and then translated as inner peace.

I was so deeply infused with this type of prayerful practice that I would never be the same; I would now upgrade my sense of hospitality into everyday gratitude and service of this type at home and within my community.

Can you imagine a community permeated with this type of hospitality? Where harmonypromotes a feeling of oneness with all people and all nature, including the atmospheric conditions. Where respect is naturally born of a grateful heart and animates one’s every action toward others and even to inanimate objects. Where purity of thought is as important as the cleanliness of one's home or a dish, the spiritual focus remaining the same throughout every task. And, where a tangible state of tranquility, not attainable through conscious effort but as a way of grace, serves as the same dynamic and significant force that infused the tea ceremony. Are you ready to embrace this honorable and peace-centered state of being for your own sake and that of your home, community, and country?

These deep underlying qualities have been preserved for millennia. They yield an enhanced life-style that is warm and welcoming, higher profitability in all things including relationships, and greater long-term growth, development, and sustainability for the community and its people. Who would not want to bring these combined energies to bear in building this new model of hospitable behavior?



Photo by Sjors737 | Dreamstime (ID 50973378) Daily Life in Kenyan Village

Teaching Children Hospitality - From the Remote Areas of Africa

A simple and beautifully touching practice in remote areas of Kenya is that young children are taught to always prepare more food at every meal than is necessary for the family, in constant anticipation that a weary traveler might be in need of sustenance and a place to rest for the night.

This is an early education in hospitality where the gift of benevolence is from their abundant heart, not from scarcity or want. Nor does fear enter in, for there is an unspoken reality that any traveler would be a fool to steal from or harm a host, since the entire community would become first responders to protect any host family. And though tribalism remains prevalent, a vibrancy still radiates into the neighborhoods and binds them together, continuing to strengthen their cohesiveness through hospitable behavior toward each tribe, as common ground is shared. The successful story of Ngochoni Petals of Africa School is just such a narrative.

Hospitality within an Interfaith Foundation on a University Campus

The only interfaith foundation located on a university campus in the U.S. is housed in a small temporary building, but one normally burgeoning with the smiling faces of students, clergy, and professors. It is a hub of activity where spiritual meetings, counsellings, and multi-faith services occur constantly. A unique aspect of this community also involves a well-attended weekly luncheon open to students, professors, priests, chaplains, ministers, rabbis, imams, and any other denomination wishing to be represented.

Sharing meals together is an aspect of hospitality that builds strong relationships, seen here in the joy of working with each other – in this case, through setting up and breaking down tables and chairs, decorating for celebrations, group cooking and serving of food, musical performances, and stimulating conversations.

An abundant cultural diversity is ever-present. Everyone interacts with loving countenances, whether they are doing homework, socializing, eating, or praying individually or collectively. Fundraising events are always well attended, since the key attributes of hospitality are shared – warm welcomes, willing hands, and open hearts.

This Interfaith Foundation provides a safe haven where hospitality is practiced effortlessly on a daily basis, as a natural outcome of love and gratitude for its sacred space on campus.

Hospitality in Sunday School Classes and Neighborhoods Open Forums

Teaching all age levels of Sunday school classes in a church and teaching multi-cultural Open Forums in neighborhoods have brought considerable opportunities to utilize and teach hospitality and hospitable behavior for more than 30 years. Through use of stories and symbols (Jedi Training was a favorite for the youngsters – do not be afraid of improvisation and innovation) appropriate for each grade level, hospitable attitudes were discussed and practiced as the youth wrestled with moral and ethical issues, too often far beyond their innocence.

Spiritual teaching is not meant to be theoretical, but rather supremely practical in the everyday lives of each of us, and it is certainly necessary to train our youth in interacting with family and friends, classmates, school groups, and teachers. Hospitality and its inherent qualities are needed assets for their mental lunch boxes and to counteract popular cultural obsessions, such as noses in cell phones. I supported their growing understanding through mentoring sociability beyond Sunday school and open forums, by attending their school classrooms, drama clubs, and dinners with parents. This provided a blueprint for the students and parents to follow in being hospitable within their own spheres.

As a servant leader, teacher, and radical hospitality advocate, this work was a true community-building activity that gave young children, youth, and adults a very different experience, with a focus on the importance of creating communities based on their inherent hospitable qualities.

Hospitality in the Resort Industry

When I was working in the hospitality industry, with Silver Tray and French Service training, an opportunity was presented to take these skill sets to a large newly-acquired ski resort in New York to interview, select, and train the entire service staff. This offer was presented not just for the skills that had been developed, but more for the fact that I was considered one of the most successful servers, based on gratuities received.

I was forced to analyze why this was true – for at the time, I was just grateful for the income. As this opportunity unfolded, I interviewed a large contingent of New York residents with little to no service background. Therefore, hiring choices were largely based upon personality, since skills can be taught to those who are open and receptive to learning something new. I also had the pleasure of planning and selecting the new interior design color palette and all accessories to create an ambiance of warmth, generosity, and wealth.

However, in order for the resort and staff to be successful, I discovered that it was the culturing of spiritual qualities found inherent in the term hospitality that was necessary and would also need to be included as a vital aspect of the staff's training. Naturally and effortlessly, this then translated to a very successful resort experience for the guests and the staff, and kept the resort running above 90% occupancy. This same principle applies to the success of volunteerism in not-for-profit activities, including fund/friend-raising and community work.

Today we are entering a new area of economics, but the sacred continues to evolve in all things; and we shall discover that the same spiritual qualities and ethics found in hospitality are true for all of mankind's endeavors.

Hospitality from a Unique Bed and Breakfast Perspective

As we have noted, hospitality in recent years has taken on more of a capitalistic orientation, of entertaining business clients, delegates, or other official visitors. But the real-life experience described below can help us in understanding the business of hospitality from a spiritual viewpoint, and that viewpoint’s impact upon the larger community

The owner/hostess of a bed and breakfast (B&B) in an artistic community shared a unique perspective. Her idea of hospitality was to set a good table. This woman, a self-pronounced non-religious individual with the heart of a lion and soul of an artist, practiced the height of hospitality daily in creating an atmosphere that welcomed all without bias or judgment of any sort. She saw no enemies and never met a stranger. Clients who attempted confrontation were disarmed with compassion. This consciousness proved to be a bulwark of safety and hospitable giving for more than 17 years in her home as a bed and breakfast hostess.

It was not an ordinary B&B. She and her husband started the bed and breakfast as a way to fund-raise for their favorite charity. For the first three years, all proceeds went to the charity, not just a percentage. Their joy was so great and unburdened that they decided to design and build a “'green” home to provide a special respite for travelers – an idea far in advance of the green movement of today.

In the design, beautiful form and function were taken into account at every turn, from the angle of the house to the sun's trajectory, placement of cathedral-style windows and skylights, solar energy panels, and rainwater caught into huge holding tanks, all proving that their concept of hospitality transcended the norm and extended to the environment, the land, and the abundant wildlife in this seaside village in the pines. No wonder they were wildly successful. And this all began when she was 65 years young.

This B&B owner/hostess described her clientele as a self-selected group quite different from travelers seeking the hotel/motel experience of anonymity. Her guests, old and new looked forward to family-style morning breakfasts with lively face-to-face conversations. Baroque music softly caressed each thought as the smell of fresh coffee ladened the air, and Swedish pancakes, fresh fruit, and syrup tantalized the taste buds. All this was against the backdrop of a warm, colorfully-set table with touches of whimsy that pleasured the soul, high on a hill looking through cathedral windows onto a pine forest just a mile from the Pacific Ocean.

Who could resist such a delightful experience, an undefiled expression of love in action? Certainly, this woman knew how to set a good table and to operate a thriving business, but also to serve the community through the spiritual asset of hospitality.

The Transformative Power of Hospitality

As we learn more about the guiding principles of hospitality, do not be surprised if a transformation begins to appear. Where might that transformation lead?

Within yourself, it might lead you to become more:

  • Inspired and courageous
  • Clear (selfless, unencumbered by agendas)
  • Disciplined and happy
  • Powerful (“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace” – Jimi Hendrix)
  • Abundant
  • Openly authentic and dignified
  • Peaceful
  • Filled with purpose for the common good

Toward others, you might become more:

  • Welcoming and receptive (as a listener)
  • Compassionate
  • Focused
  • Friendly, polite, and relatable
  • Generous and charitable
  • Honest
  • Comforting and comfortable
  • Filled with grace, and ready to reciprocate and nourish

And the Community itself might become more:

  • Mindfully curious
  • Resilient
  • Steadfast
  • Responsible and constructive in dialogue
  • Dynamic
  • Ethical
  • Resolved
  • Joy-filled, in celebration that its members have the honor to be in service to it

Cultivating hospitality and hospitable behavior is one of the wisest possible investments: It is an investment in self, in relationships, in community, and in global affairs.

Developing and Promoting the Art of Hospitality

As can be seen and felt through the previous illustrations, a first requirement in developing and promoting hospitality is to approach the setting from a peaceful center of prepared and expectant thought. But, how do we get there from here?

Recall that hospitality is a spiritual value with many branches, reaching out in a non-linear manner. Accordingly, developing hospitality requires an openness and receptivity of thought as the starting point for the seed of hospitality to grow, develop, and be promoted. Many methods enable us to move into a central space of inner peace. And while what works for one might not work for another, one useful pathway is described below.

Teaching and Leaning Hospitality and Hospitable Behavior through a Meditative Practice

 For those searching for a way to calm their internal chatter and to rediscover their spiritual center for authentic hospitality to shine through, I have designed a creative process called Seven Steps to Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness. A description and details of these Seven Steps are given in a tool that accompanies this section. The Seven Steps have proven to be very effective in transforming behaviors not previously aligned with hospitality’s spiritual values. While this process is not meant to be proscriptive or prescriptive, it can speed individual and collective or group progress to learn how to:

  • Grasp the nuances of hospitality that can expand one’s frame of reference
  • Enhance confidence, empower gentleness of spirit, and move unhelpful emotional behavior out of consciousness
  • Hear and heed one’s inner voice of guidance, to enable the constant discovery of fresh, innovative ideas
  • Allow the flow of a genuine hospitable demeanor that continues to expand and become more inclusive for its community

The Seven Steps teach us that we should celebrate goodness wherever found, for the spirit of hospitality is most ardently felt when human relationships, familiar customs, and the belief systems of old are undergoing dramatic changes. And we should embrace these changes with gratitude and appreciation, since these are measures of our spiritual evolution from hostility to hospitality.

While we have identified seven key steps to cultivate spiritual consciousness, continued practice is the key. We should not think that a surface study of this or any teaching and learning tool will accomplish anything. We are rather describing a meditative practice that requires persistence, cherishing, and nurturing hospitality to bring forward its gifts. We should listen to our soul with newfound spiritual understanding, for that opens doors to profoundly enhance our lives and the communities we live, work, and play in. In the words of Lao Tzu, “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”

To bring home the practical value of meditative practice, let us illustrate with some examples showing how such practice can lead to powerful real-world results.


Real-life Examples of How Meditative Practice Inspires Building Community

Training Volunteers in the Art of Hospitality

I was called upon by the headquarters of a major East Coast publishing house to recruit and develop a cadre of over 100 volunteer publisher representatives to contact bookstores on the West Coast. This entailed training in many areas. It was a grassroots project requiring a pioneering spirit; the new recruits who wanted to be part of this project had very little experience in anything closely related.

The new recruits needed to be trained in hospitality. This training was interactive, based on the Seven Steps to Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness, described in the Appendix to this section. It taught how to overcome resistance by first addressing resistance within ourselves. This method acts as a filtration system that answers objections before they arise, in an approach so gentle that it is rarely recognized.

In addition to gathering the recruits and training them through group and individual sessions, it was my job to orchestrate bookstore events, and the volunteer's work to ensure that every bookstore in the Los Angeles basin and surrounding cities was fully stocked with a particular book. Since many bookstores had not heard of this book or author, it was very necessary for the volunteers to understand and assimilate the spiritual qualities of hospitality – for these assets are more effective influencers than traditional sales techniques. And ultimately, the majority of stores responded positively by carrying this book.

The majority of the volunteers had absolutely no experience in the area of hospitality, let alone meeting face-to-face with managers who did not want to stock anything beyond what was already on their shelves and back rooms. It quickly became apparent that a large group training day on hospitality was needed. I set out to find a facility that would accommodate a large group meeting centrally located to the majority of volunteers.

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover a premier hotel of historical significance in Manhattan Beach, CA, owned by a former movie star with a heart of great benevolence. As I shared my hope to do a mass training on hospitality for our work, she offered her hotel and personnel gratis if she and some of her staff could attend the sessions. It was a beautiful example of Love's synchronicity.

As a servant leader who saw this project succeed through those volunteers, my gratitude continually spilled over. Gratitude is another powerful aspect of hospitality that gives birth to unexpected blessings in unforeseen ways of sheer delight – expect this in your own work!

In this example, a micro-community of devoted individuals was created within an enormous metropolis, spreading the spiritual qualities of hospitality on every street they traveled, in every hand shaken, and in every bookstore. Its impression can still be felt. And it was recognized and appreciated by the East Coast publisher, who then sent me to represent them and train others at American Book Association meetings in Chicago, then to Boston, and to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to further train an international group of sales managers.

Hospitality within the Neighborhood

Every morning in the wee hours of a breaking dawn, I would walk my two beloved Afghan Hounds prior to getting the household up and out to school and myself to work. It was often a time of deep reflection and prayer to start the day. However, admittedly there were times that walking the dogs often felt more like a chore, instead of appreciating all that these beauties gave to the family unit. And there were days when I actually resented this activity, even though the dogs were not my children's but mine.

But one day, after many years of walking the same route throughout the neighborhood, an elderly neighbor came outside to engage us. She let me know that she was moving. At first thought, since I was also President of our homeowner's association, I assumed that was her reason for approach.

However, as she continued, she informed me with undeterred gratitude that every morning she would sit by the window with her coffee and wait for us to walk by. This very act of walking my dogs caused her to feel a sense of deep peace and complete safety. She further confided that she could feel the love I expressed for my dogs and for our community partly by my being consistently present over so many years.

We embraced as tears freely flowed for our individual reasons of sheer gratitude. Such gratitude is a powerful aspect of hospitality – for one cannot effectively receive without knowing how to give unconditionally. The welcome recognition that I had touched someone's heart without being consciously aware of it was actually an “unconditional” act of giving love, flowing unrestrictedly out into the community.

This was a powerful example of hospitality in action. Here is another:

The Direct Healing Power of Hospitality

As a Chaplain, my early morning spiritual practice after walking my Afghan Hounds was to study, meditate, and pray for several hours prior to any other activity. One morning a friend, who was driving a great distance to share a pre-planned shopping day, literally blew through the front screen door enraged due to a difficult three-hour trip. Another motorist had attempted to run her off the road and nearly succeeded. It did not help her red-faced and shaking body to discover that I was still at prayerful study and not ready to shop. For every time I attempted to get up to dress, it was as if a hand on my shoulder sat me back down to continue in prayer. I obliged without question.

The preparation of spiritual consciousness was about to open several gifts in this one day. First, as I quietly looked upon my friend in my home, without leaving my chair and without a word, I witnessed her rage melt like hot wax down her body to her feet and then disappear. She stood in stillness for a moment, then warmly smiled and gently asked if I was now able to get ready for our day together. I lovingly smiled and moved to do just that.

Second, now completely refreshed and relaxed, she insisted on driving. As we approached our first destination, there were two men holding torn hand-made cardboard signs of “Will work for food.” Not an uncommon sight for all too many years now. However, this time was very different for me. I insisted that we stop to talk to one man in particular. My friend was completely against this activity, but with a definite confidence I boldly persisted. I knew exactly which man I was to speak with and made arrangements to pick him up the next day.

From a perspective of worldly consciousness, my friend insisted I was not only foolish but over-the-top unwise (attended by several expletives!). It consumed her thought as continued objections flowed from her heart. How could I even consider taking a homeless man into my home? These objections lasted throughout the entire day of shopping and ranged from every suggestion of robbery to bodily suffering and torture to violent death, all in an attempt to move my thought from the higher consciousness that I was entertaining into a state of fear. Any portion of fear would have satisfied her.

Even as I tried to quench her fears with every breath, I could see that my statements, although filled with the spirit of love, were never going to be enough to convince her that there is safety in following spiritual intuition that permeates consciousness. And maintaining the purity of one’s spiritual intuition is necessary to assure that safety – for even a thought seed of corruption, no matter how slight or subtle, will spoil the entire blessing and cause it to drop into the land where fear is king. To maintain the axiom, “As in heaven, so on earth” was my current job, and she (and I) were about to discover this in real time through my experience, which she would later share.

We had been best friends for a very long time; our children had gone through their teen years together and were now on their own with their own families. My only roommates were my beloved pets. Normally I would have considered her objections, given her strong ability to persuade based on our long friendship. However, this situation did not come under the umbrella of anything humanly derived or contrived. It was an invitation from my spiritual intuition to accept the man's work in exchange for food.

After picking the man up the next day, I showed him all that needed repair in my home. Previous handymen and carpenters had advised that some small items were not repairable. I was about to discover the largesse of hospitality’s blessing – for both of us. This man was a talented carpenter and advised that everything could be repaired, from the smallest of items to the larger.

My next insistence to this fellow involved a much needed shower, while I washed all of his belongings including his sleeping bag. The smells were very difficult to work with and overcome, but I was able to provide him with fresh clothing from a son's closet that I had not gone through and then cooked him a full hot meal prior to any work expected or accomplished. Our dinner conversation was completely open as he shared his experiences of being homeless – the why's and the wherefores. Based on laws from another state, his former wife had taken the house he had designed and built for their life together, leaving him with only his truck and tools.

Then he had been beaten, and had all of his tools stolen, then his truck. He literally had nothing left. Another homeless man had provided him with the stinky sleeping bag that he had been using for over a year – his only warmth and sense of comfort. When I met him, he was living under a bridge. And, being homeless, he was forced to be continually on the move, hiding under bushes or highway underpasses, since a homeless person in our society often runs afoul of the law. (Law enforcement is frequently on the lookout to move homeless people out of their communities. Has your own city become a City of Compassion and hospitality in the broadest sense? If so, inherent blessings will be revealed.)

I was so divinely impelled by this gentle man's presence and complete honesty that I offered him a full complement of hospitality in exchange for his work. This included sharing my home, with his own bathroom and new toiletries, and preparation of all food – we ate meals together, I did his laundry, and trusted him in my home when I worked and shopped for the food. He repaired everything with the talent of an artisan and beyond, even to painting a room. In the evenings, we shared brilliant conversations, board games, and television; we became great “roommates.”

He accepted my hospitality for about a month when my best friend, though originally antagonistic to this situation, asked if he would help at her home in the mountains (since I hadn’t turned up dead). He agreed. She was able to provide him with a small wage and a place to live in exchange for his work. Several months later, she helped him find his next position, a more lucrative situation that allowed him to re-enter a new way of life where he belonged, because he had been healed of his grief and deep resentment.

There is no way to measure the benefits of the expansion of consciousness and spiritual power brought about by this full experience in hospitality, with all of its added blessings to everyone participating. We spiritually heard each other’s song, sang it back to them, and strengthened the fabric of humanity as a whole by a small degree.


Photo by Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime (ID 68293877) From the Remote Areas of Africa; Neighborhood Yard Party

Potential Start-up Ideas for Hospitality in Neighborhoods

Community Hospitality Night

Many communities I have lived in participate in an annual Hospitality Night, usually in December. It is a wonderful celebration of community in the downtown area where neighbors meet. Holiday decorations and lights line the streets creating a sense of magic, while neighbors stroll with their families and pets, greeting others and meeting new friends.

Live music is in the air and throughout the streets, with costumed carolers roaming, and a special arrival of Santa and his reindeer at his “house,” with real snow trucked in from the mountains of California for the children. As their parents wait in line, the children can play in the snow before sharing their hopes and dreams with Santa. There are tree lightings, church choir bells, and sing-alongs, with trolleys up and down the coastline adding to the celebration.   

Ceremonies of appreciation and gratitude for community members and volunteers for their individual contributions take center stage and are a vital aspect of this hospitable celebration. Businesses provide food and drink gratis along with significant store discounts; some even hire talented musicians who create their own ambience within the individual stores. It is an atmosphere of warmth, joy, and goodwill that affects the behavior of all participating – so much so, that I have witnessed several long-term neighbor-to-neighbor misunderstandings melt within this infectious climate of kindness and fellowship.


Hospitality Gift Baskets for New Neighbors

While the greatest gift of all would be to cast a loving thought into the heart of a new neighbor, an additional idea is a gift basket to allow hospitality to enter with the spirit of a warm and genuine smile. A basket filled with information about the new neighborhood, along with an introduction to local restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, and churches, and together with a chamber of commerce map of the area and coupons from local businesses can all be very useful. But don't neglect the creative inclusion of favorite delectable items, flowers, or plants from those individuals delivering the basket, for these can begin a conversation and help get to know a new neighbor and family.

If children are involved, this is also a wonderful opportunity for established neighbors to bring their children for introductions, which also becomes a teaching moment for the giver and receiver of the wonders of hospitality within the neighborhood. Yet don't leave it there: A follow-up visit would show that your hospitable intentions are genuine.


Some Other Ideas

Other ideas might include:

  • Block parties, which could grow into full neighborhood-wide parties
  • Cooking a shared meal together with different friends, neighbors, and invited guests
  • A potluck meal with friends to support a favorite local charity, shelter, or halfway house
  • An open house for the holidays, serving a meal to whomever walks in the door – this was a huge success in my experience for 21 years on New Year's Day, as part of a French Toast Celebration while watching the Rose Bowl Parade.

Be creative, and explore new ways to share your hospitality and your love within your community, overcoming any latent fears that would impede your moving forward.


Some Lessons for Community Builders

  • To build a culture of hospitality within the communities we serve, our first imperative is to address our own spiritual centeredness, and to develop a starting point of peace.
  • Next, we must effectively identify a community's needs, by recognizing the new drivers of change: consciousness-building, education, environment, socioeconomic conditions, and technology.
  • Then we need to unlock innovative approaches to serve basic human needs hospitably, based upon being valued, interconnectedness, safety, staying in wonderment, and having fun along the way (don't take yourself too seriously).
  • While engaged in this process, community builders should ask: “Does this innovation address a basic need in a new and creative way?” “What new expectations will be created?” “What impact will it have on the community?” “How will it influence the community's residents, visitors, and tourists?” “Will there be any ramifications from the proposed change(s)?” And “How will hospitality's qualities continue to be the motivating force for residents and visitors alike?”
  • Finally, we must keep the momentum going, by continuing to inspire hospitable behavior. To do so, we should:
    • Light each other's enthusiasm, and ability to launch their own innovative ideas.
    • Create a shared platform for innovation through collaboration – for the work is faster, more effective, and definitely more enjoyable when done together.
    • Empower each other as valued and trusted colleagues and innovators. We shouldn’t fear experimentation through blending ideas; our vulnerabilities can be a source of courage for change.
    • Disrupt routines to keep our work fresh, without interfering with incremental changes for the community: Be spontaneous!
    • Recognize that each participant can make an invaluable difference.
    • If we can apply these principles in practice, that will surely bring us closer to the hospitable community we all desire.

Challenges, Issues, and Questions for Reflection

We have reviewed hospitality from individual and collective standpoints – frequently looking inward, for hospitality is an inner journey of self-realization, revealing beautiful spiritual characteristics that reside within each one of us.

However, there will be many challenges to our authenticity in being hospitable. One of the most common is disagreement with another, which tends to show up through competitive and comparative evaluations made by the ego. Until we learn how to build or re-build a strong inner core of spiritual qualities that are not at odds with each other, patient listening will be required.

In essence, we need to unlearn the false societal educational messages that bind us to childhood beliefs and generational traumas, instead of our evolving to a higher state of conscious hospitable behavior. We seek a conscious coming together in unity (comm-unity) where we feel safe, because we know our neighbors' attitude matches our own – with a strong bond of reciprocity – leading to a sense of trustworthiness, caring, and well-being. This is as contrasted with a false sense of safety that is devoid of the aforementioned spiritual assets.

Take a moment to consider this example: How it would be for you to receive hospitality, from the perspective of an immigrant refugee family that had just arrived in town? Respond to their plight as if it were your own; let compassion well up within you as you feel their sense of being displaced, knowing no one, having no compass point of reference, with little to no resources, being homeless, with pangs of hunger evident through pain-stricken faces with tattered clothes barely hanging from exhausted bodies worn down by devastating life-experiences, sitting on a curb looking like deer stunned in the headlights of complete uncertainty.

Do you look the other way or just not see? Or does the cry of the tear-stained face of a child break your heart enough to grab your attention? Are you prepared to offer some semblance of comfort? – a cup of clean water, a caring conversation, a list of resources available for temporary aid, expressions of hope for a better life, or an acknowledgement that their arrival is a wonderful asset for the community?

Now imagine, instead of a single family, that your community is presented with an entire community of immigrants in need of a fresh start. What would this scale of integration look like, as it presents challenges and issues much broader than most communities have ever considered? Here is where the rubber meets the road. In today’s climate of large-scale immigration, this is an important topic for consideration. How can your spiritual asset of hospitality help inform the attitudes and policies of individuals, communities, and whole nations?

Does the statement of Michal Vasecka, the university sociologist, ring truer now? “We are deeply uninclusive societies. Migration reveals this unpleasant truth about ourselves.” But have we now learned enough about hospitality to be its personal spiritual embodiment and to remove this unhealthy barrier to ourselves and others? Are we open-hearted, willing to listen, and able to welcome newcomers inclusively and warmly, as we steadily plow through the challenges that face both sides, but which when addressed are sure to enliven, enrich, and enhance an integrated community?

Here we may remind ourselves of two fundamental characteristics of hospitality: (1) The core identity of every person is their spiritual nature; and (2) We are all interdependent. These are universal laws that may help us to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” and not to regard anyone as a foreigner, so that they may rather feel they fit into their new surroundings in a lovingly warm and profound way without judgment. This is the true essence and value of hospitality, a spiritual asset that has never been more needed.

Community work can also be a training ground where people can continue to work through their unresolved personal and behavioral issues, which may be nothing more than f

Tool: Seven Steps to Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness - A Meditative Practice with Healing in its Wings

This is an invitation to quietly and thoughtfully consider the following Seven Steps to Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness, in order to increase one’s appreciation of hospitality and to promote hospitable actions. These steps are written in a natural sequence, so as to clarify the process and to ignite your own passion.

Immerse yourself in these Seven Steps as often as needed, until they resonate within you as an inward melody. Use them throughout your daily practice of hospitable behavior. Allow fresh inspiration to continually lead you on, as you embark on this great quest to understand your individual nature through hospitality. If you will allow this meditative practice to empower you, it will bring you into greater awareness of present moments, and help you awaken to your own unique style of inner warmth that will radiate into consistently new and welcome expressions of hospitality.

If you are new to this form of quieting the chattering mind, there are four preliminary steps to help you prepare:

  • Set aside a minimum of ten minutes at the start of your day.
  • Move into a quiet space and restful bodily posture.
  • Take a few deep breaths to assist in quieting the mind filled with its to-do lists and judgments – this will help to disengage from distractions.
  • And now, with an open heart, begin to realize the fullness of your:
  1. Desire. Be willing to leave behind all preconceived notions of what you think hospitality is. With the innocence of a child, remain open and receptive, listening for the inner guidance of inspiration. Allow new ideas to flow in and lead thought into a more conscious and expanded awareness of hospitality. To further open your heart with gratitude is to put a powerful two-edged sword into your hand – it receives the new information while simultaneously cutting through resistance and impositions that may appear and put intuition at risk through a conditioned or programmed mindset.

    If you stay true to this creative process, it will become second nature and overcome distractions. Avoid negative input, for it is chaotic, incoherent, and meant to confuse every heartfelt desire. Instead, ask yourself, “What am I giving my attention to?” And, if it is not to the original desire or intent, then change the channel.
  2. Purity. Keep your heartfelt desire pure and focused, in order to know and recognize the true spirit of hospitality. You can silence the chatter of the ego by separating yourself from conflicting desires, the influence of others, or political agendas. Detach from the chaos of assumptions, emotional reactions, and opposing thoughts. Detach from the defenses of fear that would mentally creep in to defraud, destroy, corrupt, or manipulate your pure focus. Allow no mingling of negative concepts that would hinder the unfolding of hospitality.

    In other words, do not allow fear to make your decisions. As your new sense of hospitality expands, it will continually clarify and evolve with new inspiration and vision. But don't stop there!
  3. Identification. Through purity of heart, consider the core spiritual values identified with this newfound clarity. Their innate stability, as defined through qualities found within authentic hospitality, is reflected in a soulful love for humanity, as exemplified in lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116:
    Love is not love
    Which alters when its alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
    That looks on tempests, and is never shaken

    These lines wonderfully illustrate how the absolute changelessness and constancy of Love – that from which hospitality is born – is able to restore one's soul. This has been the primary purpose of hospitality throughout the ages, even though diluted by financial concerns in today's markets. As spiritual consciousness is cultivated, intuition is strengthened and humility attained, its voice heard over the din of ego, selfishness, and emotional
    reactions to worldly events – the tempests of our times.

    To maintain the harmonious stability that this tone represents, the remaining elements that create hospitality may be considered sub-tones of Love itself. These are the building blocks that can be investigated in more depth to intellectually grasp, intuitively hear, and emotionally feel the heart of hospitality while never forgetting its overarching nature. They are:

    Spiritual-mindedness, filled with gratitude and kindness
    Compassion and empathy
    Collateral comfort of safety and security
    Interdependence of all living beings
  4. Interpretation. As we begin to understand this seven-fold concept of hospitality, it will begin to operate effortlessly as consciousness for each unique circumstance we are involved in. Spiritual consciousness is an operating system that interprets and reinterprets the nature of hospitality, overturning false material concepts and their physical symbols until wholly governed in the beauty and sanctity of purity and freedom. It may take time before this final stage is realized; but that will depend solely upon the persistence of misinformation, misinterpretation, and missed opportunities to reconnect, revitalize, and renew the web of life within individuals, communities, and our world.

    So, an imperative question to self resounds: “Why wait?” Why continue to play unwitting host to misinterpretations, false information, willful deprivations, and theories based on superstition – all designed to keep humanity in fragmentation, separated by and trapped in fear? Instead, why not make each moment count toward that all-important state of consciousness, leading us out of hostile territory into communities of hospitality? Would we not willingly trade misinterpretations and false information for the unburdened joy that awaits and sets free imprisoned thought, if we only understood the system of goodness that already operates within, through, and around each one of us?
  5. Method. The Seven Steps to Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness are a way of grace, and a method for understanding how spirituality operates, even beyond hospitality. It is alive and well and living within each individual. Actually, we are magnificently encoded with its message. As the door of conscious awareness continues to open, as some level of acknowledging the spiritual nature that makes up our authentic identity and reality is reached, we become awake to the connection between spiritual growth and service within the community. We become the spiritual activists we were meant to be, with hospitality written on the tablet of our hearts.
  6. Form. At this juncture, a new spiritual question arises from the depths. What form will this idea of hospitality take? How will it appear? What will it look like? Spiritual consciousness is fundamental, as are the ideas springing from it. Their form is as unique and adaptable as required to meet every human need. It is important not to get attached to a limited, conceptual form nor to anticipate how an idea's form should be modeled, unless you are wholly inspired – then trust it.

    Too often, humanity wants to stay in a pattern of, “But, it has always been done like this, or looked like that, and worked in the past.” This attitude stifles spiritual growth. Temporary forms are just that, temporary. They can become uninspired and unable to touch the soul of mankind – and therefore obsolete. Hospitality requires the integrity of being heartfelt, alive with fresh ideas that trans-form every opportunity.

    It is important to note that not every opportunity will appear transformed at the outset. But again, trust the fact that every act of hospitable kindness is radical and dynamic. It does ripple throughout the whole fabric of consciousness, uncovering and overcoming errors and terrors, animus and hostility, seen or unseen.
  7. Design of Love. We are woven into the very fabric of existence. This beautiful tapestry is all-inclusive and unites not only all individuals, but all periods and dimensions. It is patient and kind as it carries those along who think they are outside its frame of reference – but no one is or could be. Relish in the good of other's experiences rather than to allow or host the false stimulus of envy or hate.

    We should celebrate goodness wherever found, for the spirit of hospitality is most ardently felt when human relationships, familiar customs, and the belief systems of old are undergoing dramatic changes. Embrace these changes with gratitude and appreciation, since this is the path that Abraham walked and is a measure of our spiritual evolution – from mad ambition to intuition, from terrorism to tourism, from hostility to hospitality.

    To cultivate spiritual consciousness in the art of hospitality, continued practice of the Seven Steps is the key. A cursory perusal of this teaching and learning tool will accomplish little. The Seven Steps are a meditative practice that requires the journey of persistence, of cherishing, of nurturing the idea of hospitality, in order to bring forward its gifts. Listening to your soul in fulfillment with newfound spiritual understanding will open all doors to the profound enhancement of our lives and of the communities where we live, work, and play.

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.

~ Lao Tzu


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