I’ve been playing with ideas about hospitality in all its dimensions for the bulk of my life. Opening my home off and on over the last 30 years has brought daily opportunities to cultivate a deep practice of acceptance and openness to a wide variety of humans who come into my circles. Long ago I read a book that had a great impact on me and here are some excerpts from that book – Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen – that express some of my reflections about hospitality – radical hospitality – and the “friendly emptiness” I am intending, imagining and creating at the MorningStar House.
“It is about three movements in life with the self, God and others: from loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, and from illusion to prayer.”
“The German word of hospitality is “gastfreundschaft” which means, friendship for the guest. The Dutch use the word “gastvriheid” which means, the freedom of the guest. Although this might reflect that the Dutch people find freedom more important than friendship, it definitely shows that hospitality wants to offer friendship without binding the guest, and freedom without leaving him alone.”
“Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a way of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances, free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”
“So we can see that creating space is far from easy in our occupied and preoccupied society. And still, if we expect any salvation, redemption, healing and new life, the first thing we need is an open receptive place where something can happen to us. Hospitality, therefore, is such an attitude. We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, to lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and to listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.”
There’s something about creating a truly free space for transformation to happen, a free space where peace is practiced, where acceptance happens, and where new life emerges in both guest and host.
So my days are filled with simple cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, making fast simple art in the pauses, and having delicious conversations with guests, family, and friends. It’s good for me, this simple, grounded work. It’s good for me to scale down this way and come home to a way of using my natural gifts that is organic, mostly fun, and sometimes profoundly consciousness-raising.
Reflections from 2014
… some deep roots of the Morningstar House.
Black Elk Speaks
John Neihardt was the European man who translated the visions of the Lakota Sioux holy man into English in 1930.
This story appears in the forward to that book, and in a synchronistic way it came as a blessing upon this Morningstar house as I was beginning to share my home and my heart with guests from around the world, and many who came for sweat lodges and chanupa ceremonies starting in 2012.
This story took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The aging Black Elk met a kindred spirit, the famed poet and writer. The Lakota elder chose Neihardt to share his visions and life with the world in a beloved spiritual classic, which reveals his resounding vision of the wholeness of the earth, her creatures, and all humanity.
“Black Elk, with his near-blind stare fixed on the ground, seemed to have forgotten us. I was about to break the silence by way of getting something started, when the old man looked up to Flying Hawk, the interpreter, and said (speaking Sioux, for he knew no English): ” As I sit here, I can feel in this man beside me a strong desire to know the things of the Other World. He has been sent to learn what I know, and I will teach him.”
He was silent again for some minutes; then he spoke to his little grandson, who sat near us, and the boy ran up the log cabin at the top of the hill. Presently he returned with a sacred ornament which, I learned later, had belonged to Black Elk’s father (who also was a holy man) and had been used for many years by both father and son in their sacred ceremonies. It consisits of a leather star tinged with blue and from the center of the star hangs a strip of hide from the breast of a buffalo, together with a feather from the wing of an eagle. The ornament is suspended from a leather loop to be placed about the neck. Holding the star before us, Black Elk said:
“Here you see the MorningStar. Who seeing the MorningStar shall see more, for he shall be wise.” Then lifting the eagle feather, he said: “This means Wakon Tonka (the Great Mysterious One); and it also means that our thoughts should rise high as the eagles do.” Then lifting the strip of buffalo hide, he said: “This means all the good things of this world– food and shelter.” Handing the ornament to me, he said: “My friend, I wish you all these things. Put it around your neck.”
I’m grateful to all my teachers of the wisdom ways– and my interest in “things of the Other World” grow stronger as I encounter many souls who come here, now.
The power visions are coming to many as they cross the threshold into the spirit of this house. The eagle feather and the buffalo hide– for wide angle vision, and the good and necessary things of earth– food and shelter. Hosting people here is more like just holding space… Opening my heart to the Mystery. Welcome to each of you who finds your way into the art of this, the heart of this sweet walk. Imagine there is and Morningstar pendant in my hand, being placed around your neck as you enter here in peace and community partnership. May we share this journey with those who come from the four winds, all races, colors, cultures and creeds… We are waking up, and we are One… and we are mending the sacred hoop of all nations.