Back to our Roots
Back to our roots
Two years ago I discovered something about myself that had been sitting somewhere in my blindspot: that my “art” is hosting. The realisation crept up on me rather slowly as I began to adopt more personal practices of self-reflection and appreciation. What I started to observe in myself was the passion I had for simple acts of hospitality, like making a big pot of vegetable soup for my team when we came together for a meeting (actually more often it was probably banana pancakes!). The sheer joy I feel in these moments comes from an alignment of my personality and my values. I’m a Type 2 on the Enneagram, this helps me understand that my brain is wired in such a way that I am motivated by service and for better or for worse, I have a compulsion to be concerned with other people’s happiness. Looking back on my childhood, I can recall many a Saturday prancing about my mother’s dining room helping decorate the table for a dinner party or prepare dishes for a backyard BBQ. I delighted in the special touches that would bring a smile to people’s faces (and in the process discovered the wiring of my brain was definitely lacking in the origami napkin department!)
Powerful hosting though requires more than natural talent or inclination or simply bringing people together with some fancy table decorations and hoping for the best. The African idea of “Ubuntu” puts it all in perspective for me. As I understand it, the concept includes the notion that to be a guest is your gift to the host because there is a joy in hosting that comes from our very nature as human beings to be of service to one another and if the guests don’t come then there are no opportunities to experience this joy of giving. It is when we truly see our efforts as host as part of a larger “gift” that contains both the giving and receiving, that we can give ourselves fully to the opportunities at hand. Knowing we are tapping into the ancient art form of hospitality and hosting which has existed throughout history and is a basis for every culture, allows me to sink into something deep within my DNA, going right back to my roots. Just as you might hear a song writer say, “the music is simply coming from somewhere inside me”, I feel this with hosting. And I’m discovering it is not something unique to me.
Being part of The Welcome Dinner Project and watching it become an immensely energised social movement with global potential, had me frequently asking the question, “What is it that makes this work so well?” Aside from the fact that it was tapping into a widely and deeply felt concern in our community, it was also engaging people at a level that was innately familiar to us. By facilitating opportunities for people to host others in their own home and to share one another’s fascinating cuisines, The Welcome Dinner Project is playing a role in reigniting our “knowing” around hospitality and hosting and the joy shines through as much as ever. It turns out that a very “grass-roots” form of leadership has arisen from this movement that ignites our creativity in such accessible ways, through our kitchen tables and grandmas recipe books. People quickly discover a surprising confidence in engaging with strangers and perhaps unknowingly, rediscover the art of hosting dwelling in their DNA.
For me, uncovering my passion for hosting and embracing it as my artistic expression, has given a clear direction to my approach to facilitation and management roles as well. Being able to tune into the Four-fold practice of the Art of Hosting, one of the myriad of Art of Hosting resources, has begun to make as much sense to me as drinking 8 glasses of water a day!
The 1st practice: HOSTING SELF. Beginning by paying attention to how I nurture my own needs so that I can show up prepared and clear about what is needed in my work.
The 2nd practice: BEING HOSTED. Giving myself permission to be nurtured by others and to sit in a space that is held collectively. To trust that what I need can be supported by the group. I often say that “truth rises up in conversation” and frequently experience seeds of ideas crystallising in dialogue with others.
The 3rd practice: HOSTING OTHERS: Embracing the “gift” of hosting, knowing I am part of the giving AND receiving at all times. Leading from the emerging future by designing thoughtfully to create a container that will enable people to co-sense and co-create in meaningful and impactful ways, especially through being “present” to one another.
The 4th practice: COMMUNITY HOSTING ITSELF: Listening for what’s emerging in the spaces-in-between. Believing in people and the power of the collaborative field to produce unexpected and surprising results, especially in complex situations. The Welcome Dinners quickly became a prototype for crowd-sourced hosting. What showed up is the potential to address complex issues with simple actions. For example, the opportunity to address the complex intersection of issues some participants are facing through designing an experience that supports deep listening and provides time for giving one another our full attention. With volunteers trained to “hold space” alongside those gathered, there is a safety to go on a collective journey of discovery which in turn allows for a boldness to be vulnerable together. One of my key reflections on the Welcome Dinner model is about this collective vulnerability that “opens” people up in new ways and leads to powerfully deep and meaningful encounters, even in the space of a 2 hour dinner.
What I love about hosting is that it unlocks the creative and transformative power of the arts. Like every art form, hosting can move people in ways that open the mind, heart and will towards much needed change. With consideration, hosting can also be radically inclusive and embracing of diversity. At it’s best, artful “hosting” is generative. We can be but midwives to what is wanting to emerge in our world right now and conscious and thoughtful hosting can be all that is needed to create the conditions that birth and sustain its development. Embracing the “art of hosting” and the Four-fold practice is a delightful invitation to each one of us as we go about our work within ourselves and in the world, tapping into the root system of our ancestors for much needed cultivation of the soil for change.
This blog was first published on Medium here: https://medium.com/joiningthedots/back-to-our-roots-e669ee0de80c