Re-cultivating Hospitality

by Chris Chavez

This post is the first of a series of reflections on the topic of hospitality. It comes on the heels of work done by prime producers in neighborly partnership with sisters of the Community for the Holy Spirit and members of the MindKind Institute. At the time I started writing my reflections, the prime produce farm salon had hosted two years of consecutive monthly gatherings. We are now three years and two months into this continuing experience. It is a labor of rich and expansive love. Thank you for reading.

Each month, for the last two years, hosts from prime produce and the MindKind Institute set a joint challenge for their communities: to cultivate a weekend farm salon, a safe but not sterile space, where unlike minds with like hearts could gather, dine, share, reflect, and collaborate.

We call these gatherings farm salons, partly because they take place on a farm stewarded by the sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit, and partly because they contribute to the revival of salon-style conversation by using a discussion topic to cultivate group camaraderie through deep inquiry and self-work.

Farm salon hosts and guests represent all ages and professions. They organize and attend as friends, neighbors, mentors, collaborators, acquaintances and kind strangers, drawn not by an unwavering unity of thoughts or feelings, but by a common curiosity and desire to live meaningful lives. As such, I believe our gatherings are founded on commonly held values even if we sometimes live them in uncommon ways.

This overall experience of forward-retreat and active contemplation is made possible by the generous hospitality of the sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit. I have come to understand the openness of the sisters as a willingness to match a hospitality of place with an equally energetic hospitality of mind and hospitality of heart. My time in the midst of their countercultural monastic devotion has contributed to a queering of my modern perspective and a new appreciation for all that is deeply strange within myself and within those around me.

Each of these three types of hospitality has strengthened my ability to accommodate the strange — that thing or quality that is different from what I experience. At the very least, I hope these offered thoughts can help you glimpse a future of open doors, loving hosts, and loving guests.

Hospitality of place allows us to host the stranger. It reminds us of the basic requirements of our bodies. We need nourishment. We need shelter. We benefit when we receive these things in communion or in withness with others. Place-making through cultivating and interacting with our greater natural environment enhances these benefits. At the farm salon, the farm affords us an opportunity to do this directly. Outside of a farm setting, this type of hospitality is exercised when we open doors to our homes, share food, undertake shared projects and chores, and keep warm a place of sanctuary for anyone who happens to need it.

Hospitality of mind allows us to host strange ideas. It acknowledges the importance of crafting moments for deep listening. Similar to a dinner host setting a table for guests — a process of preparation and place-making — our minds require space to allow the ideas and experiences of others to linger within us. The place-settings matter — we cannot serve soup on a flat plate! Creating space for ideas and sharing requires attentiveness to frameworks. How are people communicating? What questions will enable cross-over to different communication styles? What questions will reveal better questions — ones that enrich an environment for the sharing of ideas?

Hospitality of heart allows us to host strange ways of loving. It starts with the question: how do we give and receive affection? Expressions of love complete place-making and question-asking, but how we express love might differ. Without compassion, this difference can produce unhealthy conflict instead of hosting healthy confrontation. One person’s love of family, might be another person’s hate of neighbor. One person’s love of self, might be another person’s hate of other. One person’s love of community, might be another person’s hate of tribe. One person’s love of liberty, might be another person’s hate of a chosen lifestyle. Hosting this difference takes courage and even a willingness to radically self-sacrifice. We don’t need to start from this point, however. We can begin, as farm salon dinners begin, by asking each other to share and toast to individual gratitudes so we have a better idea of what or who cultivates a feeling of love in a person’s day, week, month, year, or lifetime.

A few questions for you to consider:

How do you understand and how do you already practice hospitality of place, hospitality of mind, and hospitality of heart?

How can a hospitality of mind and a hospitality of heart be rooted in place in addition to being offered or practiced beyond place?

How do you create new places through these or other ways of understanding hospitality?

How do you reenergize existing places through them?

For farm salon participants, how did practices or rituals of hospitality manifest for you? Did you recognize them as such?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experimenting with new and old ways of hosting our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Posted on January 27, 2017 and filed under ARTICLES, Op Ed.