“Seven years on” has a kind of mythical ring to it. Time has passed, friends have come and gone, I’ve attended other trainings, led a couple myself, and practiced hosting in various settings and occasions, but that first taste of AoH still casts a spell. While it sounds a bit trippy to put it in these terms, the experience was literally “mind altering.” It changed the way I experience being mind-full. As someone with a Ph.D., working at a university alongside all sorts of highly educated, highly verbal people, I’m used to spending a lot of time in my head--processing information, agreeing and disagreeing, attending to implications, jostling and cajoling with words. I regularly find myself in situations--classes, lectures, meetings--where people occupy the same space without ever coming together. We move, sit, talk, following long-established routines, patterns of interaction we’ve inherited and that allow us to be anywhere, indifferent to place. And slowly, unthinkingly, we start to be indifferent to each other--a set of phantoms haunting what was the life of the mind.
The Art of Hosting brought me back to life. In some very specific, simple ways, it asked me to be present--with others, to others--and to practice paying attention. Hosting reminded me of what I already knew, but had trouble remembering: that people coming together, intentionally, create a common space, a place to give and to receive the gift of attention. That holding that space, and co-creating that place, can be a demanding practice, and a deeply rewarding one, if only it is not--in the most literal, embodied sense of the words--taken for granted.
After seven years of learning how to come back to life, the practice is still, for me, fresh, surprising and full of challenges. In many ways, I feel as though I’ve hardly gotten a handle on the basics. But the opportunity to reconnect with folks like Chris and Tim and Tuesday who helped me take my first steps--firiends that I, as a professor by profession, am proud to call my teachers--was not something I could miss. I’m grateful for the chance to be there, and deeply gladdened by the prospect of sharing that space with all of you.