The sacred act of welcoming


A few months back I was listening to an interview with Jon Young - from 8shields, an organisation that promotes nature connection and community regeneration. He spoke of his time in the Kalahari with the San bushmen and how incredibly welcoming they are, even if you have had an afternoon nap - they will give you are warm welcome - each time they meet you. It struck me how different this was in our culture and how we can easily miss this profound attitude. It set me off on a whole reflection about welcoming... and I have come to love this word and act.

It begins at birth. How many of us come in to a world where we feel truly welcomed as a child? So many births are traumatic for the baby and/or mother or there may be fear and ambivalence, or even shame... the list goes on. What a human baby needs is safe and warm connection, to be welcomed, yet I am sure not that many of us get that. Then as we grow, we sense that parts of us are not welcome, be it our anger or exuberance, or any other aspect of being human, so we hide it away, and learn to not welcome it ourselves. These patterns in us and in broader culture carry on: some aspects of us are welcome and some are not. And because fitting in and belonging are such powerful needs, at root connected to surviving, we exile anything that we sense is un-welcome in the situation we are in. We fit in... but at a cost.

And then there are other cultures and peoples, ways and beliefs that we don't understand and fear and find it hard to welcome. Our culture so readily makes some people good and others bad - just look at the political divides right now, or the polarised views around Brexit.

So we are surrounded by division, pushing away, exiling, othering... and little room is made for welcoming... and this landscape is reflected within us too.

There are so many feelings, sensations, thoughts that are simply unwelcome. Well - that is to the part of us that might feel like me but is in fact a part. So often we are identified, not with a larger space, of bigger me (or Self-in-presence as Ann Weiser Cornell would call it), but with some aspect or part of us is scared or wanting to control or manage what we feel and let in. Trust me, we can have some pretty harsh and restrictive gatekeepers!

But what if we took that attitude of welcoming towards everything inside of us. I prefer this term welcoming to the overused demand for "*acceptance*" To me welcoming has a different flavour. It's genuine but has a sense that there may be more below the surface of anything or anyone that comes. It's an active turning towards and a respectful acknowledgement. It does not presume to know, or come with prejudice. It simply says welcome and opens up a space to meet. There is a knowing that there is more to any person or thing than what first shows up.

And remember, anything in us that does not want to do this is another part to welcome.

And then something more can happen, as Rumi puts it....

"Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy
True Human Beings know:
the moment you accept
what troubles you've been given,
the door opens."

Welcoming is a simple, yet sacred act of acknowledging that we have met something we do not fully know or own in any way - it is here, or if we are talking about others, then they are here... and so then the door opens.
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