Take a Breath

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release. What does your breath have to tell you about the pace of your life? About the stresses you are experiencing? The tension in your body? Your level of energy?

Science tells us that following stress and activity, the body must replenish. Why then do we find it so challenging to rest? To balance work and rest? Doing with being? Time together with time apart? In stopping to catch our breath, to rest, we literally provide the means for living the active life.

Parker Palmer, in The Active Life, reflects on the difference between living an active life and a state of frenzy:

For some of us, the primary path to aliveness is the active life. The active life is an extraordinary mix of blessing and curse. The blessing is obvious… But the active life also carries a curse. Many of us know what it is to live lives not of action but of frenzy, to go from day to day exhausted and unfulfilled by our attempts to work, create, and care. Many of us know the violence of the active life… Action poses some of our deepest spiritual crises as well as some of our most heartfelt joys.

Where would you place yourself on the continuum between the active life and the frenzied life?

Over the next few weeks pay attention to your breath… and your schedule.

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release.

Welcome the Stranger

As I ponder the times, I am struck by the extreme expressions of fear and love. I am also reminded that where there is fear, there is hatred. Where there is love, there is life. A core practice for our times is the practice of hospitality. As a intentional practice, hospitality calls us to welcome the stranger on a daily basis.

Henri Nouwen believes that the paradox of hospitality is that it calls us “to create an emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness, where strangers can enter and discover themselves 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.” Clearly, the practice of hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his or her own.

One Greek word incorporates a profound truth: xenos , the word that means stranger, also means guest and host. This one word signals the essential mutuality that is at the heart of hospitality. Think of our language’s use of xenos: philoxenia—hospitality, a love of guest or stranger; and xenophobia— fear of the stranger. We do well to remember both the danger and the need.

This month, spend some time reflecting on Henri Nouwen’s wisdom above. How does the practice of emptying relate to the practice of hospitality? Why is this important? Reflect on the word xenos. How are we called to nurture the stranger, guest and host within that we might welcome the stranger without? And, then set your intention to practice hospitality.

May we be radical in welcoming of the stranger in our midst!