Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table

Dreams of Heaven: Meanings and Interpretations
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If we can therefore cultivate and develop those characteristics that create hospitable behavior, we will get a direct payoff by living better and caring for each other all along the way. Community builders will discover that to be truly effective, a few key elements of hospitality must be perpetually present: mutual respect, the ethics of reciprocity, and friendly, interdependent co-operation. These powerful components help gain trust that builds personal confidence in relationships and therefore helps construct a thriving and sustainable community, where individuals continue to be inspired to work with each other for the common good. However, many times it is more difficult to be effective with people that we do know or have been working with, since we have made assumptions about them. It may be easier to be hospitable toward those we are not close to. If we discover this is true, it is a definite call to check our motives.

Do we actually embrace the qualities of hospitality as part of our own nature, or is it just surface appearance? If it is superficial, we are in for a rude awakening, since the deep-seated truth of any situation will eventually rise to the surface, compromising the health of any relationship and certainly any joint effort. It is true that some are mentally challenged, and others abuse the system from learned responses to poverty; but it is also true that some have fallen prey to the economic crisis, forced migration, or an abusive situation, and that any form of hospitality would bring relief to their suffering.

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And are we conscious of those in need within our communities? This is not to imply that we should look for problems that are not there, but rather to be conscious and ready to extend a helping hand to all living beings, whether by providing directions to a stranger with the gift of a warm smile, by picking up a baby bird that has fallen from her nest and gently putting her back in, or by helping a senior bicyclist who has found the only pothole in the street and crashed in the midst of traffic.

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All these scenarios and certainly many more are invitations to become conscious of our community surroundings and to promote hospitality as an effective and health-giving solution, both in minor details as well as in major community projects. All conditions are favorable for being hospitable, but some are more favorable than others.

It is especially desirable and useful to be hospitable when:. But another favorable and necessary condition for hospitality involves personal, spiritual, and physical preparation. If such preparation has not been made, it is much more difficult for true hospitality to be expressed. For real change, transformation, metamorphosis — whatever term appeals to you — is ushered in only through spirit-infused messages as when heart speaks to waiting heart.

It is important to ask yourself if you are ready and able to have the humility that it takes to allow these changes to take place. It had escalated into hostile expressions of strong differences of opinion. One person's passionate reaction, voice tonality, and body language had been triggered by a single word in a discussion and immediate hostility ensued, leading to verbal battle.

But as Chair, I engaged in a full array of hospitable behavior, as sacred listening, empathy, a peaceful resolve, and mindful not reactionary response were welcomed into my thought. The situation gently defused; the atmosphere shifted to the positive, demonstrating that hospitable behavior strengthened the group, with the added benefit of providing an example of how hospitality can pro-actively resolve conflicts.

Across the globe, the world convulses with old and new forms of more aggressive acts of oppression, tyranny, and terror, because the collective consciousness is being fed through negativity. Yet this is exactly where heartfelt hospitality is able to break down such negative influences. We just need to be reminded of who we really are and how we can attune to this larger system, since our lives extend far beyond our perceived limitations.

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That is, a fundamental aspect of hospitality and of our human experience is that all life is interdependent, operating as an integral whole. We need each other. As translated down to our everyday experiences, it is not necessarily what is said, it is rather what the other person hears that has everything to do with how we make them feel.

Therefore, the qualities of hospitality play a crucial role in every part of our everyday life — not just in the basic courtesy or warm welcome extended to a guest in our home, or even to an action to reconcile a disagreement. And yet, some of the bigger questions remain. To what extent are we ready to take on a commitment to being fully hospitable? How far will we go to advocate for an individual case, service, or cause that would raise the community to be a model for others to follow?

Do we have the courage to really listen to the community's heartbeat, move into its rhythm, and participate at any level? Is it our responsibility? Are we willing to move out of our perceived comfort zones to extend comfort to others right where they are? My personal experience has been that if you are the one that is presented with a community challenge, then it is yours to meet; for at some level you have been prepared for it to show up and teach you higher levels of hospitable behavior for the community and its people.

We must learn to take off self-imposed limitations to discover our freedom and therein find moments of free time to serve our communities and both create and sustain more favorable conditions. As community builders, there are almost unlimited opportunities to provide hospitality, in widely varying settings. And offering such hospitality can allow us to express our creativity in ways that can not only involve sharing a festive meal, but can also enchant the senses, furnish a safe haven, and satisfy the heart with attentive care and tenderness.

In this part of our section, we offer some varied stories and lessons about hospitality in action. An assignment from a major Japanese corporation was for me to provide hospitality to a young Japanese couple who had just arrived in America on a five-year contract. I was chosen to make them feel at home in their new culture — a high honor, since Japanese people are known for their hospitality. This position drew upon the full range of what I knew about hospitality and had been using as a daily practice of service to humanity.

Our first meeting was mildly successful. The twenty-something couple came to visit for a casual lunch. They were gently curious about everything and requested a full tour of my modest home. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I had a penchant for Orientalia, they exuded excitement as they came upon a triptych, an original artwork by a famous Japanese artist. The next week, my husband and I were invited to their apartment and treated as highly honored guests. The husband and wife, donning their beautiful kimonos, greeted us in deeply held low bows of stillness.

They explained their social customs as we were humbly led through the rituals of bowing, shoe removal, and sitting on the floor. There we received small hot cleansing towels and then experienced the full tea ceremony with freshly prepared confections and a gentle conversation that continued for about three hours. The tea was a delicious extravagance from Japan. Attuned to my sensory delight, they presented me with a generous supply of tea as a gift.

Their every movement was an exquisite display of fluidity, poetry, and attentiveness — an art where every motion was accomplished with such conscious awareness as to paint beauty into the atmosphere being breathed in and then translated as inner peace.

Book Review: Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table

I was so deeply infused with this type of prayerful practice that I would never be the same; I would now upgrade my sense of hospitality into everyday gratitude and service of this type at home and within my community. Can you imagine a community permeated with this type of hospitality?

Where harmony promotes a feeling of oneness with all people and all nature, including the atmospheric conditions. Where purity of thought is as important as the cleanliness of one's home or a dish, the spiritual focus remaining the same throughout every task.

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And, where a tangible state of tranquility , not attainable through conscious effort but as a way of grace, serves as the same dynamic and significant force that infused the tea ceremony. Are you ready to embrace this honorable and peace-centered state of being for your own sake and that of your home, community, and country? These deep underlying qualities have been preserved for millennia.

They yield an enhanced life-style that is warm and welcoming, higher profitability in all things including relationships, and greater long-term growth, development, and sustainability for the community and its people. Who would not want to bring these combined energies to bear in building this new model of hospitable behavior? A simple and beautifully touching practice in remote areas of Kenya is that young children are taught to always prepare more food at every meal than is necessary for the family, in constant anticipation that a weary traveler might be in need of sustenance and a place to rest for the night.

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This is an early education in hospitality where the gift of benevolence is from their abundant heart, not from scarcity or want. Nor does fear enter in, for there is an unspoken reality that any traveler would be a fool to steal from or harm a host, since the entire community would become first responders to protect any host family.

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And though tribalism remains prevalent, a vibrancy still radiates into the neighborhoods and binds them together, continuing to strengthen their cohesiveness through hospitable behavior toward each tribe, as common ground is shared. The only interfaith foundation located on a university campus in the U.

It is a hub of activity where spiritual meetings, counsellings, and multi-faith services occur constantly. A unique aspect of this community also involves a well-attended weekly luncheon open to students, professors, priests, chaplains, ministers, rabbis, imams, and any other denomination wishing to be represented. Sharing meals together is an aspect of hospitality that builds strong relationships, seen here in the joy of working with each other — in this case, through setting up and breaking down tables and chairs, decorating for celebrations, group cooking and serving of food, musical performances, and stimulating conversations.

An abundant cultural diversity is ever-present. Everyone interacts with loving countenances, whether they are doing homework, socializing, eating, or praying individually or collectively. Fundraising events are always well attended, since the key attributes of hospitality are shared — warm welcomes, willing hands, and open hearts.

This Interfaith Foundation provides a safe haven where hospitality is practiced effortlessly on a daily basis, as a natural outcome of love and gratitude for its sacred space on campus. Teaching all age levels of Sunday school classes in a church and teaching multi-cultural Open Forums in neighborhoods have brought considerable opportunities to utilize and teach hospitality and hospitable behavior for more than 30 years.

Through use of stories and symbols Jedi Training was a favorite for the youngsters — do not be afraid of improvisation and innovation appropriate for each grade level, hospitable attitudes were discussed and practiced as the youth wrestled with moral and ethical issues, too often far beyond their innocence. Spiritual teaching is not meant to be theoretical, but rather supremely practical in the everyday lives of each of us, and it is certainly necessary to train our youth in interacting with family and friends, classmates, school groups, and teachers.

Hospitality and its inherent qualities are needed assets for their mental lunch boxes and to counteract popular cultural obsessions, such as noses in cell phones. I supported their growing understanding through mentoring sociability beyond Sunday school and open forums, by attending their school classrooms, drama clubs, and dinners with parents. This provided a blueprint for the students and parents to follow in being hospitable within their own spheres.

As a servant leader, teacher, and radical hospitality advocate, this work was a true community-building activity that gave young children, youth, and adults a very different experience, with a focus on the importance of creating communities based on their inherent hospitable qualities.

When I was working in the hospitality industry, with Silver Tray and French Service training, an opportunity was presented to take these skill sets to a large newly-acquired ski resort in New York to interview, select, and train the entire service staff. This offer was presented not just for the skills that had been developed, but more for the fact that I was considered one of the most successful servers, based on gratuities received. I was forced to analyze why this was true — for at the time, I was just grateful for the income. As this opportunity unfolded, I interviewed a large contingent of New York residents with little to no service background.

Therefore, hiring choices were largely based upon personality, since skills can be taught to those who are open and receptive to learning something new. I also had the pleasure of planning and selecting the new interior design color palette and all accessories to create an ambiance of warmth, generosity, and wealth. Today we are entering a new area of economics, but the sacred continues to evolve in all things; and we shall discover that the same spiritual qualities and ethics found in hospitality are true for all of mankind's endeavors.

As we have noted, hospitality in recent years has taken on more of a capitalistic orientation, of entertaining business clients, delegates, or other official visitors. Her idea of hospitality was to set a good table. This woman, a self-pronounced non-religious individual with the heart of a lion and soul of an artist, practiced the height of hospitality daily in creating an atmosphere that welcomed all without bias or judgment of any sort. She saw no enemies and never met a stranger. Clients who attempted confrontation were disarmed with compassion.

This consciousness proved to be a bulwark of safety and hospitable giving for more than 17 years in her home as a bed and breakfast hostess.