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21 May 2024

The heart of hosting: Unwrapping the transformative magic of meaningful gatherings

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Have you ever wondered why some gatherings feel magical? Or transformative?

I love hosting. The sight of people gathered and engaging with each other. The sound of gentle and full belly laughter. Sometimes crying. Oftentimes, the smell of delicious food, which must include vegan and gluten-free options. The physical and energetic touches that happen when someone experiences deep resonance with, or some rejection of, something someone else said or did.

In hosting, I consciously choose to direct my energy to the intention of connecting deeply with others. I often choose to stay up way past my bedtime (whenever my eyes start closing against my wish, which tends to happen anytime between 7pm and 9pm) to hang out with other humans. 

Over the years, I have discovered that hosting can be energizing and can enable transformation for myself and others. Hosting is a practice of opening up the heart. I suspect that inside the home of our hearts is the main venue where hosting happens.

I recently hosted close to 50 Cultivating Leadership colleagues and their loved ones in Grenada. To be clear, I was not the only host. A small group of us design and coordinate these gatherings for the rest of the community. This one was no exception. Although I was the only one based in Grenada, close to 10 of us were hosts for our time together. We gather at least once a year in a part of the world where at least one other colleague lives. We gather to bask ourselves in and deepen our connection with each other, our sense of shared purpose, and our (sometimes renewed) commitment to give of ourselves to fostering a better world where more of us are flourishing. Being that we were in the Caribbean, we also basked in the sunshine, beaches, and delicious foods available in Grenada. We also gave ourselves over to being in the Grenadian community.

Usually, when we gather, an experience we call Cultivation, we engage mostly with each other and stay within our own community. Some of us wondered, how else could we be? Our theme was playing bigger and bolder. Bigger meaning to shed more light on and amplify our interdependence as we grow in size (from about 50 to close to 100 in the last 3 years). And bolder meaning to be more intentional in the ways we express our values and purpose. Gathering in the Caribbean, by default, facilitated disruption to some degree. It was the first time in the Caribbean for us as a firm and for many of us as individuals. 

Yet, we didn’t just want to be in Grenada. We wanted to be with Grenada, its people, culture, and the experiences of what occurs inside of us individually and collectively from being with the country in these ways. Did we feel bigger and bolder from this experience? We wanted to be more out there in this world. We also wanted to experience different perspectives and share more of ourselves with our host country.

Being someone who loves to host and knowing that many other Grenadians also love to host, I invited some to be co-hosts. About 20 of them agreed to host CL colleagues. We used information we had about members of both groups and matched 2-3 CL colleagues with a Grenadian host. Our hosts and guests were given some simple minimum specifications: be ready and arrive at a certain time; stay within a certain distance of the venue we were living; the experience is not a tour of Grenada; spend very little money, preferably none at all; and connect and share your worlds with each other. So, we headed out with our Irish, Kiwi, Aussie, British, American, European, etc identities, along with at least one other colleague. 

This was an experiment that could have gone all kinds of ways, including terribly. Thankfully, this experience went well. There was a great deal of joy and appreciation as folks returned from the hosting experience. My colleagues talked about how deeply they connected with their hosts. They discovered shared interests, ate chocolate-flavored chicken and other local cuisine, overcame fears and some discomfort, and added another meaningful connection to their life. 

The host group left expressing their gratitude for the experience. Although some were nervous at first, they ended the experience appreciating the connection with strangers, feeling seen for who they are, and having a sense of solidarity with other global citizens and pride for their Grenada home. 

Some have formed WhatsApp groups and established other ways of maintaining connection with their guests. 

Besides the connection, joy, and mutual learning it can enable, hosting can be transformative. In hosting, we see others more. And we also see ourselves more. In this way, seeing is a collective act. I need you to see myself and you need me to see yourself. In feeling seen, belonging can emerge. So, too, can other experiences like love, healing, trust, and so on.

When we host others, we also host ourselves. Perhaps we also host the world. 

I suspect that the world would be a better place if more of us hosted. And it doesn’t have to be at the scale described above. We can also host:

  • Small groups
  • Particular identities within ourselves and others
  • Core values
  • Questions, to see what they unlock
  • Love, good intentions, and well-wishes for others
  • An image of someone inside our heart 
  • Visions for ourselves, others, our organization, the world 
  • Mission and purpose statements
  • Creative impulses 
  • Emotions, including those like joy, gratitude, peace, warmth, and so on

How do you experience hosting? Who or what would you consider hosting next? 

I’m always inviting people to visit Grenada. I usually promise them that my family will host them. Sometimes, I make this promise prematurely, without consulting Annesa or Dakari. I do get in trouble on rare occasions. Not often because they also love to host. 

I also enjoy inviting people to participate in things that CL offers, such as public programs, developmental coaching, or a unique partnership in exploring what’s next for them, their community, or their organization. This is another form of hosting for me. I offer myself up as host regarding Grenada and CL because I believe in the power of these two entities to facilitate good in the world. I offer myself up as host also because connecting with other human beings holds the possibility of directing our attention and energy heartward, to one common heart. From here, we tend to foster more peace, kindness, healing, love, and creativity in the world. I want to see more of these things. So, I’m on to my next hosting adventure – what about you? Maybe we will meet each other there? 

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