Hospitality, Not Acceptance

March 20, 2024

Shambhavi talks about receptivity as a form of hospitality and how acceptance is irrelevant when everything is made by God. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

This alive aware reality is creating all of these experiences of conversation, of meeting. And we have all of these beautiful senses, which are symbols of the senses of this alive aware reality of God.

And through us, that self is experiencing everything. And there's a sense of conversation, right? So the breeze comes, and feel the breeze. It's a meeting, a conversation.

There's a play of wind, and you are attentive to that and you enjoy it. Or a scent comes—you're cooking, and the scent comes to your nose, and your nose goes to meet the scent.

And there's a conversation that happens, and you—maybe you enjoy it, maybe you don't. But [laughs] nonetheless, there's a conversation. Then we have all of us, and all the beings of the world also in conversation.

But this whole reality is, as another teacher said, a theater of conversation. A meeting place. This is where God comes to experience that. That's what duality is for.

So, when we're meeting something, we want to be receptive to what's being said. Whether it's in music, or touch, or smell, or hearing, or sight, or words, or other sounds. We want to be receptive to what's being said.

You know what happens when you're having a conversation with somebody and they're just looking around the room and you know they're not listening. Or you're having a conversation with somebody and you can just see them formulating what they're going to say back to you in their mind.

And you're just like why even bother talking, right? This the person's only concerned about what they're going to say. So, the first part of any conversation is to be receptive. And we can learn to be receptive by listening with every aspect of our incarnation.

So we can listen with our mind, we can listen with our eyes, and our nose, and our ears, and our tongue, and our skin, and we can listen with our subtle energy, and we can listen with whatever wisdom we have.

And when we're more awake, that listening is all-encompassing. It's not like we're having to think about it.

So there's a meditation on the website, Listening Abiding— everything in these kinds of traditions is like a fan. You open it up and it's one whole fan, but then there's different permutations that make up that fan. So, all the practices are like a fan.

We start somewhere that's more accessible, and then it becomes more and more subtle as it expands out. There might be many versions of a similar practice. The Listening Abiding meditation is where we start to learn how to listen with our body and not just with our ears.

We learn to investigate what does it feel to listen? What is the actual grammar of listening? It's not just having something come in your ear and be processed by your brain.

There's also a sense that you're listening.

It's like something that also goes out. It doesn't just come in. Something could come into you, but if you're not listening, you don't hear it. Obviously, I'm trying to do something around the house and there's a podcast on. [laughter] I don't hear the podcast.

I mean I only can do one thing at a time, apparently. The only time I can ever listen to podcasts and actually hear them is when I'm driving. But if I'm doing anything else, I'm focused on that other thing. And the podcast can blasting away, and I don't have any idea what it's saying.

Just because something is happening doesn't mean we're listening to it.

We have to learn how to listen and listen with everything, our entire incarnation. And when we're doing sadhana, what's happening is that we're refining our senses. And we're developing the capacity to take more in. And to be less one-pointed in a limited sense, and more one-pointed on everything.

So, you could think of God as being one-pointed on everything all at once. [laughs] If you even want to use that language.

Receptivity means that our body, our energy, and our mind, and our wisdom are all being receptive to what is coming toward us. Some of the language that I use around that comes from a French philosopher named Jacques Derrida, but he wrote a lot about hospitality.

We've used some of those teachings on hospitality in a recent retreat. What he says, you know, there's always something coming toward you. And he's writing in terms of ethics, which really doesn't have anything to do with what we're doing.

But he talks about the unconditional welcoming of whatever is coming toward you. Really beautiful. And being welcoming to the unexpected, or even the unpleasant—I don't know where he got that idea. Maybe it was just something intuitive for him.

But when you have more contact with living presence with God, whatever you want to call it, there is a sense of welcoming. A sense of gladness and welcoming that is pervasive in everything.

And when we're listening and being receptive, we're embodying that. So receptivity is a form of hospitality, but it requires sensitivity.

A lot of us—well, all of us, including myself, do not have full sensitivity. We're not fully receptive because our senses are limited in some way or another, and that's always going to be the case.

But we can greatly, greatly, greatly increase the sensitivity and range with which we're able to perceive and take things in. That's what receptivity is. It's a state of everything to itself.

The more receptive we are, the more we're being like God, or the more we're fully expressive of our real nature, our real capacity. Sometimes somebody will come—some unwitting new person will come and ask me about boundaries, [laughs] and there really are none.

It doesn't mean that we can't use our discernment and say no to things. Of course, we can. We have limited capacity. We have access to limited energy. So we do get to decide how we use our energy, who we use it with.

But the underlying experience and view is that we actually have no boundaries. If we could live in that, that would be one definition of enlightenment. But we're not living in that yet.

I've been thinking a lot about what acceptance means and also in relation just to the carnage that's happening in Gaza. I'm feeling my own resistance to the sadness. And when you're talking about hosting and hospitality, it feels like acceptance is part of that.

I'm noticing my own rigidity and ideological response to the world right now, and it's very, very uncomfortable. And I'm wondering if you might be able to riff on that a little bit please.

So I want to say something, but I'm going to set myself up first and put acceptance here, and put something that my Dzogchen teacher used to say over here, which is liberating appearances. That when we have more perceptual capacity, we liberate appearances.

So I want to say that acceptance is just the slightly more savory cousin of the whole colonial project, and it's a supremacist move. And I reject it on spiritual grounds because everything that's here is here, period.

Acceptance does not have anything to do with things being here, or people having certain opinions, or being a certain way. Everything is what it is.

Everything's made by God. Everything has total equality, and our acceptance of it doesn't matter. At all.

To say, I accept this or I accept that, I think it's supremacist move—even when it's done with the best of intentions. Because the other side of acceptance is, I don't accept, but it's still very much in reference to yourself.

It's something that's being done from the outside to something, or to someone—and I don't subscribe to it. And I never have because of that. But mostly because reality isn't really open to our acceptance or our non-acceptance.

What we have though, is the capacity to see what is actually happening for someone that's giving rise to a certain set of behaviors, or opinions, or ideas.

Specifically in response to what you said, thinking of people who express things that we disagree with, or that we find reprehensible in some things on the political spectrum or whatever.

I'm going to tie this in with hospitality because being hospitable means being hospitable to everything and everyone, not just things that we like.

This was huge point of Derrida's. He said the only situation of real hospitality is when someone shows up that we don't like and don't want to host. [laughs]

And we make that decision to be yielding to that circumstance, and to host that person according to what they want. Not according to what we want. I'm putting this in a very crude way. He said it much more eloquently than I have.

Hosting genocide—hosting all of the images and feelings. And the suffering of others when a genocide is happening to other people. And hosting what is happening.

Those of us who live in settler colonial countries who are supporting that genocide financially and in other ways—hosting the fact that that's happening largely against our will and we're being super implicated in a genocide.

How do we host that?

That's something that a lot of people just want to recoil from. It is hard to look at a photograph or a video of a shredded baby dangling from a fence and listening to the suffering of their parent, of that child's parents in real-time. Hearing their voices.

That is really hard to be hospitable to. It's very difficult to not tense up and get rigid against that and just say I'm not looking at that. That's too much for me. I'm overwhelmed.

The other thing is when people say reprehensible things. Or when people you know and love are not being compassionate about something like this—a huge event in human history. Or when some people are totally brainwashed and are just spouting propaganda.

I had this experience just today. A teacher of mine who I've known for 25 years— and I really am grateful to him for teaching me, and also he's been incredibly generous to me over the years.

A few days ago, he wrote a really racist comment on a post of mine. So I wrote to him and I said, I'm really grateful to you, and I know that you really value clear intellectual knowledge based in fact.

So I'm not going to argue with you, but I'm giving you these resources so that you can look things up and find out for yourself what's actually happening.

A couple of days go by, and this morning, he writes me this long email filled with even more hateful racist stuff. And there's two things that happen for me that I think are germane, and this has to do with liberating appearances.

So one way of possibly relating to this is to get really angry, and write back and try to argue with him. But underneath that appearance for me is just this sadness that someone I care for, and who has helped me is so duped.

It was clear from his response he wasn't going to look at a single thing that I had asked him to look at. He didn't want to know. He just didn't want to know. So below the anger, below the appearance of possible anger, is my own sadness.

This deep well of sadness that people are having this experience— someone who's otherwise very concerned with having clear knowledge of things. Then there was just this feeling of helplessness. That I really wanted to say something back to him that would change his mind or make him see.

But having to just recognize that I was in a position of utter helplessness and there was nothing I could do. Recognizing how sad I felt for him, and not just him, but all of the people in his position.

And then that little engine I have chugging that I just want to make somebody see what's really... [laughs] That's a form of liberating appearances. It's like going below the need to accept, or reject, or be angry, or to be rigid, and letting yourself feel the real condition of another person.

Which is here's this person who really values intellectual clarity, spouting absolute nonsense. It is sad. So it's like seeing what condition people are actually in and letting yourself feel for that.

That's a kind of hospitality. It is getting below appearances. It is getting out of our own karmic ruts where we feel like we have to defend something, or promote something, or convince somebody, or reject somebody, or do any of those things.

It's really trying to get underneath what is really happening for someone—or ourselves—and letting ourselves feel tenderly toward even someone who says heinous things. Because there's a tenderness that permeates everything that is God.

It's not like we are manufacturing that tenderness. It is there. And if we let ourselves feel and see what is underneath the appearances, then we can access that tenderness even for somebody like that.

I don't want to continue having a discussion with him. I mean, it is absolutely pointless. But it did give me an opportunity to practice all this, that's for sure.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.