Scripture “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
Spiritual Focus “In India, when people meet and part they often say, ‘Namaste’, which means: I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides; I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the place within you where if you are in that place in and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us…”
Inhale: Christ in me
Exhale: Christ in you
Welcoming the stranger, the “other” is one our greatest challenges to following the path of Jesus. The nightly news describes countless reminders of our differences: political and social, economic and religious. The language of “us” versus “them” rings out in the accompanying interviews and social media and it’s easy to conclude that our human tendency to relate to others dualistically, tribally, is increasing.
In the Gospels, Jesus urges us to resist this tendency, reminding us again and again to welcome the stranger. Jesus repeats this lesson so often that many religious orders, such as the Benedictines, make hospitality one of the central tenets of their monastic life. For St. Benedict, extending hospitality to the stranger was more than charity or proper social etiquette. Benedict saw hospitality as a necessary practice for spiritual growth, requiring the individual to be open to recognizing the divinity, the Christ, within each person as described in Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
In her book St. Benedict’s Toolbox, author Jane Tomaine explains that the spirituality of welcoming the stranger is both an external and internal practice, “Not only are we to receive Christ in others as guest; we are to be Christ to others.”
In an intersection of yoga and faith, we are invited to expand our Christ awareness by seeing and welcoming the stranger. We find this echoed in the yoga interpretation of the Indian greeting, namaste, which starts and ends many yoga classes, and is used to mean ‘the divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you’.
We can build our spiritual hospitality muscles in yoga class by welcoming all aspects of the present moment that join us on the mat: cultivating an attitude that is open, curious, non-judgmental yet caring about any physical sensations, emotions, or distracting thoughts that arise. We can then take what we learn out into the world, perhaps asking ourselves, where do I see the Christ in others, where do others see the Christ in me?