Intentional Hosting: Creating a State Change
As we left a baby shower last Saturday, my partner commented about the host, “She has perfect manners.” “What does that mean, to you?” I asked him. “Well, I always feel comfortable there, and I notice how she fluidly and artfully anticipates the needs of guests, and adapts to situations with general good humor. And she thinks through details- from the champagne station while waiting for your COVID nasal swab results to the small details about each person that makes introductions graceful. She is really present. You can tell she is genuinely happy to be hosting.”
I know that when you host, you take the time to create magic! From centering yourself and knowing why you are hosting, to an awareness of others feelings and needs, to preparing physical space, there are so many ways we use physical surroundings and environmental cues to accelerate decompression, connection, synchronicity, wonder, and to offer unexpected moments of enchantment. In crafting collective space we anticipate others' need for comfort, clarity and ease. Hosting (in German, Gaestgeber, or literally “Guest-giving”) is fundamentally a practice of empathy, attention and care.
“My deliberate intent is to facilitate a state change, to create an expansive mood, to have them shake off the world and feel welcomed into a sanctuary of safety and wellness. So in the house, too, I pay attention to sensory cues: soft light, squishy surfaces, aromas of savory herbs, fruit or breads overflowing a bowl or a basket because it subconsciously signals abundance. Nothing in the space is too precious, because I want people to lounge. No two seats are more than 48” apart, so it’s easy to feel a sense of intimacy when talking. But this is not magic: this is reverence through design, learned over time. It comes from paying attention to which atmospheres create a downshift in the nervous system, including the worries people have in a new place or with new people. The environment we create can bring people into the zone of belonging.”
Even the welcome can be part of the state change: a truly joyful greeting opens the heart like nothing else. In many ritual circles, before a new person enters the ritual space, someone greets each new arrival and smudges them, literally “washing” them with sage or juniper smoke. In many cultures people bring a beverage or things to wash up with, or invited to be part of something, rather than mere observers or consumers of what is happening. The circle opens, more enter, and our message as hosts is: this is a place where you belong.
May your hosting be a joy for you and all who arrive at your doorstep.