Home & Sanctuary

How to Be a Conscious Houseguest

Published on August 3, 2017

Article by Amy Swift Crosby for Bodhi Tree

Most of us prefer our own space when we travel, but sometimes we become a guest in someone else’s home, whether visiting good friends or family. We want to be considered polite and courteous, but how do we maintain our own sense of space when staying with our hosts? And how do we respect theirs? We asked some of our favorite experts how they approach being not just a good guest, but a thoughtful, conscious one, too.

Here’s what they said.

Kelly Morris, creator, The Infinity Call

“Being in someone’s home is like being invited to peer into their underwear drawer—it’s very personal, and the best guests fundamentally understand this. Keep your visits to no more than two or three nights, tops. Vacate the premises at least once a day for at least three hours by at least 1pm. Your host won’t feel abandoned by your leaving; she’ll feel relieved.

“I usually bring an offering, like beautiful incense or a candle, but I also offer to lead everyone in a meditation on Sunday morning. Life may be feeling hectic or bleak as people approach Monday morning, which can loom like an unwelcome parent telling you to be home by 8. Meditation gets their heads on straight, reminds them what’s important and what matters. While I offer a meditation, as it’s what I do, think about what you do and how to offer it to the family: If you bake, do acupuncture, are great with kids/crafts—whatever it is—offer it from the beginning so people can make time to take you up on it. Arrive with an offering, and leave them with one, too.”

David Harshada Wagner, author, Backbone

“In India, there is a beautiful saying, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava,’ which means (roughly) the guest is God. It is considered a really sacred privilege to welcome guests into your home, and Indians are famous for being the sweetest, most generous, gracious hosts. Spending time in India has taught me not just about being a host, but being guest, too.

“Along with the obvious things like being polite and as low-maintenance as possible, I also like to bring as much value as possible. Atithi Devo Bhava is a high standard but a good one. I ask myself, ‘How can I bless this house? How can I bless these people?’ It could be with love and attention and listening. It could be with a small gift. White sage grows wild where I live, so I will often pick a bundle and offer that as a sweet-smelling gesture of love.”

Elena Brower, author, Art of Attention

“When I’m staying in someone else’s space (which I almost never do, I prefer to have my own when I’m on the road), I am out of sight for the early morning and bedtime hours, when it’s quiet time or family time. I always ask if I can help prepare meals or clean up, and I usually bring my Art of Attention deck to start a morning ritual for their household, or essential oils and a diffuser to play with. I also love going to people’s homes and seeing what they need—and sending it afterward. My favorite post-gift to date was for my host in Australia, who needed a good cutting board, so I found a handmade piece and had it sent to her when I left.”

Michel Pascal, author, Meditation for Daily Stress

“Having lived among dozens of monks in both Christian and Buddhist monasteries, a very important lesson when it comes to co-habitation is the value of quiet. We often feel compelled to make conversation at all times, but living in a monastery reconnects you to the power of silence, and that it’s OK to be quiet together. People often appreciate this in the midst of busy schedules because it adds a calming, tranquil energy to their home. Do this with a smile and a light heart so that they do not misunderstand it as anything but peaceful, grounded presence. Second only to silence is beautiful music! I also offer one of my recordings as a gesture of gratitude.”

Ruby Warrington, author, Material Girl, Spiritual World

“When I travel for work, I try to never stay with friends, not because I wouldn’t love to see them, but because I know that I won’t be a good guest. Being on the road means it’s especially important for me to have time by myself to ground and protect my energy, and staying with friends makes this much harder. If it were the only option, I would have this conversation with them beforehand—perhaps even offering a small fee for use of a spare room to keep the exchange in the realm of business. Part of being a good guest is acknowledging your capacity to be one. And sometimes it means saying no, or finding an alternative arrangement, to avoid a miscommunication or disappointments.

“For vacations, I also state upfront if I’ll want some quiet time, which may mean sitting out some group activities (with my Moon in Cancer, this is a big theme for me!). I’m also more likely to let any strict dietary stuff slide in the name of making group mealtimes more enjoyable!”

Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder of Unplug Meditation and author of Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation

“I think being a great guest is so important. I always come with a thoughtful gift in hand and like to think about what the other person doesn’t have that they would have fun with. We went to Maine recently, so I brought baby-lobster-and-anchor ice trays (they are big boating people) and a scented candle. I think bringing a cheese plate or an abundance of fruit is always nice. Good guests not only entertain themselves, but entertain their hosts as well.

“Bring a book and sneakers for the down time. If you are aware that the family needs alone time, tell them you’re going for a run or hike. If there’s nothing to do, tell them that you’re reading your new favorite book. Of course, you should know the basic etiquette, wait for everyone before you eat or drink, be positive and present. And compliment everything—food, house, kids. Do this and you will definitely be asked back.”

Published on: August 3, 2017

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