‘Wherever you are, just take the role of host, and that place will be our true place.’

~ Linji Yixuan, from PZI Miscellaneous koans

When we are the host, we are warm and inviting, expansive and generous. In Zen, becoming the host allows our hearts and minds to beckon the whole world to enter. Our home, indeed our world, becomes a familiar and warm visiting place for all things.

Some months ago I was talking with a friend who was sitting with the koan ‘No’. After our conversation, she went back into the zendo and felt very emotional and wanted to weep, but felt self-conscious. So she took the generous role of the host: she invited her koan ‘No’ in, and allowed the koan to weep. With that, she invited all those in the zendo and beyond to join in. That small invitation, such a simple thing, was given from her true place.

The invitation need not be grand. When serving as Head of Practice in week-long retreats, I often notice that by about the fifth day people are getting kind of tired. Trying to get enlightened can be exhausting business, as we all know. Speaking in the zendo, I sometimes suggest people invite their koan to pitch in with the work. When standing, let ‘No’ stand, when eating, let ‘No’ eat. With that simple invitation, the difference between guest and host begin to fall away and our true place becomes obvious.

And for this holiday season? I think I will invite my brother into the kitchen to help more with the dishes. That, after all, is his true place.