In The Yoga of Discipline, Swami Chidvilasananda says that we should eat in such a way that the earth is happy to have us as a guest. (See Thanksgiving blog). As I get ready for the holiday season — a time of being a guest and receiving guests — I continue to contemplate this exhortation. We’ve all had the house guests who seem to ravage our homes and our larders without any apparent appreciation for our hospitality, leaving us exhausted after they are gone. We have other guests, who make us feel gracious, whose way of relating to our home and our hospitality makes us want to invite them in further and helps us enjoy our own home and food more.
My favorite guest is the one who makes herself at home, helps herself, and is delighted with offers of specially prepared meals or touches to the guest room. The ones who invade private spaces and make a mess and, on the opposite side, those who tiptoe around and refuse nearly every attempt to make the visit special, are equally difficult.
How can we be a good guest of the earth? Not only should we be grateful for what we are given, but we should not take more than is offered from the heart. Here’s a practical example: it takes about 60 ounces of water to bring you a 20 ounce plastic bottle of water. The earth cheerfully offers the 20 ounces of water as nourishment. Taking the 60 ounces, when 40 ounces is waste and destruction and only 20 ounces is for nourishment, is like being the kind of guest that exhausts you rather than enriches you by honoring your hospitality. I’d love to hear other practical examples from you about how to be a more gracious guest of the earth.