At the end of June I arrived in Leorza, a village of 15 inhabitants in the beautiful mountains of the Southern Basque Country. Since then I‘ve been helping Phil, a Scottish friend I met on a silent retreat many years ago, to run his Airbnb. Apart from cleaning rooms and cooking meals, I‘ve spent many hours trekking with his funky donkeys, listening to the buzzing of the bees in the amazing glass beehive, and watering plants in the organic vegetable garden.
Every few days, new guests arrived. They were all very different: a Polish woman doing a triathlon in the nearby town, followed by a Belgium family looking for company; a US Airforce pilot with wife and kids, followed by a French mushroom farmer; hippies from the Northern Basque Country, followed by Italian scientists. While I welcomed everyone with a friendly smile, I also noticed something else happening behind that smile: I was judging each new arrival.
I thought, ‘he looks miserable, and she seems uptight; he’s too serious, she’s too airy-fairy. Those kids surely turn out to be a nuisance, and the dogs will probably get on my nerves too.’ It didn’t take long and I started judging myself for judging everyone.
Soon I wondered: Is it actually possible to meet new people without judging them? The conclusion I came to is that it might be possible, but not for me. At least not yet – perhaps I need to meditate for another twenty years. In the meantime, there’s something else which can be done and which I find at least as important as not-judging. That is, to stay open.
The miserable guy was miserable indeed, but also turned out to be really funny; the uptight woman was just shy at the beginning before showing her kind and curious side; the kids were hard work at times, but now I miss their constant questions; and the dogs actually never got on my nerves. Yes, some of my early judgments proved correct, but they were only one part of each person’s bigger story. Giving each person’s story a chance to fully unfold was the key to disarm the judgement I had towards the others and myself. In the end, the house was filled with meaningful connections. No wifi, but lots of communication; no romance, but lots of love.
Here’s what Rumi says in THE GUEST HOUSE:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awaresness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
PS: Phil (together with his bees and donkeys) is one of the protagonists of my upcoming documentary film AHIMSA – EMBRACING PEACE. The crowdfunding campaign is up and running, here’s the link to support the work of an independent filmmaker and contribute to peace: www.clausmikosch.com/ahimsa