Written by Nam Taro

In 2018, I joined the Art of Hosting (AOH) training for the first time. I joined it because of a profound fascination for the Circle Way practice; and also because I want to have firsthand experience with stewards of AOH and more of its methods. After joining this year (2022) AOH training, reflecting on the experience, I am ever more convinced that it stands as one of the most significant experiences in my three decades of life.

This training is not the same as any other training I have been. In almost all activities, learning is co-created through meaningful questions and conversations wherein each participant fosters an opportunity to lend their voice to the collective wisdom. From the initial moments that we were within the whole-group circle, we jointly commit to five foundational principles in order to practice “living in community” throughout the four-day and three-night sojourn in Ninh Bình:

1. “Listening with attention”: We listen to understand, to connect, without interruption.

2. “Speak with intention”: We speak from a place of authenticity and clarity of intention.

3. “Take care of the group’s well-being”: We remain observant of our individual influence (energy, intent) upon others, making appropriate adjustments to optimally contribute to the group.

4. “Invite openness and curiosity”.

5. “Ask for what you need, offer what you can”.

These principles might appear simple, yet their power is profoundly realized only when we get caught up in the cycle of worrying, defending our opinions, proving ourselves; we begin to “step on each other’s words”, or abandon each other in the process of co-creation. Just then, we even more appreciate the power of such simple practices.

In my own experience of this journey, in four days and three nights, it was about reminding each other to practice these principles, observing the wondrous outcomes that can only arise when individuals are genuinely receptive to learning from one another, forging transformative and deep-rooted lessons. Before the training commenced, I assisted in curating a list of essential specialized terminologies encapsulating the spirit of “hosting”. This process also helped me as a personal reminder of “practice” – a simple term, yet embodying the most fundamental value of our community:

The verb ‘practice’ denotes the repeated execution of an activity or skill to achieve or maintain mastery in it. As hosts, we practice hosting; as harvesters, we practice harvesting. This language reminds us that we are ever within the continuum of learning.

Heeding the five principles, there lies an invitation to “continuously practice” listening, sharing, and nurturing each other. The essence of the Art of Hosting is uncomplicated, and its beauty lies in the commitment to practice the most subtle things in our mindset and our communication behaviors.

In the viewpoints of mindset, we will never be flawless in communication. There will be times when we are to stumble and inadvertently hurt each other. What counts is the courageous choice to come back and “practice again”.

In the viewpoints of behaviors, individual and interpersonal “hosting” practices lay the foundation for broader systemic change. A system is able to be open to change only when every cell-unit  knows how to foster opportunities for dialogue and intelligence sharing, transforming collectively from the ground up. The Art of Hosting’s large-scale methodologies are all built upon these underpinnings. A thriving living system requires robustness at the cellular level, ready for collaborative work, nurturing each other’s strength.

Wrapping up my recent four-day and three-night experience at the Art of Hosting Training succinctly, it is a space for us to practice a community life together—a place where each individual faced challenges to embrace diverse worldviews, learn from every decisions in communication, and witness their contributions to a broader system.

Here, we did not merely ask ourselves, “What is your intention for yourself?” but perpetually inquired, “What is your intention for those around you?” This marks the commencement of an invitation to “practice” living, playing, and working together, and, just as crucial, to be authentic in a world striving for the good of all.

For a deeper understanding of the practices within the Art of Hosting, I invite you to read the Four Fold Practice by author Phạm Quang Linh