The Welcoming Practice
The Welcoming Practice is a gentle, yet powerful, contemplative practice intended to nurture inner transformation. The practice, which finds its roots in the Contemplative community, has the capacity to carefully draw us out from our habitual reactions and help us move through challenging or painful experiences. I first learned about the Welcoming Practice while attending a Yoga Workshop with Patrick Cassidy several years ago. The teaching immediately resonated with me.
While there is no “right” or “wrong” time to practice, it is helpful to take time whenever the need arises (ie: when you feel triggered). This is not a one-time “quick fix”. Instead, think of this as a gentle unfolding; a method that, when practiced fully and consistently, can help ease one through the things that we usually try to escape from.
The Welcoming Practice:
- Step 1: Focus
Become aware of the physical sensations in your body. For example, if something has made you angry, notice what happens with your body. Does your chest tighten? Does your jaw clench, shoulders rise? What about your breath? Whatever happens, simply notice the various sensations without analyzing or judging. Just notice. (We are talking about raw presence.)
- Step 2: Welcome
Ever so gently, begin to say ‘welcome’ to the unpleasant sensation caused by the trigger …. such as “welcome fear”, etc. Though this step feels counter-intuitive (our impulse will most likely be to try to push away the unpleasant emotion instead of welcoming it.) as Cynthia Bourgeault explains:
“…by welcoming it instead, you create an atmosphere of inner hospitality.
By embracing the thing you once defended yourself against or ran from,
you are actually disarming it, removing its power to hurt
you or chase you back into your smaller self.”
Note that we are not welcoming the source of the unpleasant sensation. For example, we are not going to “welcome cancer” or “welcome verbal abuse from a family member”. This step deals with the sensations that arise within us. Although our initial reaction to this step may be one of resistance, people often describe the effects of the practice as “inviting feelings of spaciousness”, “positive”, and “empowering”.
- Step 3: Transition to a ‘letting go’
Name the trigger and your response, and verbalize “letting go”: I let go of my desire for …. (security and survival, esteem, power and control, change…) This step is not coming from a place of lack. Instead, it is a step towards peace. Acceptance is not the same as giving up. Acceptance is not a matter of rolling over or even approval. Acceptance is about finding a way to feel at peace with where you are at this very moment. Acceptance is about relief from suffering.
If you sit with this practice, or have any questions, please let me know what you think. If this is something that interests you, you can hear Cynthia talk about this method by visiting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bClyhR2ZPc