January 15.  Months ago, we were thrilled when Toke Møller agreed to come to Montreal to lead our Art of Hosting event.  But then he announced his three conditions – each of which would challenge our mental comfort and our egos.  He alone would choose the other two international hosts.  Together, we would all design the agenda in the two days prior to the event (not sooner).  And each of us on the local team would be called “apprentices.”

I have to say: it was this last condition that challenged us the most.  And yet, that was probably the one that was most valuable to us in the end.

But first…we struggled with it.

For those of us with decades of professional experience, we inwardly bristled at the term, even as we rationalized it publicly.  It was clear we had much to learn from Toke and the two fellow teachers he would choose.  But did we have to be given such a menial-sounding name?  And what was the purpose of the title, we quietly wondered.  Was it an exertion of power on his part?  That seemed uncharacteristic of the Art of Hosting community – and he assured us that “we’re all apprentices,” including himself.  But the thought of power crept in nonetheless.

Now, on the other side of the event experience, I can see the wisdom and even generosity behind naming us as apprentices.

  • First, it did position Toke and his colleagues as the master teachers – as the leaders.  And I found that this created helpful clarity in our interactions before and during the event.
  • Second, it allowed us to relax into being hosted by the three of them, though they were visitors in our city.  This was a gift.
  • And third, it invited us into a stance of playful learning, without fear of failure or shame – even in front of the 117 participants.  There was both humility and authenticity in how we showed up.  And our example invited the participants into a similar stance.

So much of the teaching of the three days was about practice, in the deepest sense.  “Being a mother is a practice,” Toke said as he explained the four-fold practice at the heart of the Art of Hosting.  “Being a wife is a practice.  Being a human is a practice.  I’m just practicing my life.”

Rather than diminishing us, apprenticeship elevated us and our work to more worthy pursuits than just the posturing of our egos.  And it invited us into deeper and ongoing learning.

Now I can see that it’s only the wisest among us who are apprentices.

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