Tales of a Hermit Host

If you read about it in the news, being an Airbnb host seems like an extroverted undertaking — you do it because you want to meet people!!  Well,maybe you do it because you need the extra income…but you still want to meet people!!  Welcome them in, chat them up, even invite them to have dinner with you and your family or go out for drinks at the local pub and find a new friend.
So what if…you dont’ want to spend a lot of time with your guests? What if you actually….like to be alone?  I mean, what if you really like to be alone! Well maybe not entirely alone, as being alone with books is always a delicious experience.

 

And if they thought her aimless, if they thought her a bit mad, let them. It meant they left her alone. Marya was not aimless, anyway. She was thinking.”                                                                                     hermit with books

                                    Ryokan

                 “Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.”
Ryokan

 

I’ve always loved to be alone.  Problem is, I live in a time and place where housing is expensive.  If I were wealthy,  I would love to live in my house all alone.   Oh, I would relish having all that space! Ironically, I have a large house, but my private living quarters are not inordinately spacious, nor are they elaborate , and much of my own rooms’ decor and setup is downright simple.    All so that I can make room for others in my home…others who I want….but do I want them, or just tolerate them?

It’s a curious question, how one who is by nature very introverted and solitary,  a hermit, adapts to living with others.  What are my real feelings and thoughts about this situation?

Honestly, I don’t mind having others around, just as long as  they are not too close . I like hearing the sound of footsteps below, the sound of water running or dishes clanging on the other side of the house, or the murmur of a conversation going on somewhere on my property.  These are comforting sounds, reminding me that I am part of the human community, and I think my comfort with them, indicates I’m not a misanthrope.  I like knowing there are people in my house, and I like knowing that I don’t have to be there right beside them, forced into interaction, severed from my interior process and my imaginal journeys.  I can be part of the human community, but not imposed upon.  How beautiful and different this, from being stuck in a roomful of people or in a large crowd, with no escape in sight! That is a real nightmare for an introvert!

crowds yecch
not fun for the introvert

One way that I adapt is by defining very clearly, the nature of my house and the type of setting I am intentionally creating — which, if it cannot resemble a monastery, can at least resemble a retreat atmosphere, where spiritually oriented retreatants come to silently share the same space. They dont’ come to the retreat primarily to play card games and have dinner together, or chat over a bottle of wine.  THey dont’ come to retreat to watch TV and play video games. They don’t even come to go on vacation in that area and use the retreat setting just as a hotel room.   They come with an inner purpose, a purpose having to do with their inner life — or, failing that, at least they come with a project to do,that benefits from a quiet space that they can do it in.  You see, I’d love to have only spiritual retreatants at my house, but there aren’t enough of them.

retreatants in retreat hall
Spiritual practice in a quiet sanctuary
stillness in the forest
stillness in the forest

 

So I invite guests to a retreat setting, hoping to inspire them to want to be retreatants, but knowing that many of them are not interested in spiritual practice.  Still, I hope being in the peaceful setting that I offer, might rub off on them, to inspire them.

Another way I manage , as a hermit in a home with others, is to carefully and firmly carve out private space and private time, within my household. I need large blocks of time to be alone, to engage in creative pursuits.  Generally, the mornings are most productive for me to do meditation, spiritual study, creative writing and art.  I try not to emerge from my “hermitage” until about 10am. One of the difficulties in this respect in having others in my home, is that there are invariably chores to be done, that require me to go out — and often in the morning — such as feeding the backyard fowl, or taking out trash, watering the plants.  I find that when I go out of my private space, it can be stressful if I am in a creative mindframe or a trance state, and I have to interact with others about mundane matters.  For instance someone asking where they laundry machine is, or how they can get to a grocery store.  It’s even harder if I encounter a bubbly guest who is eager not only to chat, but wants to sit down and have a long conversation with me, just at the time when I most need to be alone.  This may be difficult to appreciate,  for someone who isn’t themselves an introvert, or who doesn’t know what it’s like to be in a creative state or a state of mind that is “miles away” from discussions about grocery stores or laundry.  Some who are not able to appreciate the stress here,  may be likely to snap,

“Well, if you find it to be so difficult to engage in chit-chat, why are you having others in your home, why not live as a recluse in a cottage deep in the the forest somewhere?”

Which is the kind of nasty comment I had to endure from many an apartment neighbor, during the years I was a tenant, living in apartment buildings.  If you think it’s hard to be a hermit in your own home in the city, try having to do it in an apartment building!  It’s enough to start a war, to have hermitage needs in a multiunit apartment building.   Oh yes, I’d love to live deep in a forest somewhere, but I haven’t yet figured out the finances.   Then too, I think we need spiritual nourishment in the city, and we need to have people living in urban places who are calling others to quietude.  Even if some may resent hearing that call.

So what actually happens when I have guests over to my home-cum-hermitage?

Mostly, things go surprisingly well.  I seek and obtain a lot of independent guests, who have things to do when they come to town, so they aren’t oriented to “hanging out” at my house.  I only do single occupancy, one person per room, which greatly helps minimize noise, as it cuts down on conversations.  One person in a room is generally far quieter than two.  I have quiet hours, after which point, I dont’ allow cellphone conversations in the house.  This too helps keep the atmosphere quiet.  I dont’ allow guests to have visitors over, and again, this helps clarify that my intention is  not to create an environment for socializing, but a nurturing setting for relaxation or inner work.2yxejxv

One difficulty that I’ve had in the past with being solitary and needing privacy, but having others in my home, was the tendency of longer term renters (roommates) to appropriate the common spaces as theirs.  I was alone in my private space so often, that I appeared not to “own” or possess the common areas, which were far more often occupied by my roommates.  I found this to be a very serious problem with roommates, much less so with short term guests, which is why I now prefer short term renters.  The problem that arises, when one is often hidden in one’s own home, is that the owner’s absence gives the renters a feeling of license to ignore the owner’s requests and rules of the domicile, and to do as they please.  THe result, for me, was quite often that I ended up being bullied in my own home.

 

not nice to be bullied in your own home                 bully image

 

So having guests over at my house, actually became a solution for this hermit.  It meant an end to bullying, as it meant that there was much less likelihood I would venture out into the kitchen, and discover that it had been taken over by a “gang”, a gang of “roomies”  who might say hello, but the tone in the “hello” was clearly one of  “Welcome into MY kitchen!”

It was a lovely thing indeed to get the last of these roommates out of my house for good, and declare that my house was no longer a “residence” for anyone but myself.  From this point forward, I was going to be the only permanent resident of my own home, and everyone else staying here would be a guest.  Once in a while I do get inquiries from guests who say that they would love to stay for either a week or a year, and I get a little worried about that.  It’s nice to have folks appreciate what I am offering, but no more roommates, please!!

 

retreat center cabin with chairsYou’re welcome to visit but not to stay….

 

 

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