Salon (discovering the elephant)

I’m in the process of creating a “salon” at my house. There will be tea and philosophy. There will probably be wine and cookies too. I’m talking about it here because I think you might want to do the same at your house.

My goal is to “discover the elephant.” Remember the story about the five blind men and the elephant? There are many different versions of it in many faith traditions, and they differ as to what each man thought he was experiencing, but they have the same root meaning. One was touching the leg and thought it was a tree, for instance. Another was touching the tail and thought it was part of a hookah. Each man thought that they had the entire thing before them, and that what they were experiencing was the truth. It was only when they started sharing what they were experiencing did they realize that they were dealing with something far bigger.

So how do you do this? How do you get people together to discover the elephant? Here are some ideas.

There should be no TV or electronic devices. We spend so much of our time these days looking into a screen and not into each other’s eyes. This is intended to be a place where people can be with each other and share their souls. It is a sanctuary for the soul.

I prefer the idea of having everybody sit on low cushions or stools that are on an assortment of carpets, but not everybody may like that. Have different seating options available. People need to feel physically comfortable first.

Encourage each person to bring something from their faith tradition to share, or have a selection of sacred texts available. The goal here is not to convert anyone, but to foster understanding not only within faith traditions, but also towards a bigger understanding.

Each person should be encouraged to talk, but nobody must talk. Everyone must listen fully and respectfully. There will be many different personalities present, and some are more willing to share than others. Be accommodating to different communication styles.

Physically, the space should foster a sense of privacy. This can be done out on a porch if there is no view of neighbors immediately present. The size of the room needs to be considered for the number of people. I’ve got a 12×12 porch, and I think it can hold maybe 6 people. Any more than that and it will feel crowded. Also, you wouldn’t want to put a few people in a huge room with high ceilings. It can be inside or outside.

I encourage the use of candles and focus objects. We humans need a place to send our eyes to and things to play with when things get too intense.

Engage the senses. Have a bell to ring, for instance. Consider using incense – but also be mindful of people with allergies and asthma. Use colorful furnishings.

You want the space to be welcoming but not too intense. All white is too much, but too many colors is too much as well. Seek balance.

Texture is important. If you are going to sit on the floor, how does the carpet feel?

The more physically comfortable you can make the space, the better the conversation will go.

Souls are shy. It may take a while for people to open up. It is a process. Celebrate whatever happens.

Thank each person for coming and sharing themselves.


I’m a very private person. This may sound odd coming from someone who writes a blog. I also have a very public job. I work with and in front of strangers half the day at work. I try to serve each person as fully as I can. I try to serve them as if they are Jesus in disguise. I try to serve them as if I am Jesus.

It is overwhelming.

I’m grateful for the time off the desk to be calm and quiet. I’m grateful for the activities I have off the desk that require a different kind of attention.

I’m really quite the introvert. I fake being an extrovert.

I used to feel bad about this. It meant that my home was my refuge and I’d spend my off time there, alone with my husband. He is an introvert too so it works out. I felt that perhaps we were missing out on life somehow. We didn’t have friends over, and we didn’t go out with friends. We stuck to ourselves.

I’ve decided to change that a little. I’ve decided to push my boundaries a little. I think it is important to spend time with friends, so I’ve been making “playdates”. I’m creating a “salon” at my house. It is a space where we can get together with a few people at a time and have tea and philosophy.

Partly the trick is to pick good friends who understand that I get a little overwhelmed, friends who understand that I can’t stay up too late. I might turn into a pumpkin, you know.

I asked Jesus into this, because I feel it is a weakness, this being so private and guarded and I introverted. He pointed out that he spent a lot of time alone.

So I’m in good company.

I’d rather have a few good friends than a lot of sort-of friends. I’d rather have friends who are comfortable with me and I’m comfortable with them. I’d rather know people who I don’t have to wrestle the house into shape in order for them to visit.

If I have to turn myself into something I’m not, then they aren’t really friends with me, the real me, anyway, right? It would be putting on a show – like selling someone something that isn’t really what it is advertised to be. I don’t wear makeup, or dye my hair. I am what I am. So I should be the same about my house.

Peace (cat in a tree)

I want to be a peacemaker. I want to take conflict resolution classes. I want to help people understand each other. I want to wake people up to their potential. I want to show them how to prevent problems.

My spiritual director says I need to focus inward. She says I need to take care of myself first. I guess this I kind of like when you are on an airplane and the pressure drops. You have to make sure your oxygen mask is on first before you help out the people around you. I guess it is like being a first responder. If you aren’t in shape, how can you rescue someone else?

This makes sense yet it also sounds backwards. There are already too many people who are totally self centered and selfish. There are already too many people who are unaware and unawake. To turn my desire to help others around onto myself seems like regression.

But perhaps the middle way is best. It would mean that I am balanced and grounded. It would mean that I can help others and not be depleted. If you overextend you may fall. Just like if you are rescuing a kitten from a tree, if you reach out too far, go past your balance point, you’ll fall to the ground.

Then, there is the idea that the kitten needs to learn how to get her own dang self down.

If you keep rescuing the kitten, she’ll keep needing to be rescued. Maybe there is something useful there in that thought.

Nobody rescued me. Nobody stood around and cheered me on to start getting healthy in body and soul. Nobody figured out how I could carve out time and money to go to the Y. Perhaps there is something in letting people figure out how to get there on their own.

Maybe there is something to being OK with the idea that they may never get there. Maybe there is something about being OK with where they are right now.

I just hate listening to the yowling of that stuck cat.

I want it to stop climbing up that tree. It has climbed up that same tree for years and it keeps getting stuck. I want it to pick a different tree or figure this one out. Or stay away from trees entirely.

I’ve got my own trees to wrestle with. I want to help, but I don’t want to rescue. But I also don’t want to feel like saying “I told you so”.