Author Topic: Spirituality of houseguests  (Read 5657 times)

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White Dragon

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Spirituality of houseguests
« on: January 06, 2013, 05:16:21 PM »
This question is purely etiquette related and I do not want to get into religious specifics.
I am going to be as general as I can while trying to provide enough information to address the issue.

BG
We have a houseguest who will be with us for an unknown duration, but I think it may be several months.
Kyle's home is not a good place for him to be right now. (Not for legally actionable reasons, just family dynamics mostly related to family mental health issues.)(Please refrain from medical or legal comment.)
Kyle is 17 and yes, we are making sure his parent is okay with this.

I like Kyle, he's a very nice young man who is having a rough time.
/BG

Our household (DH and I and 4 children aged 16 to 21) are from a mainstream Christian background. Some of us practice, some don't and some are trying to figure out their paths. Everyone does identify as more-or-less Christian though.

Kyle is from a very different path and is trying to determine his spiritual identity.
He did let me know that the dried herbs in his room were related to his spiritual practice (he was afraid we'd assume they were drugs and kick him out.)

I asked him if he had an altar and he said that the altar was at the other house.

I want Kyle to feel safe and comfortable here. I am not going to get into a religious debate with him - I have absolutely no right to tell him what he can and cannot believe. (I may not agree with him, but I have no problem with the basic tenants of his path.)

We would prefer that any rituals involving burning of herbs or candles be conducted outside. However, as it is the middle of a Canadian prairie winter, I'm not sure this is possible to achieve.

Does anyone know if rituals of this sort need to be done at fixed times?
Would it be okay for us to ask him to please refrain from performing rituals indoors?

Again, I'd like to restrict the discussion to how to best accomodate the needs of the houseguest and the needs of the household.

EMuir

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2013, 05:19:25 PM »
I would tell him that there's a 'no burning anything" policy in your home, including candles.  That should take care of any problems with smoke. 

As far as having an altar in his room where he doesn't burn anything, I think that's something that needs to be allowed, as any renter would be allowed.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2013, 05:25:12 PM »
Is your concern with the smell or with the open flame?  If it is the open flame, would there be a spot in the house that is cement so the risk would be less?  Or if it is the smell of the herbs, is there a spot with better ventilation?  A fireplace would solve both of those issues, for example.  Or maybe the garage, if it is reasonably insulated?  Mine isn't exactly warm but it does stay above 0 unless it is -30 or -40 outside.

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snowdragon

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2013, 05:26:01 PM »
The needs of the household come first. Kyle can have his own beliefs and not impose them on his hosts.  l When one is a houseguest one must realize that the  mental comfort of the hosts comes before anything else - people have the absolute right to be comfortable in their own home and to impose whatever limits on guest behavior that are needed to achieve this.  I don't think you need to allow the altar or the burning if he stays with you
  Outside of one's home, no one has the right to impose limits on legal behaviors - but in one's home the host's wishes trump all.  I would ban anything I was uncomfortable with if someone were my guest.
  Cold winter or not Kyle can find somewhere else to practice his religion.

nutraxfornerves

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2013, 05:29:01 PM »
It really depends on the specific religion or spiritual tradition. I think you really need to ask Kyle

Some may burn herbs for a specific purpose. "Cleansing" a new dwelling, for example, or to heal a certain problem. Others may regularly use them in a ceremony. Some may be no more than an incense stick. Others may require a cloud of smoke.

I think the best thing to do would be to ask Kyle if he can discuss the use of the herbs with you. (Sometimes, that is not permitted.) Tell him your concerns about burning things indoors, and suggest you work together to find a solution. If you approach it with respect and a willingness to learn about his spiritual practices, he will probably open up.

Then you can look at things like a fireplace, the garage, some sort of fireproof container, purchase of an extinguisher for his room, etc.

Nutrax
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White Dragon

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2013, 05:34:37 PM »
Is your concern with the smell or with the open flame?  If it is the open flame, would there be a spot in the house that is cement so the risk would be less?  Or if it is the smell of the herbs, is there a spot with better ventilation?  A fireplace would solve both of those issues, for example.  Or maybe the garage, if it is reasonably insulated?  Mine isn't exactly warm but it does stay above 0 unless it is -30 or -40 outside.

I think our concerns are threefold.

First, while we may burn candles in the main living area, we are not comfortable with lit candles in bedrooms - any bedrooms.

Second, yes, there is a concern about the odor of burning herbs. (I would imagine that Kyle would not want to conduct his rituals in "okay to light a candle" areas such as the kitchen.)

Finally, DH expressed some spiritual discomfort with having active rituals this far removed from our own practiced in his home.

I think the garage may be an okay compromise, assuming that Kyle needed to perform a ritual. I don't know if he has "required" observances, although if so, I would guess the next might be the spring equinox.

mindicherry

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2013, 05:35:33 PM »
I think from a safety and smell standpoint, the "no burning" policy is a fine one....but I have 2 ideas:

1.  while you seem to be going WAY above and beyond the call of duty/friendship helping this boy out, maybe you could reach a compromise where he could do any burning of herbs in a supervised environment...something like "in the kitchen, while you are there" a few times a week? Of course, this depends upon your reason for the "no burning" rule.  If it is safety, then you are there making sure he doesn't burn down the house.  if it is because of smell, then this wouldn't be a workable solution

2.  I know that many religions require that certain prayers to be said while lighting candles.  While this isn't perfect, if he still wants to be able to say those prayers in the "proper way" (while lighting a candle), ask him if he can use one of those electric candles (where there isn't actually a flame, but a lightbulb).  I could be wrong about this, but I always thought that candles matched with prayer because of the light that they provide, not because of the striking of a match.  If he could "flick a switch" to get that light...would that still allow him to say those prayers "properly"?

Just some thoughts....

snowdragon

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2013, 05:39:04 PM »
Is your concern with the smell or with the open flame?  If it is the open flame, would there be a spot in the house that is cement so the risk would be less?  Or if it is the smell of the herbs, is there a spot with better ventilation?  A fireplace would solve both of those issues, for example.  Or maybe the garage, if it is reasonably insulated?  Mine isn't exactly warm but it does stay above 0 unless it is -30 or -40 outside.

I think our concerns are threefold.

First, while we may burn candles in the main living area, we are not comfortable with lit candles in bedrooms - any bedrooms.

Second, yes, there is a concern about the odor of burning herbs. (I would imagine that Kyle would not want to conduct his rituals in "okay to light a candle" areas such as the kitchen.)

Finally, DH expressed some spiritual discomfort with having active rituals this far removed from our own practiced in his home.


I think the garage may be an okay compromise, assuming that Kyle needed to perform a ritual. I don't know if he has "required" observances, although if so, I would guess the next might be the spring equinox.

  To me DH's comfort would over rule Kyle's desire to practice these things in your home.  If this is the tradition I think it is - practicing elsewhere should not be too much of a burden.  If he insists on doing something that makes DH ( or other household members) uncomfortable, this may not be a good fit for your family.

m2kbug

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2013, 05:46:46 PM »
I think you are perfectly fine asking that nothing gets burned in the home.  I would hope his Deity understands the limitations and would be fine with it. 

wolfie

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 05:49:47 PM »
I have a no candle or incense rule in my house because fires make me nervous and last time I lit a candle I ended up accidentally burning a hole in the carpet. So I would just let him know that I don't like fires in my house and that if he wants/needs to burn something to please do it outside. I would emphasis the safety issue and in my own case admit it might not be completely rational but it is for my own piece of mind. You haven't mentioned that he actually burned anything so this might not even be an issue.

Sharnita

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2013, 05:55:21 PM »
Are there others who practice his religion? Could he worship at a shared locaction with them?

nolechica

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2013, 06:01:02 PM »
Could he use his other altar for his purposes?  Also, is he a senior in high school and possibly about to move again anyway?

Lynn2000

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2013, 06:17:24 PM »
I think our concerns are threefold.

First, while we may burn candles in the main living area, we are not comfortable with lit candles in bedrooms - any bedrooms.

Second, yes, there is a concern about the odor of burning herbs. (I would imagine that Kyle would not want to conduct his rituals in "okay to light a candle" areas such as the kitchen.)

Finally, DH expressed some spiritual discomfort with having active rituals this far removed from our own practiced in his home.

I think the garage may be an okay compromise, assuming that Kyle needed to perform a ritual. I don't know if he has "required" observances, although if so, I would guess the next might be the spring equinox.

Even if Kyle didn't actually have to burn anything (no flames or smell), I think your DH's discomfort with the rituals being done in your house would still need to be addressed. I guess it depends on how uncomfortable "some" is, and if it's something he thinks he can reconcile with over time/with more education about the practice, or not. I don't think it would be rude to tell Kyle he can't perform the rituals in your house at all, if your DH is very uncomfortable with it.

Beyond that: if it's not prohibited for Kyle to perform the rituals in someplace like a kitchen, I would suggest that as a possible place rather than the bedroom. You could make the kitchen off-limits for half an hour or whatever while he's in there, and ask him to turn on the exhaust fan over the stove when he's done. I always think of garages as containing flammable things, like oil and gas and cardboard boxes, so that wouldn't be my first choice; also if you had to move your car out of the way each time that would be a pain. Is there any kind of semi-protected area outside, behind a shed or bushes or something, where at least he'd be out of the wind? Kind of like where the smokers would go, if you didn't want them to smoke in the house. Unless the rituals take an hour-plus, he could bundle up and go outside and be fine unless there was an active storm. The idea of finding other local practitioners he could worship with is also a good one.

I think keeping the lines of communication open with Kyle about this are important. Perhaps you could ask him for some books or websites on his set of beliefs, so you could read up on details and then check with him if you find anything concerning. Fundamentally I think the spiritual comfort of those currently in your household comes first, though.
~Lynn2000

sweetonsno

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2013, 06:17:32 PM »
I'm very interested in different religions. While I'm unable to answer with absolute certainty without knowing the specific religion, I'm guessing that it is earth-based.

To answer your questions:
1. Most religions, earth-based and otherwise, have rituals that are supposed to be performed at certain times of the year or on certain days. An example in Christianity would be Ash Wednesday. Most religions also have rituals that are performed at certain times of day. For instance, they might pray together at certain times of day. Earth-based religions aren't any different.

2. It's great that you want Kyle to be able to pursue his own spiritual path and that you are supportive of that decision. However, you are not obligated to allow him to burn herbs or candles in your home if it is against your rules. I don't see it as any different than telling a guest that they may not smoke inside if your house is non-smoking. I do think it would be wrong for you to ask him to not perform ANY rituals indoors. I'd be surprised if all rituals would disturb members of your household. (I don't think that burning incense or herbs would be required for all rituals.) I think it's fine to tell him that rituals involving burning must be done outside/in the carport/wherever. If he has a religious/spiritual community nearby, perhaps he can speak with someone there about alternatives to burning indoors, or for the more important ceremonies or rituals for which fire/smoke is essential, join another member at their home.

katycoo

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Re: Spirituality of houseguests
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 06:37:50 PM »
I wouldn't make any strict rules about it.

Rather, i'd be honest and have a conversation along the lines of that he knows the family is all generally Christian and you're fine with the fact that he isn't adn is exploring other faiths.  Tell him that due to potential conflicts of faith, if he wanted to do anything ritualistic, no matter how simple the action (ie lighting a candle) you'd appreciate a discussion on the ritual and its significance.  That way you can make a fair detemination on whether you're ok with such a ritual happening in the house, adn if not you can work with im to find an appropriate place for the ritual to be undertaken.

This will help you learn about his burgeoning beliefs an keep an eye on where he's headed as well as hopefully reach some compromise.