Being Open to Risk: Three ways Karma Yoga helped me set up a successful Airbnb

oriental teapot and cups

For five years I lived close to Clear Sky while I studied and worked in the local area. I would spend weekends or sometimes do longer stays there. Aside from meditation and my teachers’ guidance, what has really changed my life is the practice of Karma Yoga. In Karma Yoga, we work closely with others, applying the principles of mindfulness and awareness to everything we do. We learn about ourselves by acting for the benefit of others and by questioning our own preferences and limitations.

This is a little story of how I brought these learnings into my life, and how the learnings keep on coming.

Moving to Edmonton

I came back to Alberta from BC with a carload of belongings, in September 2017.

I had a few personal items and bedding for my first night in my new place – a condo that had been bought by my parents and that I’d spent weeks repairing earlier that year. As I sat in the corner of a bedroom with just a mattress and a suitcase full of clothes, I felt little motivation to furnish the place for myself with my limited finances.

There was a lot going on in my mind. I really didn’t want to live alone again. I wondered if I could even get someone to rent the office-sized second bedroom. It was too small for anyone with much stuff of their own. And anyway, it would be much better to live with a friend again than find a stranger.

Fast forward a few months. I’d decided to try to rent out the whole condo, and had been living elsewhere. Unfortunately, the place hadn’t rented and I was still paying the condo fees. Then, I had a crazy idea which gradually seemed not so crazy. I’d stayed in many Airbnb’s and loved the experience. Could I become an Airbnb host myself?

Was I up to the challenge? The thing is, I figured I didn’t have a good sense of interior design. To be honest, it can be a struggle just keeping my space tidy, unless something or someone comes along to motivate me.

I gave myself a month. In that time, I would move back in, risk several hundred dollars pulling together furnishings, and give it a try. If that didn’t work out, it would probably be time to start thinking about selling the condo.

Over that month, I found how naturally I could apply things I’d learned from Karma Yoga to the process – I realized I’d become more than I was.

1) Honor Your Space

Creating a warm and inviting space

bananas and kettle in kitchen

Through my Buddhist practices over the years, I’d developed a kind of asceticism or austerity about acquiring possessions. It almost felt like a guilty pleasure to own anything nice.

But more recently, I’d learned from my stays at Clear Sky, and from my most recent roommate who had lived there for three years, that there’s not only value in honoring a space with cleanliness and tidiness, but also in creating a sense of beauty and abundance. That meant buying some possessions that I could celebrate and enjoy.

I got added motivation to do this because it wasn’t just for me. It was for my future guests.

I was starting to feel energized about my new venture.

2) Risk Versus Comfort Zone

Opening up one’s own space can seem risky, vulnerable, but it is by equal measure rewarding. Of course, it helps to be business-minded. More travelers mean more money to invest in improvements. And yet I don’t want to be naive about potential risks. Every Airbnb host has a story about a bad experience, and at times we may need to set limits and lay down rules. But it’s only through opening up to the challenge that we gain confidence, and feel we have something to offer to the world.

A lot of people would express surprise about my willingness to trust strangers… but what is the risk of not growing, and remaining isolated within our comfort zone? I had to trust the process for the right people to be drawn into my space, and for the most part that has played out. Any awkward situations – and there have been very few – only serve as needed to keep me awake and growing. And for me, other people provide the reason to go beyond “good enough” and begin to flourish.

There was the financial risk, too, that stretched my comfort zone. As I browsed Kijiji ads, I saw what furniture would fit my space. It had to be personal, warm, and inviting, and of course right for the space. I learned to trust right away if I wanted it, because I had to be quick to get it. I took a breath and dished out one hundred, two hundred dollars at a time.

desk in home office

I gave myself another week to get the place spotless and buy some attractive bedding, and a few more plants.

Then I clicked ‘publish’ on my Airbnb listing.

3) Creating and Holding The Space for its Purpose

plants and picture in living room

My first guest was a solo male traveler, just passing through for the night. Soon, other bookings started to come in – a couple from Mexico, a young tourist from Germany, and my excitement was growing. Since then, there have been over two dozen guests – men and women, professionals, students, and tourists from various parts of the world.

As all these guests came, I began to see the benefits of my time in community, in a space being held as a spiritual container. I’ve become more aware of how each person affects the space, and how my action, communication, and behavior affect others. So, while I’d focused so far on creating a beautiful and welcoming environment, I also wanted my guests to feel at home in a shared space. In this time I’ve really seen how my ability to do this, and my confidence, have grown through Karma Yoga and community living. I’m tapping into and trusting my intuition and welcoming nature, as well as resources such as equanimity, clarity, and kindness to hold the space.

At Clear Sky, I’ve seen examples of good communication and supportive systems, and how they contribute to creating a space that works. I’ve provided supportive and clear systems for my guests, and so far it seems to be working. One guest commented that he really appreciated the structure, and another that I “blew away the competition.”

My Airbnb Experience – the Learnings

Having acknowledged the previous growth and learning that I’ve drawn on to set up my Airbnb, I’d also like to share insights that came from it:

Be open to risk – we don’t know what will happen until we try, and step into the unknown. We may have to spend some money initially, but if we are on the right track, this will feel like an investment.

Tap into the talents of others – we have potential allies on the path who will make our life easier.

Be generous and be willing to serve others. Clear Sky founding teachers, Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat, say that being generous actually solves our problems with money. It starts to create that flow, and helps us discover our livelihood.