Holding space as practice.


When I was leading a faith community, I often considered my work to be “holding a space” for whatever was present, for whatever what was in the life of that community. When I thought of myself as “holding a space,” I was accepting of what I saw in the life of the community. When action was needed, I took action, always aware of the space of which that action was a part. When conflict arose, I turned my attention toward the conflict. When someone cried out for help, I heard the cry and moved to that place in the space.

I wish I could say I did it perfectly. I did not. Many days, I found it difficult to hold space even for myself, for whatever came to be in my life – inner and outer life – that day. But the awareness that my role was to “hold space” allowed a certain spaciousness in me as I acted, or did not act.

Had I been able to hold space perfectly, I am sure I would have calmly arrived at each place of discomfort. I am sure I would have been perfectly present to what was, in each moment.

The idea/concept/image of holding a space is an energetic reality. When I intend to hold space, I am making space. When I intend to hold space, I make space within myself and outside of myself. I can do this by using my imagination, by seeing myself as part of the larger whole, however far I intend that whole to be. If I am courageous enough, I can use my imagination to see my space extending outward and outward and outward and outward, to encompass the whole of reality.

When I am able to hold space, for myself or for another, I experience myself as being more accepting. I know that each one of is filled with all things: with darkness/light, open/closed, healed/hurt, good/bad, right/wrong, love/hate. I am all of those things, also, and when I hold space, all of those things are in my space. When I hold space for another, I am present to them when they are sad, when they are confused, when they are depressed, when they are happy, when they are angry. I do not try to change them. I do not try to talk them out of the place in which they find themselves. To do so is an act of violence.

When I am able to hold space, I accept myself and The Other in that moment, as they are. It is from that moment/this moment that we move into – are already moving into – the next moment.

Some of my most joyful times of teaching have been the times when I have reminded others how to hold space. I say “reminded” because each one of us, in our selves, knows what it is to hold space. When we are reminded, we can easily return to that place of acceptance and wholeness. We remember.

Writing this today, I am reminded that it is my spiritual practice to hold space, to simply and profoundly hold space. I hold space for myself: for my feelings, my thoughts, my actions, my memories, my awareness. I am present to myself. I hold space for you: for your feelings, your thoughts, your actions, your awareness. When I hold space for you, I offer you the great gift of complete acceptance. I don’t do this perfectly, and this, too, is in the space I hold.