Holding Space

The simple definition of ‘space’ is; the amount of an area, surface, etc., that is empty or available for use, an area that is used or available for a specific purpose, an empty area between things.

If space is empty and non-tangible, how does one hold space for another?

I am not talking about the space in a calendar or a space at a table; I am talking about holding space for another breathing being, holding space for their pain, fears, dreams, joy, aspirations, mistakes, flaws and beauty.

How does one become so intimate with uncertainty and their own perfect imperfection that holding space for another in all their gore and glory can be done? 

Why is holding space for someone so difficult to do?

As a control enthusiast, I am driven to make sense out of pain, fear, sadness. I am driven to place things, emotions and people into compartments so they make safe sense for me, so I can protect myself from pain and the ravages of life. The problem is often there is no sense to be made out of emotions, there is no protection in a life fully lived and that can be really uncomfortable.

There is nothing in life that is certain and guaranteed except for death yet we move through life as though it is not imminent. We miss so many opportunities for real connection because real connection is often ugly and really hard to do.

Real connection is about holding space for another, it all about intimacy.

Real connection means we are squarely faced with our own imperfections, our own maladaptive behaviours, our own lies, our own inadequacies. Most people do not want to look at what we label as the less than desirable parts of ourselves yet that is where the diamonds are mined. It is in the depth that we find what we truly seek yet we rarely climb into the caverns. More often than not life’s circumstances will throw us down violently and we scramble to get out all the while looking over our shoulder to ensure the demons that reside there do not get a good grip on us.

We resist this uncomfortable holding of space, of depth because we become exposed and seen which can leave us vulnerable and raw. We miss so many opportunities for real depth because we are so committed to teaching life how it will work instead of remembering life teaches us and the lessons will repeat themselves until they are felt deeply and learnt fully.

I think we also find it hard to hold space because we often don’t understand another’s experience and we think we are supposed to, we aren’t. It is not our experience.

The most intense feelings cannot be understood, they can only be held with compassion, positive regard and love. We are often so busy trying to fix, make better, change, complete, tidy up and put away feelings that are typically uncomfortable that we miss the point.

We miss the opportunity to BE WITH the other person we are holding space for.

We miss the opportunity for that person’s pain to be held, not fixed, just HELD.

We miss the opportunity to soften, to remove a brick from our own wall of protection and certainty. Most importantly, we miss the opportunity to stop the struggle. 

We are often so concerned with trying to change people to fit our needs so we are not challenged to look at our own behaviour, our own disconnection to self and others, our own lies that we do the opposite of holding space to create intimacy, we create space that cannot be bridged.

Buddhist philosophy teaches the importance of sitting, not just on the cushion in meditation but sitting IN feelings, noticing them, allowing them to move through us, wash over us, teach us. Buddhist philosophy teaches us to hold space for ourselves and others.

Today, I am holding space in my heart for special people in my life.

I am holding space in my heart for the grief that my most precious friend is aching from and I ache with her. My tears are her tears and her tears are mine.

I am holding space for my chosen sister that is experiencing so much difficulty and I feel her sharp pain.

I am holding space for a friend that is struggling to rebuild and move forward and I feel the struggle and wish for relinquishment of the fight.

I am holding space for all sentient beings for we all experience pain. Perhaps most importantly, I am holding space for myself, for my continuing journey, for my commitment to sitting IN my stuff even when it threatens to shut me down or consume me.

I believe that space is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give each other and ourselves………

Space says I see you and I accept you.