Have you ever felt that you needed to do something but that you needed the presence of someone else to do it, without her doing anything? She held space for you. A teacher holds space when he gives an assignment to work on, students may work quietly in his presence. As soon as he leaves the room, students start talking. Coaches, ministers and therapists hold space for something to take place. People who hold space are present, attentive, they allow things to happen rather than make them happen, they are witnesses to the other’s experience. And it is because of their presence that an individual or a group can do what she or it needs to do, whatever that is.
The challenge of holding space is to stay out of the way, to be wise enough not to give advice, to trust the process and somehow knowing that less is more. Holding space is about not letting one’s own emotions, words, desires and intentions get in the way of the natural process the other is going through. Holding space is about stillness and silence, about taking time and slowing down, about being attentive and letting things happen. Holding space is like being the earth for someone, giving stability, presence and grounded-ness. It is sometimes about marking and protecting the physical, emotional and soul space for someone. Holding space is about staying empty.
Holding space is not only something we do for other people, we can also do it for ourselves. It is about creating these shorter or longer moments in our day that are deliberately empty. It does not necessarily mean that we need to be in deep meditation or complex yoga posture. It is more about making a conscious choice to be with me for a moment or a while. Perhaps it is over a cup of tea, or in taking a walk, or pottering around in the yard. It is a conscious effort to be rather than to do. It is often about ‘taking’ time, about being present to and spending time with me. When we do this, things will emerge, creativity arises or confirmation of plan becomes clear. Sometimes an invitation to change something may occur or some attention may go to unattended thoughts and feelings. It is in holding space for ourselves that our soul gets nurtured. I like to think of it as holding space for what is already present and yet a surprise. It is also creating an opening to look with different eyes at myself and at the world. It is creating an opening for the More and the Mystery.