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Holding Space

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the whole “holding space” concept. It’s something I do, and have been doing for a long time, primarily in theatrical venues-but also one on one. Basically, it’s allowing a space to be created where a person or persons can feel seen and heard, honored and loved. Once the space is created? you hold it. You don’t dismiss yourself, you don’t break the energy, you try to keep that bubble of feeling around you and the persons involved. You can do it online, you can do it in person, you can do it in groups, and while it might take a different bandwidth of energy, I think the connection is the same.

It takes energy to create it and hold it, and probably what I’m not all that good at is how to recharge after the space bubble (the moment, the show, the one-on-one connection, the long Facebook facilitation or comment management) is over. I had a therapist once, and she was an Episcopalian pastoral counselor, who told me for her it was like opening a channel and letting God move through her during a session. After the session, she closes the channel. I also think a lot about expanding and tightening an energy sphere around me, or opening and closing a space on my heart from which a powerful blast of AWESOME can shoot forth. It didn’t sound as weird as I just wrote it. Well, maybe.

I’ve considered I need much more of a (for lack of a better word) spiritual path or process to help me in that regard, to learn how to both hold space and detach, and how to manage my recharging so that I can be more effective over time.

Anyway, another thing I’ve noticed recently is that I rarely ask for space to be held for me.

In the wake of the election, I was invited to go to a gathering of people here in Ashland. Mark Yaconelli, a storyteller and holder-of-space extraordinaire, facilitated an incredible night of sharing where small groups just listened to each other talk, with no response other than “thank you.” I realized in that moment, how much I needed it. How much I needed to just be offline and with people, how much I needed to hear stories and tell my own without any….result? Outcome? Oddly, I felt pretty vulnerable during the experience and also kind of useless-I wasn’t organizing the event or holding the space. But I found that I felt stronger and more full afterwards than I had in a long time.

It’s an irony right? Someone tell me I can get over myself and allow the thing that causes vulnerability to help me be better my work? I realized in that moment how tight my bubble had become, and how fragile it felt. Don’t want it to pop, not now.

I’d highly recommend that if you are a space holder, you take some time right now to have a place or space for you be heard and seen. And I’d also posit that if you go to events (like a storytelling show) that you could gather people together and learn the craft yourself.

Bottom line, right now? We need each other to be fully functional, we need to be in community with each other to figure out what’s next, what our shared skills are, and how best to use them in the coming storm. To be rainbows or something cheesy like that.

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