I have been thinking of the concept known as “holding space” for a while now. It is not a common concept. The space that I refer to is not physical. To me, it is more abstract, describing a psychological space. A place that does not exist physically but that is understood by two or more people to exist in time.
Holding space is when a person actively takes responsibility for, or makes room for something to happen. They are said to "hold space" for it. An example of this is taking responsibility for a project to happen or allowing a lover the space they need to figure something out.
Women are masters at holding space. We hold space for our children to grow and mature. We hold space for events to happen. We hold space for people to change.
One of the first times I actively experienced the concept of holding space was in a sharing circle. It was at a retreat center in Western MA. When I entered the small room, I could see people had already started to gather. The leader of the circle explained the guidelines, which were simply to speak when we felt like sharing, to listen actively and not respond directly to anything that was shared. The point was to basically bear witness to whatever was shared.
The first two times, I just sat and listened. No one seemed to mind. At the third circle, I felt moved to share what I was going through. At first, I was uncomfortable having all eyes on me. But, at the same time, coming from a large family, it felt like the first time I was truly listened to. No judgement. No criticism. No questions. And afterward, I felt like a huge weight had lifted off of me. I felt as light as a feather. The participants in that circle had held space for me to speak my truth.
Over the years, I have gotten to the point of being able to hold space for myself. This is no small feat. Holding space comes naturally for women. Holding space for yourself is something that must be learned. And the hardest part of it is just becoming aware. When you make or hold space for your own transformation, your own dreams and your own future, you become truly powerful.
And now, with a retreat of my own coming up, I am creating a space for other women to get in touch with their true selves. In addition to the kayaking, fire circles and nature walks, I will be holding space for their transformations. And as we come together in our sharing circles and bear witness to each other's truth, I am honored to be a part of it. And I am honored to hold that space.
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