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holding space

May 25, 2015

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is to “hold space” and the way the term is sometimes overused in casual ways that I feel marginalizes what I consider to be a very sacred practice.

When I first began studying shamanism, my mentor taught me about sanctifying a space, about creating a vessel in which our work, whatever that work was, could take place. Most Pagan paths have a version of this, a specific script or guidelines for creating sacred space. Often, in those early days, our work involved journey work to teach me, to heal me, to open my eyes.  Sometimes it involved spell work or sorts.

The first time I remember really understanding the purpose of that space, was also the first time I sat in with my mentor while he worked with a client.  She was a woman going through a divorce, and we sanctified the space before she arrived, welcomed her into it.  My job was to “hold space” while they worked.  It was my job to keep the space safe, to provide here a place where she could rage and grieve and surrender herself to the process of healing without fear of anything outside intruding.  I was to help contain the energy, direct it to whichever vessel had been designated for the purpose.  I was to be present and mindful of the needs of those in the space, ready with water or tissues, whatever they might physically need.

By doing my job, I enabled them to do theirs.

In the many years since then, I have held space often. I have held space for they dying, giving them a place to mourn their coming death, to look back on their lives, to make choices that are difficult when they are being bombarded on every side with opinions and demands.  I have held space for the grieving, for the sick, for the addicted and the recovering.

I consider it my sacred duty, to give people this safe, attentive space free of judgement, free of fear, free of demands. So much so that I try to carry some of that into my daily life.  People have enough judgment, enough people with preconceived ideas of who and what they are.  I try to have my presence free of that , to “hold space” in the smallest of ways whenever I interact with others.

I hope that now that I am getting settled into my new home, my living room will once again become sanctified, a place where I can hold space for those in need.

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