Not long ago, Sarah Whitely rightly announced that the more subtle forms of hosting are now visible in the field. Holding space is a subtle art par excellence
There’s a wonderful conversation taking place on the Art of Hosting mailing list at the moment – another deep inquiry into what it means to hold space – what it gives and what it asks of us. Sometimes it seems that holding space is a burden, something that’s heavy and tiring. And sometimes we just find ourselves doing it as if it’s the most natural thing in the world – which, of course, it is!
One of the conclusions emerging from the conversation is that the heaviness of the experience might arise from our attachment to a particular outcome in the situation we are holding. Personally, I have experienced some pain at holding space for this work to take root in the European Commission and beyond, whilst being debarred from any open involvement at the heart of that work, quite explicitly because of who I am. That harks back to an old theme in my repertoire, and I am making peace with it now – but it leaves me with an understanding the cost of holding space when personally attached to the outcome.
The unfolding of my own life is leading me to some broader definitions and deeper understandings of holding space. It seems that ‘holding space’ is not exactly a content-free activity. It is holding space for something, whether we realise it or not. We all instinctively know that it is an intentional act. It is often in retrospect, once events have played out, that we see what we were holding space for. Nelson Mandela, I’m sure, wasn’t holding space just for himself, but for his people and his homeland, and their potential to play a transformative role in world history. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is holding space for a historically vast and enormously complex resolution that will take longer than his lifetime to unfold. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose to reincarnate again just to continue that work – because it seems that being incarnate, having human form and consciousness, gives a particular power to affect the material realm. We are only just beginning to awaken to that potential.
Writing this, I can’t say for certain (in scientific, empirical terms) where the information is coming from – but it’s a source I’ve been working with for some time, and I have grown to trust it. This topic is an invitation for it to speak what it knows to people who want to learn.
I am coming to understand that holding space is something that human beings do in cooperation with the invisible realms (and whatever or whoever lives there – at least one aspect of it seems to be the subtle forces that shape nature). We live in the manifest realm of matter, as well as in the intangible realms of mind, soul and spirit (however we distinguish those…) – and this enables us, provided we are sufficiently at home with our immaterial lives, to bridge intentionally between the two realms. For me, the full expression is: “holding space for the highest future potential to show up” – where ‘highest potential’ means the greatest possible degree of health and wholeness. I know for sure that the content of that will be well beyond my capacity to comprehend, so I don’t worry at all about filling it in with specifics. But my body seems to know what that health and wholeness feel like, so I find myself playing around with the energetic quality of my space holding until my body has that feeling.
When I hold space in this ‘impersonal’ way – without any vested interest in some specific outcome – then it is not an onerous task at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. I get to bathe my cells in the ambrosia of joy and health that come from holding the whole of creation in unconditional positive regard. All I have to do is set the intention. And I really think that intention is key. Intention is what human beings bring into the equation of active and equal partnership with the forces of creation, and that means that space holding is a far-from-innocent act. I don’t think that it has to be hard or heavy work. If we pay attention to what we are ourselves projecting on to the work, our own personal attachment to outcomes or judgments of what we are holding space for…
There is another piece which seems important, that has to do with consciousness. When we are holding space, somehow we are using our own consciousness to create a field that imbues the domain of that which we are holding space for – be it a group of people, a situation or a place. Perhaps that is something which had no ‘domain’ at all until we brought it into existence through our intentionally casting a lasso around it with our mind. But as soon as we have done so, then that field exists, and being imbued with conscious intent, it will be more coherent that what was there before. If the coherence in the field is strong enough, then the surrounding incoherence will tend to be brought into alignment with it. Consciousness begets consciousness, just the way dark energy begets dark energy and forces the galaxies apart.
Clearly, when we hold space together, interweaving our combined consciousness into a field, the coherence should be much stronger – provided we have shared clarity in our intent. Otherwise we just create more, often very powerful, incoherence, because clashing egoic thought forms create a very strong disturbance in what would otherwise simply be mildly, randomly unstructured space – and we know what that begets, because we live in a civilisation that’s full of it. Which is where the whole field of practice known as the Art of Hosting (link) comes in, and why it can be so powerful a force for effective and appropriate action in the world. The more we understand the practice as a means of aligning human consciousness into a coherent field around an intention to bring more health and wholeness to that which is in the centre, the more powerful the resulting manifestation will be – and the less work will be needed to realise it.
In this light, I am starting to see the Art of Hosting as a set of processes that allow people to co-create expanding fields of coherence, aligned around a shared intention. Those fields can then be brought to bear on any domain, entity or situation where the prevailing incoherence will then tend to naturally align on the more coherent pattern.