Holding Space

We have been in the midst of the storms of a pandemic, as well as economic and social crises now for many months; in some ways, for some of our siblings, many centuries.  In this time of deep turmoil, struggle, fear, anger, separation, emoting, efforting, AND, gathering, listening, knowing where we are is not quite working, resisting change yet intending to reconstruct and grow forward together— I have an invitation for us all.  In chaplaincy and spiritual direction we call it Holding Space.

I wanted to fill the space of pain and uncertainty we each continue to uncover and press through in our own ways with research, helpful tips, words of instruction and affirmation, narratives of past resilience.  But in that desire to fix, to be other than where we are, I realized I was forgetting the best part of chaplaincy- Holding Space.  In my resources link, the work of Fr. Richard Rohr is recommended.  He is part of the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico.  The key here is that in order to act, we must be balanced with contemplation.  On this path we seek to respond rather than react.  Part of contemplation is being in sacred space with the Holy in our experience of Divinity, our Selves, and the Divine in other people with whom we share this world.  When we are in contemplation there is no beginning or end, just a stepping into an ongoing flow of the Holy Spirit- the creative, life-giving, transformative energy of God moving in and around us at all times.  We are consenting and intending to tap into its resources and abilities- which are limitless.

Siblings, I mean for this leaning in to the Spirit within and around us to give us ease, comfort, and boundaryless steps to healing what hurts.  In an effort to minister to my own monkey mind and anxious heart, I summed it up like this- “Remember, you do not have to try to fill the space, only hold it open.”  Pay attention here to the words hold– indicating strength and stillness; and open calling to mind a sense of expansiveness.

The description for how Holding Space might appear visually:  There are two human figures, anonymous and genderless, standing facing one another.  The are just inside the borders of a vertical column of light (think Star Trek Transporter 😊).  There is circle on the ground they stand on, the boundary and threshold marking that space from the surroundings which are full of grey, slashes and splinters of messiness, objects and possibly scenes of trauma spinning all around.  One figure stands with their arms down at their sides raised about 45 degrees, appearing to literally hold open the edge of a physical space that needs to exist for the vertical column of light to flow- and contain within it the two figures.  It is as though the person doing the holding open is separating the winds of a storm.

If we interpret that image a little further, you might know that in theological studies vertical has been associated with human connection to the divine; while horizontal, with things of the earth and the material world.  In the reality of God that I know, there is no space in which God is not.  But sometimes we really need someone else to stand in our space with us and remind us in the flesh of that possibility. Storms come in forms specific to each individual and change over time.  Holding Space does not stop the storms from spinning around us, it connects us with the Love of God, where we are seen, known deeply, and loved just as we are.  It creates a place of healing, wholeness, and nurturing where we can cultivate whatever we each need to move on, or be transformed into, for the work only we can do.

Holding the space for ourselves and each other is a powerful way to stand in the mysterious stillness of eye of the hurricane, while the storms of fear and pain thrash and rage around us.  Just show up, listen, allow yourself to feel all the emotions, to be uncomfortable with another person.  But know that when you stand in that intention with another you are plugged in to the limitless love and creativity of God, always moving towards Life, Love, and Wholeness.  You do not have to know what is next, what to do, or how to do it.  God does.  Just hold the space open for the possibility of the presence of God- no matter what.

A companion piece to this reflection is a prayer whose author is unknown to me, but which I have found helpful for many years.  Enjoy:

Into the Eye of God

For your prayer

your journey into God,

may you be given a small storm,

a little hurricane

named after you,

persistent enough

to awaken you to new depths,

strong enough

to shake you to the roots,

majestic enough

to remind you of your origin:

Made of the earth,

yet steeped in eternity.

Frail human dust

yet soaked with infinity.

~

You begin your storm

under the Eye of God.

A watchful, caring eye

gazes in your direction

as you wrestle

with the life force within.

~

In the midst of these holy winds,

in the midst of this divine wrestling,

your storm journey,

like all hurricanes,

leads you into the eye of God,

where all is calm and quiet.

~

A stillness beyond imagining!

Into the Eye of God

after the storm

into the silent, beautiful darkness.

Into the

Eye of God.

Once again, thank you to Astronomy Picture of the Day and photographer Thorleif Rodland for this beautiful image of a Sun Pillar.

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