Holding space is a practice that allows authenticity, meaning, integrity, and growth. We are able to hold space because we are held by mystery and community – something that involves holding liminal and relational space. Brené Brown defines belonging as,” being part of something bigger but also having the courage to stand alone, and to belong to yourself above all else.” You belong to yourself and to something bigger simultaneously: being held in community & mystery.
Belonging to Mystery: Holding Liminal Space
For the biggest, most beautiful versions of ourselves and our lives to emerge, they need space to breath and become. And we need to be able to hold this space for ourselves and in our communities. This space can be strange, vast, complex, and uncomfortable. The work is learning how to dwell in the unresolved, the unraveled, the unknown. Holding space is one way we make this process and our lives safe for the soul. To do this we have to know how to hold liminal space, the state of being in-between.
Liminal space is an anthropological term used to describe the middle stage of rituals – it is the space where you are both what you were and what you are becoming, but also not yet either identity. Liminal comes from the latin word limen, which means ‘a threshold.’ Heather Plett says, “Liminal space, then, is a period in which something has been dissolved and a new thing has not yet emerged to take its place.”
Richard Rohr describes liminal saying, “It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.” Dwelling in liminal space stretches us and scares us. It feels uncomfortable to be here, but this is the place that genuine newness begins. It is here we are able to live the questions rather than force the answers.
Without being able to navigate the liminal, we cannot know what is real and true for us. We gain authenticity dwelling in liminal space, in letting things develop organically and with wisdom. As we grow our authenticity, we are able to be as we really are, we achieve ourselves, we access our wellspring and hear our inner knowing. Settling in uncertainty is a spiritual habitat, a sacred space. Holding space for the soul to feel safe helps us to live into our wholeness – we dance with mystery. And when we dance, we experience the way we can be held by things we do not understand.
“After years of doing this work, I am convinced that holding space is a spiritual act and that what holds it all together is something bigger than any of us. While we hold space, there is a greater essence that we can lean into, especially when we need courage, strength, and wisdom.” Heather Plett
Belonging to Community: Holding Relational Space
In addition to being held by mystery as we unfold into ourselves, we exist in a constellation of connections with others, with all our relations. We exist in entanglement. Community doesn’t solely refer to being face to face with others, rather it means never losing sight of the fact that we are all connected. We are held by community just as we hold space for connection. Ultimately, living the question “who am I?” and embodying our authenticity also leads to the vitality of “whose am I?” reminding us that our substrate is relationship. As we learn more about ourselves, we learn more about our community. As we learn more about our community, we learn more about ourselves. These movements happen in tandem.
We are able to meet and be met as deeply as we have met ourselves. The inner journey consists of going inwards and downwards. Inner work done well results in being able to go outward and around – as Parker Palmer would say, it is bringing our deep gladness to the world’s deep need.
Michael Gervais says, “Through relationship, we become.” We are part of an ecosystem, a network that holds us, propels us, challenges us, and sometimes hinders us. The work of holding space in community is about being a steward of respect: we need to take care for respectful interactions with ourselves and others, of creating and maintaining boundaries that protect souls and allow for honest and open ways of being together.
Holding relational space is about making room for love and community, and being able to receive the support from this space. Rainer Maria Rilke writes of “the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.” Love isn’t transactional (something we give and get), it is relational (connection, something we live). Connecting with love instead of with attachment is where belonging takes root. It is about being able to protect, border, and salute the inner world of another and receive the same gift from them, and in so doing enter into a dance of respectful interactions – of being held by community.
We do not exist outside of community; it is as integral to our existence as the DNA woven through every cell. We belong to ourselves and to each other in a vibrant and artistic co-creation. And we are held in this belonging, this fundamental reality.
“Abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredible complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn’t just create abundance – community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed.” Parker Palmer
We Need Both
In the work and art of weaving, there is the weft and the warp, the two directions of threads that are woven together to create the cloth. In the parallel work and art of our lives, the weft and warp are community & mystery, belonging & solitude. We exist in the creative tension between the two, in the tautness of our need for connection and freedom. We need to be held by both to navigate deeper levels, to experience depth and meaning and purpose. And they go together, arcing like a helix throughout our worlds. Together, they make us whole.