Archive for December, 2007

Life as a miracle

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007
“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
– Albert Einstein
This is a quote I received today and which I want to pass on, on this Christmas day, to everyone reading this…
yellow beauty

This expression is unique

Sunday, December 16th, 2007
Patterns formed by nature

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

Martha Graham

What is ‘holding space’?

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Since this summer I’m holding the question of: What is it exactly that I’m doing when I say that I am holding space?

Many in the Art of Hosting community, and other facilitators, nod their heads when we speak of holding space. They/we seem to understand, but I have never heard anybody explain it. Different experiences in the last months made me aware of some aspects, and I want to share them with you.

First there is the story as told by Chris Corrigan from a native Canadian tribe. In a little village fishermen set out to go on a whale hunt. It becomes a very difficult journey, as they first lose track of the whale and almost lose a man too. After many days, when they finally come back to the village the head of the tribe speaks to his wife and asks: “What have you been doing? We almost lost a man, and we lost the whale for some time too.” The woman answered that her attention was divided because one of the children had been very ill. This story touched me deeply, as I realized so few men – and women too – in our Western world understand what this man and woman saw as so obvious: that the women were doing something that was vital for the success of the hunting men. Their attention, their holding the space was needed for the whole journey to be successful.


Last summer I was with a dear friend on what he called a writing retreat. I expected to share breakfast and dinner together, while having inspiring and deep conversations, as we normally have. He would then dive into his writing and I would go and do my own thing: reading, exploring the neighborhood, enjoying the beautiful nature. Soon he would announce that his writing would be best supported by fasting and that he wouldn’t show up for breakfast, or for dinner. So, I went on doing my own thing, but missing the good conversation company I was wondering: What am I doing here? I still felt good about it, but why exactly was I here? I could read and explore nature anywhere. Holding this question for some time the answer came to me: I was holding space. There was relief in my body when I realized that. After the five days, as we were driving home, I told my friend about it, and I realized what an intimate thing it is to do; even more than having sex! This made me wonder…

A few weeks later in a conversation with another friend I told him that I was holding space for him and others while they are doing big strategic, systemic work in the world, which is not always easy. I told him too that this strategic work is not mine to do, but that nonetheless I have something to do with it: I am holding space for it. Tears welled up in my eyes while telling him! I realized that this holding space work is in need of language, of words and concepts that can make it more visible in the world. Another friend called it Grandmother’s Work.

Next came an experience within a Systemic Constellation training where I realised – through a difficult experience – that holding space, for me as a woman, was essentially something that I was doing in my body. Not in the mind. This realization was very grounding for me, as if finally I arrived at my right spot. It seemed that it was not just my personal experience, but many women were resonating with it.

But still: what am I doing when holding space within my body? I have known for a long time that my sensing of what would happen in a group’s process or in a systemic constellation, was not the same as people having visions of the future. Looking back at our experiences in the gathering Women Moving the Edge, it suddenly dawned on me that we never were speaking about Spirit, but we would always use the word Source. Why was this? Source would point to depth, to something deep inside; Spirit is more related to something high above… mmm… I started drawing and realized that Source can be seen as Unmanifested Potential.

Soon my answer to the question I was holding for many months became clearer. When I am holding space, I connect in my body with the unmanifest potential of this person, this group or this place. It asks for an emptiness and a deep stillness inside to be able to carry this potential. Maybe it is better to say to be a container for it, and I mean it in a very physical way. I open my body to be this container in service of something that wants or can become manifest.

This made a lot of sense when I spoke about it in Axladitsa, and explained that the callers of this Meaningful Place will always be and stay the ones who hold the deepest and widest container. They will always stay the callers and always form the core group. If they drop their energy the whole project will die. Others can become very active in this project, but when they leave, the project will go on. They are not in as deep a holding space.

In a sense women have a natural tendency to hold space for people, places and projects. But is has never been seen or realized or acknowledged, not even by themselves. It is time to change this, and this is my first contribution to it.