The art of 'holding space'

The art of 'holding space'

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop called the Art of Hosting early last week. During our time together some 38 people learned a bit more about holding space in community. About ways of holding space that invite others into speech, participation and connection; creates conditions by which understanding, common purpose and shared desires might find life out of individual passions, capable champions and thoughtful conversations.

We discovered for ourselves the wisdom of community which resides within the community. We found the resolution to community issues alive and functioning within the members of the community itself.

We learned, or relearned that something far greater than the sum of the parts results when the willing come together in fruitful ways. We learned, or relearned, that wisdom and the common wealth of communal knowledge will flourish and blossom when space is held, conditions are right and the loudest voices in the room make space for those that need silence as a backdrop. We learned that communities who pay respectful attention to their members find ways to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives that have stymied politicians, generals, economists and philosophers alike.

It was knowledge I already had, but knowledge is one thing, practice another. After years of involvement in adversarial systems, I find I have a great deal of practicing to do. I am, however, most deeply gifted and blessed in that I am a part of a community of seekers. A community willing and wanting to uphold the wisdom of the body so that the sacred might once again form the centre of our spaces of belonging.

Our communities are in the midst of many questions. We find ourselves charged with the task of living out timeless truths in a way that is relevant to today's world, to the current set of circumstances. Some tenets – those we were assured were of Wisdom herself, carried direct to us from God's own mouth – have fallen hard among us and raised up such a dust storm in their collapsing wake that many of our number have fallen away. We are no longer assured of more than love, no longer secure in much more than care and how best we might offer it as an expression of our responding love.

I take heart as I see around us signs that our communities have begun to question adherence to the forms and norms of culture and system. That the gods whose cruel demands for living sacrifice (market, economic, or religious) have gone unchecked for far too long now perch uneasily upon the pedestals we erected for their use.

The systems of reproach are falling, and everywhere, people are gathering to hold the space, to sanctify the centre of the circle, to open up the ways and means by which we might hear one another into speech and find, within, the teachings of care and love and community that will, one hopes, finally lead us into the land of promise that only we can build.

I attended a workshop last week. One on the Art of Holding Space. It's new ground for me to occupy, and I'm not all that sure I occupy it well. But I am beckoned to it, and will attend the call.

Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.