In many psychotherapeutical and spiritual groups and in our Sangha people speak of “holding space”. But what does that mean? Here Thomas Hübl explains what happens and what matters.
Holding space means having developed the ability to experience the content of the present experience in witness-consciousness and therefore, not be reactively involved but responsible. We can equate this with process awareness.
Being present does not mean superimposed on top of the past. Often our experience is overlaid on the past, which is unconscious or not integrated. This means that we cannot be present in what is happening right now, and content emerges which does not originate from that moment distorting the perception of that moment. Trauma and unconscious parts of our development do not allow us to grow up and to respond to the moment, but to become reactive – i.e. to behave in a way that is already predetermined.
Witness-consciousness means, mostly through contemplative practice, establishing enough inner space and stillness; a higher state of coherence, so that the process taking place can be experienced in consciousness and transcendence. However, it is important not to confuse this with dissociated states, which are easily misunderstood by many practitioners. Witness-consciousness is deeply rooted in feeling, and grows beyond it. Dissociation has no access to feeling at that moment and is often experienced as not being involved.
Reactive means to react with the non-integrated past. Contents from previous stages of development that have not yet gone through the subject-object transcendence mix with the present experience. This is also the influence of the often-used word, karma. Energy that is not yet integrated or split off, influences this, now.
Responsibility – the ability to respond
Responsible means to respond to a situation from the adult being, and thus to be connected to the inner core of the world. If I can respond to the world from relationship, then the potential of intelligence can also unfold. In the mode of reactivity, on the other hand, only a small part of the potential is expressed, and thus a person can hardly realize his full inner talents outside.
So, we can hold the space and break it down to a self-consciousness moment – a process consciousness. We can only hold space for other people, listen and be witnesses if we ourselves are inwardly present and connected to our feeling-self.
The same applies then not only to ourselves and people in our lives but also to the collective process. Holding space for climate change is an essential challenge of our time. We are all challenged to do this part of our practice. We are challenged, especially when we have a deeper practice, to engage ourselves in the world process in an appropriate way. Experiencing the social process consciously makes us local and global citizens.
Holding space is a complex thing that that sounds simple but demands everything from us.