It’s common these days to hear people say to someone who’s struggling, “I’m holding space for you.” It’s similar to the traditional “I’ll pray for you,” but this new phrase seems to have a different twist to it.
So, what does the term “holding space” mean?
Deepak Chopra defines this form of compassion as the conscious act of being present, open, and protective of what another needs in each moment. The term has grown in popularity among spiritual seekers. It’s a broadly used phrase to define the act of “being there” for another—and being there in mind, body, and spirit.
Holding space for someone suggests an interior space within our hearts in which we’ll hold a person as we walk alongside them. It’s like saying, “I’ll listen deeply to what you need. I’ll be present to you and be a blessing in your life as you journey through this struggle.”
Can We “Hold Space” for Ourselves?
If it’s such a neat idea, can we hold space for ourselves? And, if so, how?
For the last month, I’ve been stuck in my head. Anxious. The whirl of worried thoughts, along with my compulsion to complete the tasks on my never-ending to-do list, have created a squirrels’ nest in my mind. It seemed my brain was filled with a bunch of those brown fury animals chasing their tails around in circles. But, unlike the squirrels who eat nuts, I felt nuts.
I tried desperately to find a way out of my mental messiness. I created longer to-do lists. I grabbed any mantra—like “breathe peace”—to calm my anxious mind. But the squirrels kept chasing their tails.
After weeks of suffering with this squirrel-cage syndrome, I gave up and asked God for help.
With the aid of my spiritual mentor, I realized I was doing what our faith traditions and Western culture have taught us. I was trying to think my way to God and inner wholeness.
It was like I was saying to God, “I’ve got this. I’ll figure it out—whatever ‘it’ is.” And then trying to earn God’s favor (and others’) by attempting to fix myself and everyone else. I was trying to be “Dudley-Do-It-All-Right.”
But I was on the wrong path. In my merit-based view of God, I saw him as the Divine judge ready to bop me and send me to the dungeon if I didn’t do enough and wasn’t good enough.
But God is Divine Love. God desires to embrace us with unconditional love.
It was time for me to let go of my image of the bookkeeping God and allow the Creator to embrace me with love. It was time to hold space within myself for the Divine Embrace.
The Inner Elevator
That’s when a playful image arose that’s helping me make a shift in my view of God and myself. Here’s what I imagined.
What if we have an inner elevator within our bodies connected to three floors?
Floor One: Heart Space
The first floor is our hearts. This floor is the place of “Being”—the place where our souls are located. It’s where our human hearts connect with God’s Divine Heart.
When we open the elevator door and step into heart-space, we find wisdom and guidance. Most important, we find God “holds space” for us to embrace us with unconditional love.
Second Floor: Breath Space
The second floor is where our throats are located. It’s the place through which our breath flows in and through us. It contains the life-giving stream of God’s spirit connecting the first and third floors.
When we focus on our breath, we open the pathway between being and doing. We allow our minds to sink into our hearts.
The heart, breath, and mind then flow together and become a trinity.
Third Floor: Head Space.
The third floor contains the mind. It’s the “thinking” and “doing” space.
It’s the intellectual part of us that processes information so we can make daily decisions. It allows us to create to-do lists, gather our thoughts, and move efficiently throughout the active part of our day.
Unfortunately, the thinking mind likes to be in control. “Step aside, heart and breath. I’ve got this,” it too often shouts.
Stuck On the Third Floor
Like an elevator that malfunctions and gets stuck between floors, I often get stuck on the third floor, trapped by trying to think my way to wholeness.
But God created us with the inner freedom and ability to access all three floors: heart, breath, and mind.
Holding Space for Ourselves
Now, when I get stuck in my mind, I push the button for the first floor, let the elevator descend from my mind into my heart, open the door, and rest there. Often.
In the heart-space, I let God’s love help me quit trying to think so hard, stop trying to gain God’s favor.
I hold space for the Divine Embrace.
-brian j plachta