Holding a space
As I reflect on my writing here on Livejournal and elsewhere, I'm struck by how often I refer to holding a space for something or no-thing to emerge.
I think of areas like:
the ineffable nature of life.
What is this space?
Is it physical?
Or something else?
At the risk of being tendentious or unhelpful, it's whatever it needs to be.
If we're trying to engage in meaningful conversation and to cross the Rubicon between where we are (bad) to where we need to be (better — not perfect), we'll find a way (hopefully) through grace, love and patience to hear the other person into speech. The liminal space, given our extant circumstances, could lie between and encompass a Zoom call or mobile conversation or, social distancing permitting (no discretion allowed!), in the same locus.
But actually, to even talk about the space elides some of its magic. No, I don't mean fantasy-type magic. I mean the undeniable sense that something special, often beyond the ken of our current understanding is at play.
As you can tell from my slightly strained language, it's hard to describe in exact terms but, from first-hand experience, it's unlikely to come about by rote. Instead, and I know it sounds a little whimsical, you've to feel yourself into the experience. To that extent, its heartfelt, meaningful and, ever-so-slightly, the spaces invites you to yield or let go of something that previously kept you stuck. That means, in a personal sense, both sides need to be prepared, not in a show or die way, to drop their guard, evince vulnerability — tears may well flow; no, expect them to flow — and to open their hearts to a new way of seeing the world.
But then again, speaking personally, I find that nature, or rather my deep-rooted connection to nature, is one of if not the best ways for me to open a space for (amongst other things) my tawdry and misshapen thinking to fall away, to connect with others (once I've bathed myself in her magic) and to restart an otherwise difficult conversation.
What am I really trying to say about spaces?
Simply this. I think we have to be prepared to try new things — not just new ways of working — but changing our place and our relationship to it. Also, to invite others to do likewise, not in a forced way but, if you like, to lead them very gently to a new way of seeing the problem or issue that so ails them. It could be a silent space; it could be a noisy one — unlikely, though; and it could be a group setting where the members create a circle of trust, not to go all kumbaya, let's-all-hold-hands but to bear witness to their own frailties which in turn might enable a new space to emerge where anything is possible.
Still a bit vague?
I know it is.
What I'm trying to say is that as well as the substantive issue that you're working with or want to discuss, don't forget to consider the space — physical, liminal or ethereal — and to understand if that too might be as much part of the solution (I say that word lightly given I'm not a solutions-driven type of guy) as the problem.
Certainly for me, the idea of the right space is still evolving. Creatively, I think I know what works best but that doesn't mean to say I won't mix things up. As to conversations with family and close friends, let's just say it's work in progress if we're going to move the needle to something a little more meaningful for all of us.