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Holding Space

Since last May, I’ve met with an amazing group of people from all over the world. We met twice a week virtually, learning about and discussing positive psychology and the idea of flourishing. We developed some incredible connections over the last nine months and shared parts of our lives that many of us had kept hidden for a long time. I know that in the future, I’ll look back at this part of my journey and see it as one of the formative way stations.

So often, the things that mean the most to us are hard won. The deep lessons I carry with me from this experience fit that category.

The first session of this group was also the same day my Mom had open heart surgery.

I knew I would miss the first session to be with her in the hospital, but planned to jump back in without missing a beat. When my Mom developed complications from the surgery and passed away three weeks later, the road back became bumpy. Sometimes I felt like I’d never get around the roadblocks.

There are so many things I could–and someday will–share about that time with my Mom.

The sounds, sights, and smells in the hospital. The touch of her skin. These are still very real and present with me. But today I’m thinking about how this group of people –I had not yet met– welcomed me with grace, compassion, and open arms on one of the roughest roads of my journey.

Every week, I would hop on the Zoom call and often sit with my camera turned off–just observing the discussion. Even when we joined breakout sessions of only two or three people, I sometimes just observed and listened to the conversations. People were sharing intimate details of their lives and they simply allowed me to bear witness to their vulnerability.

There were times I participated and “showed up” in a truer sense and in a way that felt more authentic to who I am. But as a whole, I did not give to this program what I would have under usual circumstances.

And every week, they welcomed me with open arms and hearts to simply participate in whatever way I could–and as I was. No expectation of reciprocity. No pressure. No judgment.

As we signed off for the final time last week, I felt deep gratitude for the gift of being part of this group. People held space for me. Allowed me to show up with zero expectations of how I might look or act. It was simply a space to be–be present, be a part of something, and be seen.

By holding space for me each week, they created a sense of stability and routine during a time of immense chaos and change. They also created opportunities for me to grow and contribute in my own time and in my own way.

Holding. Space.

As a coach, it’s not always about the words I say or the questions I ask. Some of my most pivotal coaching sessions revolve around holding space for my clients–allowing space for things to emerge.

Coaching is not about providing answers. Although that’s what a lot of people assume coaching is. It’s not even always about guiding someone to the answers. But it is about intentionality and the time to process, observe, and truly see the situation at hand.

Holding space for others provides an opportunity for the outside noises of their lives to quiet down. It provides room for reflection on feelings and ideas. Then allows explanations of the past to emerge and guide whatever comes next.

Sometimes, the most powerful and pivotal thing isn’t doing or saying the “right” thing. It’s the ability to sit in the silence–even when it feels painful or uncomfortable–with others. As they are. No expectation of reciprocity. No pressure. No judgment.

Journey well, my friends.


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