Holding Space

Detail from St John the Evangelist by El Greco

239 (2)  While I took these photos of El Greco’s painting in a cathedral in southern Spain the image of a spiritual being with one or both hands outstretched and facing palm upwards is common to many religious traditions.   Lately I’ve been wondering what such a gesture symbolizes.

In the book that accompanies her oracle cards “Earth Warriors”  Alana Fairchild writes of the diversity of life and the concept of holding space.    As the world becomes increasingly chaotic with more and more voices clamouring to be heard there is a part of me that just wants to crawl into bed and pull the blankets over my head until it all goes quietens down.   The problem with that idea is that the turning away from life results in personal isolation and creative stagnation.

“If we cannot hold space for increasing diversity, we risk extinguishing our creative passion for originality, and then the energy, excitement and evolution that uniqueness evokes will be lost.” – Alana Fairchild

Alana Fairchild goes on to say that to hold space for others we need to hold space for ourselves.  Buddhist teachings say that we cannot find compassion for another until we find it for ourselves.

“You can search the whole tenfold universe and not find a single being more worthy of love and compassion than the one seated here—yourself.” – the Buddha

Of course it is much easier to write about holding compassionate space for oneself than it is to actually do it.  The Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield advises-

“In developing compassion start exactly where you are, whatever your situation. Having compassion for your own humanity and your struggles is critical. Let yourself sense a wish to live with greater kindness. Hold your own fear and shame with compassion, and let this practice open you to better self-care and to greater tolerance and kindness for others.

The Buddha taught that we can develop loving-kindness by visualizing how a caring mother holds her beloved child. Slowly and tenderly we can begin by remembering ourself as a child, deserving of love and compassion. We are still that same child, now grown. With practice we can learn to hold our own life with love.”

DSCF4246.JPG The Black Madonna, Montserrat, Spain

prompt:   https://pixtowords.com/2018/07/15/gesture-pic-and-a-word-challenge-148/


17 thoughts on “Holding Space

  1. Lovely and oh, so true.
    And for those who did not have a chance to be held lovingly as a little one (as alas, can be true, too), there is still the opportunity to know how they themselves would — or would like to — hold a newborn, or a puppy, or a beloved. If we can mirror tenderness back onto ourselves, we will be more than half-way home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That hand is so expressive. I’ve always been attracted to hands in art, and often photograph a close up of that part of a larger piece.
    And your words are thoughtful and thought-making as always. Holding space. That’s a wonderful idea.
    Now I’m thinking of the spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands”.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kerfe, the ideas just occurred to me today so I’m pondering their deeper meaning too. I thought about Jesus after I posted too – and the Buddha who is sometimes depicted with his hands in this gesture. Maybe it means that they are fully realised beings and hold compassion for us all. btw – that’s a great old song. I haven’t thought of it in years. Thanks for reminding me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Holding space” and self-compassion are two lovely ideas, for a woman who sometimes wonders what she’s for.

    As usually, your post sends me off all over the place. I wonder where the black Madonna originated. There’s one that is located in a place of pilgrimage in Częstochowa in Poland. This is what I found out about her when I looked in 2012: “the legend that she was painted by St Luke; her arrival in Poland in the 14th century; the stories associated with the scars on her cheek; the fact that many people make an annual pilgrimage to visit her. She reappeared in my thinking when she was vandalised in December last year.”

    The third connection is an unlikely one, connecting with Na’ama’s comment. I’m in the middle of “Les Miserables” and I just now read the bit where Jean Valjean and Cosette come together. Neither have ever known love before and they learn it together, her 8 and him 60ish. I’m finding Victor Hugo a treasure house of all sorts of things.


    1. I know what you mean about wondering what you are ‘for’ as the years tick by.
      I haven’t read Victor Hugo (maybe I’ll get there one these days) but can relate to that image of finding love across age groups. My littlest grandson affects me that way.
      The Black Madonna – so many thoughts. Yes, there the connection to St Luke with the Madonna at Montserrat too. There is a one line of thought that sees the Black Madonna as being a manifestation of Isis – it is thought the Knights Templar bought back the imagery when they returned from the Crusades. They used the term “Our Lady.”
      The statues surfaced across Europe in the 11th and 12th century but their origins are unclear. Carbon dating puts the Montserrat Madonna in the 1200s and the type of imagery can be seen as Romanesque (which was the prevailing style at the time).
      Here is a link to a very long article that posits the Black Madonna as an archetype for our time (which explains why she surfaces in our consciousness at present.) The idea is that the Black Madonna represents everything we have pushed into the darkness, – issues of race, waste, wisdom etc. http://www.matthewfox.org/blog/the-return-of-the-black-madonna-a-sign-of-our-times-or-how-the-black-madonna-is-shaking-us-up-for-the-twenty-fir


  4. I love those images and also think of hands open and waiting to receive ‘grace”. As the Jesuit scientist, Teilhard de Chardin said ” I am not a human being having a spiritual experience, I am a spiritual being having a human experience.” That somehow comforts me when I think of everything that has been happening in my life this last while and in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Epic ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #149 – Pix to Words

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