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Self-giving through holding space

Lifestyle, Peace By Mar 05, 2024 No Comments

When you have identified your legacy-oriented work and have been working on it for some time, you get to a point where you start to feel saturated. This situation can quickly evolve into complacency, where you believe you have learned everything there is to learn and no more. However, there are ways to break out of this, and one of them starts with giving those gifts you have cultivated. In so doing, you test the quality of these gifts that you hold, and you will discover those that are just “empty shells”. You will also start to create room as you empty out those gifts. The Bible talks a bit bout this in Luke 6:38. It seems that before you can receive, you have to give.

One thing that is certain is that when you start to give what you have, you quickly discover that you are no longer the same person. This is usually because the transformation process is happening, and you, too, can notice how different you are becoming. It is important to focus on who you are becoming and work hard to shape that person in a way that you agree with. For this to happen, you need some freedom, an allowance of sorts. You need to be allowed to test the person you are becoming as you become them. The challenge is that you can only know that person apophatically, so doing it alone could lead to disaster or failure.

So this means that you need a space where you can test out what you are becoming and make the necessary adjustments as required. A good strategy both Oana and I have come to learn is using your friends and family for this space. You need people you can trust around you so that they can support you as you try to become. They say doing the same thing and expecting different results is a form of insanity. To become a different version, you need to do things a bit differently, which means curating those immediate relationships so that the people there align with your ambition of becoming someone else.

Most of the time, when we are developing relationships, we tend to start with what we can get from other people. This is a distraction because it blinds us to resonating with the spirit of the person we are developing a relationship with. Prof. John Vervaeke touches upon this in his work and calls it the “having mode”. He recommends that we work from the “being mode” as an alternative. In the being mode, we appreciate what is before us and try to understand and resonate with it. We try to know what it is through experience. This experience then becomes the way through which we relate. Relation is the key to revealing the mystery of that which is outside us. It reveals how you are changing what you are relating to and how it is changing you.

A good example of this is food. Our relationships with food vary from person to person, and these relationships are unique. If you speak to a nutritionist, they can tell you what foods will likely work for you and which ones will not, including the side effects. One of the industries that has boomed over the years has been the dieting industry. A new diet always comes up, and we all rush to try it out. However, we quickly realise that the promised results are not what we are experiencing. This is mainly because we still have to make some adjustments and customise it to suit us before we can unlock the results it promises. So, with the appropriate adjustment of a diet, you can get it to work for you, but first, you have to know where to align it.

Developing and maintaining good relationships is effortful, so the people you work with must be well chosen. Find people that ignite the passion in you. Choose the people that allow you to be the best version of your self and hold a space for them to bring forth their best self. All the while, use what you want to become as the Northstar for this endeavour. Intentionality is key to this. This means that there are people that will not make the cut. The people you end up with in these relationships are the kind of people that, when you are in their presence, truth shines forth, and new insights are always emerging for you. You have a shared perspective with them and support each other towards your goals.

Most of the interactions in these kinds of relationships are always about enhancing that shared perspective. In most cases, when we try to exchange perspectives, they are always going to differ in many ways. And to add to the challenge, we like to process differences through a moral lens, and so we quickly get trapped. To avoid getting trapped, you have to always start by assuming that the other person’s perspective is a real reality that they are experiencing. Resist the moral judgments and personal biases you might have temporarily; try to appreciate and understand that reality. This is challenging because our moral lens and biases are what we use for survival, so they are always running a prediction and making a projection for us to be aware of the potential risks we are dealing with. But we can temporarily ignore the alarms as we try to understand that which is before us before dismissing it. Doing this allows us to see the other. It is this that constitutes “holding a space”.

When holding a space, you are not subscribing to the reality on offer, neither are you enabling. You are helping to amplify and magnify it so that it is clearer to all those looking at it. This also includes the person holding that perspective. It can be a very difficult challenge to see the blindspots of a perspective from inside it. So, if you have a chance to project it outwards safely with a friend, helping you shine more light on the parts that are not clear, you have a higher chance of better understanding it. When I participate in this way with my friends, we quickly learn the gaps and patch them collaboratively as opposed to working off projected assumptions and reacting to them, leading to us getting stuck there. This way of interaction allows us to see the intention and the meaning unfolding, and in most cases, we end up with a better understanding of the people we are.

In the gospel of Luke, 19:1-10, Jesus has an encounter with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho. Jesus offers to pay him a visit and commune with him. By the end of that visit, Zacchaeus is transformed. This way of communing with others and holding a space for them while respecting their reality is one of the things that made Jesus popular and gave rise to the development of Christianity.

This relational way of experiencing and amplifying perspectives continuously reveals who we are. In the process, we develop the courage to pursue that version of ourselves that we are becoming alongside the people who are helping us by holding a space for us and keeping us honest. Your “best self” is revealed in the form of that person you are when you have lots of capacity to respond to the ever-changing life scenarios that we must contend with daily. When we are unable to respond, we endup in suffering. In prisons, they know this to be true as well, that they have developed the worst form of punishment for inmates to be solitary confinement. It is a real challenge when you are denied community; you end up losing the ability to exercise your “aliveness”.

Watch the conversation that inspired this post.
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