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Holding Space for Yourself

Updated: May 17, 2023

When we talk about “Holding Space,” it’s often in the context of holding a compassionate, caring, attentive, non-judgmental space for another person. This is at the heart of what we do, whether through therapy, Spiritual Direction, or groups we are leading.


However, there are a number of ways to hold space for yourself and we’ve been sharing some of these practices over on Instagram, and I wanted to elaborate on them here.


Meditation: We both regularly engage in a meditation practice, which is a very specific way to “hold space” for one’s self, to notice that thoughts are just thoughts (and not reality) and that the in-breath and the out-breath can be an anchor to return to, again and again, even as thoughts and feelings move through your mind and body. Doing a simple body scan is a way to hold space for your physical being, to discover what feels tight or stressed and what feels relaxed. Within meditation that are a variety of breathing techniques that reduce stress and anxiety, including the 4-7-8 breathing technique.


We have found guided meditations to work well for us, and Juliana and I have used Balance and Headspace (boths App), as well as guided meditations by Tara Brach.


Journaling: The practice of writing daily in a notebook brings me closer to myself, to what’s stirring inside of me, and helps me attend more deeply to the life happening within and around me. My two primary practices in journaling are “noticing,” and a “gratitude list.”


I journal early in the morning, and in my “noticing” practice, I review the past twenty four hours I’ve just lived through, and write down anything that caught attention, that I “noticed” as I moved through the day. Sometimes the “noticing” is feelings, noticing that I felt sorrow, confusion, or delight, and giving myself space to explore those feeling through writing. I regularly recount the moments of joy I experienced, and that joy lives again in me as I write. When I write, I frequently notice that I am holding multiple truths at once, i.e. that I’m feeling anxious and uncertain as we launch a new business, and that our lives are going really well, and that we have much to be grateful for. I also find it incredibly lifegiving and grounding to write down the people, things, and experiences that I’m thankful for, such as the sky changing colors as the sun comes up, or cardinals singing their hearts out from the tree tops, or tiny purple lilac buds on the bush in our backyard, or Juliana’s offer to take Jesse to school in the morning so I can have some extra time to write.


A dogwood blooming in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Spring blossoms!

Calendaring: Some of our greatest experiences in life have come about because we’ve actually *put* them on the calendar, months or years in advance, and then worked backwards from that far off date, to appropriately plan for the upcoming event. We’ve done this with personal retreats, where one of us will block out a few days on the calendar just to get away to Pacem in Terris, a nearby hermitage retreat center, or some other place. We’ve done this with family camping trips, forcing ourselves to sit down, block out the time, and then book a site as soon as we’re able to. And we did this with my sabbatical; five years before the sabbatical, we put it on our calendar. This practices provides a kind of self-accountability, and allows us to literally hold space on our calendar for the experiences we most deeply value.


Exercise (without headphones): I find that running without headphones is a fantastic way to hold space for myself; there’s no agenda, other than being present to the world around me (feeling the air on my skin, hearing the birds call, seeing hints of green everywhere), as well as to my own body, and the thoughts moving through my brain.


None of these “Holding Space for Yourself” practices have to be elaborate, complicated, or cumbersome. It fact, they are all very simple, and we’ve hardly scratched the surface of what’s possible. But “simple,” executed regularly, can create change and even transformation. The point is to do something, even for five minutes, that allows you hold space for yourself, to tune in, with curiosity and compassion, and see what’s stirring within.


What are some of the practices you have for holding space for yourself? Leave a note in the comments!



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Meditating, writing to my husband who passed a year ago, walking my dog, taking trips.

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