Holding Space for Yourself: What is Yours to Know and Hold and Keep

photo, vine wood fence, words, holding space for yourself, what is yours to know and hold, blog post by Santa Rosa therapist Patty Bechtold at wiselifetherapy.com

Today I’m writing about an intuitive, creative and metaphorical approach to holding space for yourself. I’ll explain what holding space means, and share my own recent experience of it. It may help you feel more in tune with your own deeper needs, deeper nature and deeper boundaries.

Many wise words have been written about holding space. Sometimes they’re about holding space for yourself. But mostly you’ll find a lot of information about holding space for other people.

Holding space for another person is different from holding space for yourself.

When you’re holding space for another person, you’ve stepped into a nurturing role and you’re tuned in. When you’re in the flow of it there’s actually a lot to tune into: words, tone, emotions, senses, thoughts, stories, body language. Not to mention awareness of both the other person and yourself. 

Acceptance is also crucial to holding space for others. As David G. Myers points out, acceptance is a key part of nurturing:

People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us what Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. 

Holing space for an individual or group is essentially a form of empathy.

  • It’s about standing in someone else’s world, in the fullest way possible
  • It’s a wonderful gift not just for the receiver but the giver as well
  • Although it sounds complex it becomes easier with time
  • Many women are naturals at holding space for other’s

Holding space for yourself might be harder than holding space for others.

Think about it—which is easier? Compassionately listening to a friend and being there for her? Or compassionately listening to yourself and being there for you?

Many women I come in contact with have a natural ability to nurture others. After all, science tells us we are wired to tend and befriend during stressful times. We almost automatically nurture, protect and seek out others. 

However, it’s often harder to nurture yourself and let the grace of holding space flow inward. Still, it is a beautiful thing to hold all of your imperfect, amazing self, your full range of light and shadow. And then, move toward self-acceptance as you move away from self-judgment. 

Yet in the 21st century it’s complicated. 

Rather than swimming in a sea of grace, you may be drowning in a sea of information. 

For instance, when I searched on this topic I was met with 290 million links. While no one would try to take in all this information, there’s always the lurking question of where to begin. And how do you know what will be helpful?

Not only that, but how do you know when to stop seeking? The online world was made to keep you keep scrolling and clicking, to make your brain believe it’s another to-do list for you to complete.

Amongst all this information, how do you move away from overwhelm and move toward holding space for yourself?

Lately I’ve been exploring and practicing another way to hold space for yourself.

words, wisdom is what is yours to know, hold, keep, blog post, holding space for yourself by Patty Bechtold, wiselifetherapy.comWhat if holding space for yourself is less about the wisdom that’s out there and more about the wisdom that’s in you? What if you could let your intuitive and creative parts lead the way?

There’s a good chance we’ve been conditioned to think it’s more complicated than that.

After all, our brains can only hold so much information and advice before they’re overloaded and overwhelmed.

Research supports this. Whether it’s holding space or some other concept,  too many explanations, too many instructions, too many cognitions get in the way of deeper, instinctual healing and wisdom.

And although I may not know you, I’m going out on a limb here to guess that what you’re deeply longing for is to partner with your own innate wisdom. Because you already know that all the information in the world won’t get you there. 

That’s because this journey is very personal. You’re at your most raw and vulnerable. You’ve put aside your masks, inviting all of you to the table. And your creative, intuitive self is so ready and willing to help with this.

As Natalie Rogers eloquently describes it…

We all need love and approval. Yet the key to unleashing our creative energy is finding the deepest sense of approval within ourselves. If we place the locus of our worth in the hands of others, we doom ourselves to a life of trying to please.

My own journey of holding space began with a metaphorical trip to the mountains.

It actually started during the Soulful Journal Writing Circle. At the time our writing inspiration was a book by Mary Reynolds Thompson: Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness. 

I loved the book from the get-go, and her words immediately made an impact on me: 

When we remember how embedded we are in the Earth, how we are literally made of the same stuff as rivers, rocks and roots, we can see how separating from this beautiful, fecund world might be damaging to our psyches.

When the journaling circle got to the section on mountains a serendipitous thing happened. Every single woman in the group had a story to tell about her relationship with rocks: searching for them or collecting them or moving them from place to place. 

And a tingle went down my spine when the book asked:

What is it that we touch when we touch a stone?…Mountains and rocks are the bones of the earth…mountains, ancient and abiding, offer a deep time perspective.

Deep time. Say that out loud. And breathe.

Have you heard of it? According to Andrew Alden…

Deep time refers to the time scale of geologic events, which is vastly, almost unimaginably greater than the time scale of human lives and human plans. It is one of geology’s great gifts to the world’s set of important ideas. 

I’ve been fascinated by the notion of deep time ever since I saw a geologist on television stretch his arm outward. He said that if the space between his shoulder and the tips of his fingers represented the years that the earth had existed, then only about one fingertip’s worth of his extended arm represented the length of time that humans have existed on earth.

So when Mary Reynold’s Thompson referred to deep time, I reawakened to the truth that mountains know exactly what deep time is because they have existed for billions of years. And as we ascend or stand in the presence of a mountain we slow down and hopefully get a glimmer of our place in time, how minuscule it is, how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things.

In that moment, in my journal, the mountains had a message for me:

Let us help you hold space for yourself. Understand your place in the larger story of life. Within these boundaries of time and space, be kind to yourself. Take care to pull back from overstepping your reach or overwhelming yourself. Give yourself the grace of being fully human in the time you’re here.

And then a poem began to take shape on the page…

The mountain’s limbs lift me up

I see far and wide yet am unseen

welcomed as a speck in the vast embrace of time

no need to ponder my place in the grand scheme of things.

photo mountain, road

The confluence of rocks and deep time and mountain presence released something.

I could see that holding space for yourself could feel easier. 

And when I imagined that holding space for myself was a rock or a mountain or some other ancient place in nature, I began anchoring a new boundary within myself. I turned toward the grace of self-acceptance and away from the harshness of self-judgment…

Within the lush walled garden of myself

a place of tiny beauties and blossoms beckoning 

vines climbing stone walls built from

the heart of mountains ages ago

* * * * *

Ancient walls built long before my time 

ancient walls enclose me

ancient walls remind me

of what is mine to know and hold and keep.

So many women I know feel pressure.

To extend beyond their reach. To be their best selves. To take care of everyone else.

We live during times when it is confusing to define what is yours to know and hold and keep.

No wonder holding space is challenging.

But the images and metaphors that were arriving from the mountain’s presence told a different story: 

  • You don’t need to be the best, you simply are
  • Your becoming is already within you
  • You are everything you need
  • The landscapes around you support you
  • So remember what is yours to know and hold and keep

It is so much easier to hold space for yourself when you touch this ancient knowing.

photo, rock in hand, pink vine, words hold space, blog post, holding space for yourself by Patty Bechtold, wiselifetherapy.comIt is so much easier to let ego take a back seat and greet all of you at the door. 

A lot falls away when you begin to sit with this. Your natural intuition and creativity take over and relieve you of having to manage your doubts and questions and worries.

And as I tell my clients and readers all the time: You are wise, creative and whole. You already know so much about how to live your life. 

What if holding space for yourself is as simple as placing a rock in your palm?

And then, wrapping your fingers around it.

What if it could be that easy? Easy enough to do over and over again. To hold that rock and connect with the bones of the earth and its wisdom that you carry within yourself.

Of course, that’s my metaphor (and new practice) for holding space. You’re invited to claim it as your own if it feels right for you.

That said, after reading this you may already have a sense of your particular metaphor. You probably have a touchstone place or memory that’s wisely bubbling up to the surface, urging your intuition and creativity to tell your story of what is yours to know and hold and keep. 

In fact, my heart tells me there is already something within you that’s ready to take your hand and gently guide you to exactly what you need right now. 



What is Mine to Know and Hold and Keep

The mountain’s limbs lift me up

I see far and wide yet am unseen

welcomed as a speck in the vast embrace of time

no need to ponder my place in the grand scheme of things.

* * * * *

Unattached to legacy, seeing into the long view of time 

deep and unrelenting where I will soon be forgotten 

where I am a fuzzy presence that

occupied space here for awhile.

* * * * *

Left in old memories like fading letters in the attic

a reminder that even now I am invisible to many

and there is such freedom in that to embrace my world

losing myself in this small and cozy reach.

* * * * *

Losing myself in the shape of time

letting it unfurl (there’s no controlling it)

Careful not to get too far pulled into the larger world 

beyond the boundaries of what is mine to know and hold.

* * * * *

Within the lush walled garden of myself

a place of tiny beauties and blossoms beckoning 

vines climbing stone walls built from

the heart of mountains ages ago.

* * * * *

Ancient walls built long before my time 

ancient walls enclose me

ancient walls remind me

of what is mine to know and hold and keep.

—Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

I help women find their way back to their deepest wisdom when they feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. On my blog I write about the stories, insights, ideas, and wise words I’ve picked up along the way. Thank you for being here.