The Art of Holding Space
(Originally published in ‘Naturally Caffeinated: The Community Edition (2015)’ by Steve Guengerich.)
I’ve been the co-owner, majority owner, and/or senior executive in a company for a long time. There was a long period, consistent with the leading business philosophy of the time, where I was very focused on managing change. I was always seeking to improve my ability to manage change and obtain better outcomes as a result.
But, in more recent years, I have come to release this notion of me “managing change.” Instead, I have embraced the universe as a partner who can and often does the heavy lifting for me. I’ve been illuminated by the philosophy of “wu wei” – which means “the action of non-action” or “non-doing” – that was taught by Lao Tzu and is a core concept of Taoism.
I liken it to waiting for a door to open. You don’t have to knock. You can if you want and sometimes you do, but it’s not required per se. While you are waiting, you learn to pray. This could mean prayer in the spiritual sense, if you are so inclined. But, it also means prayer in a broader, richer sense that includes preparing, being contemplative, being present through observation and listening, sharpening one’s skills, etc.
It is surprisingly challenging to create space in one’s work and life, and that’s exactly why it is so important to practice. Soon you will notice when the right things show up because you are more open and ready for them. This is key because many of us are so busy with “being busy” that we do not notice when the right opportunity presents itself.
Improvising is difficult for many because it’s not the way of conventional business thinking. Professionals and organizations want – in fact, rely on – predictability. They aren’t structured to account for mystery, impermanence, and the natural process of change.