Holding The Space – Keeping The Beat

Note: This was first posted in March 2009. The words, quoted freely here, are from one of our scriptures (Sandokai), keep entering my mind. Here they come again…they speak to this post.

End and beginning here
return unto source
And high and low are used respectively.
Light goes with darkness
As the sequence does of steps in walking.

In the fields, drifts of lambs. Laying.
In the lanes and gardens, drifts of snowdrops. Waving.
Signs of spring.
New beginnings?
Or endings?
Both. Together.

Just now a Ewe walked up with lamb in tow. She walked so close, she looked so intently. Do we know each other, I thought. But I held the space. We gazed on, and there was mutual acknowledgment. Obviously, we don’t speak the same language however, a meeting can take place without the conventions of a common language. At least I like to think that the meeting is not bound to language.

In the conversation over the past days and weeks this kind of direct acknowledgment, with the added benefit of a common language, has enriched my days. Meaningful exchanges? Meaning exchanged. Great sounding isn’t it, meaningful exchanges! But I’m not so happy about using the expression. Two words that don’t really convey much of anything. And certainly not the color, tone, quality or depth of conversation.

We jokingly talk about being divided by a common language – the joke mostly comes up in North America. The same could be said here in Britain too. We do our best and for the most part, the meaning is conveyed and quite surprising, to me, spiritual meaning is derived from relatively ordinary exchanges. And often the most powerful teaching is derived from ordinary everyday events. Not so much what is said, more the way it is said. Amazing! I think that is to do with the sincerity of the listener, the ability to drop down past the words and derive a deeper meaning. Meaning becomes the listener’s gift to themselves.

But this isn’t quite where I wanted to get this morning. Although linked to the lambs and Ewe in the field. The other week while in conversation, with somebody I respect a great deal, he mentioned that I tend to jump to respond in a conversation rather briskly. In so doing a faster pace is set. I was thinking about that comment this morning – and the encounter with the Ewe. And of the many encounters, such happy ones, during these past weeks. With strangers and those I know or have come to know.

Well, I am back with rhythm and music, heartbeat, breathing and babbling streams. Snow drifts turning to snowdrop drifts. And what comes to mind is that while gain and loss, end and beginnings are ever present in our lives it is the small words between the big ones and the punctuation which give us the beginning-less and endless-ness of existence. The no-birth/no-death of Buddhist teaching. The blessing of our lives – the rhythm and the beat, the call and our timely responses. What better insight to come out of my R and R and R and R time.

And what of the term holding the space? Is it not the spaces in music, that fine timing which has the violins or the tenors coming in just so, which elevates music to something grand? How much more so with the music of language and living. Poised with my violin, I’ll come in just so. I’ll not push the beat and so not lose my space. (I wonder if anybody understands what I am trying to say…!)

With fond memories of my Master who would talk about language in terms of musicality. I remember her lesson on punctuation, and it wasn’t an English lesson either.

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7 thoughts on “Holding The Space – Keeping The Beat”

  1. I just wanted to echo your thoughts on holding the space…

    When sharing a moment with another person it can be so powerful, and in many ways empowering, to simply pause and hold the space. An unspoken connection can also be a wonderful reminder to me of the Buddha nature in those around me.

    In each pause we have an opportunity to become fully aware of that precious and unique moment. In spoken interactions with others I’ve found a pause can be a powerful tool for encouraging self awareness. The silence can bring an awareness of the physical body and with that increased awareness we become more aware of the breath and any emotions. We then have a gateway to transformation by being mindful and allowing of where we are in that moment. We have an opportunity to access the wisdom that resides within each of us.

    In many ways, a pause is almost a reverence and acknowledgement for the preciousness of each moment. By making space we allow our true nature to unfold…

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts – I’m enjoying reading your blog!

    In gassho,


  2. I think I understand Reverend Mugo.

    I can see a tendency in me to push the beat, and it might be worth me having a good look at that.

    There is possibly a link here with what I have come to see as my ‘default’ energy; which flows out embracing all that stands in its way. I’m a friendly sort of person but now realise that some folks can find this type of energy not friendly at all, no matter how well meant my intention, but a bit threatening and I need to temper it with some wisdom – a bit of space.

    I shall take this teaching into the lab tomorrow and see how it plays out.
    Thank you.

    In gassho


  3. I understand this offering in my own way……………….
    Words may be useless…………. used but misunderstood by the listener-s…….

    1. Thank you Margaret. One never knows what actually lands in anothers brain, and then how it is processed and acted upon. Or not.

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