Turning inside

I just attended a special workhop of Heather Plett from Canada.

Brenda Zwinkels (www.davotes.nl) invited her for a three day 3 – day seminar on the theme of ‘Holding space for Self and others’ in Camperduijn, a beautiful place at the beach of northern Holland. I went there with mixed feelings. Isn’t it the same we are already doing in our intensive work with systemic dialogue, creating and holding space for ourselvers and others? Would there be anything new in it for me, having worked with, learned and even written about dialogue proceswork a lot? 


Nothing could be less true though. I was suprised to find myself in an intensive proces in a group full of diversity, in which we entered some sort of chaos around the different expectations of the participants, within the first hours of the workshop. It was not only what Heather spoke about or practiced with us that inspired me, it was the way in which she held space for the contradictory expectations and the chaotic atmosphere around that, that impressed me deeply.


In the afternoon of the second day, the incovenience, uncertainty and dissatisfaction within the group had reached its top, or I should better say, couldn’t sink any deeper. 

We found ourselves searching for a shared intention and for the reason why we would practice holding space together and the more we looked for it, the more confusion we experienced. It seemed to me that we were dwelling at a murky edge, as Eugene Gendlin would call this liminal space, just before something new want to become present. The feelings of uneasyness and dissatisfaction were mostly unspoken adressed at Heather, who clearly struggled with it. 


After the afternoon break Heather took the talking stick and spoke openly about her feelings. She had the feeling the group was putting her on a pedestal, as if she was ‘the queen of holding space’, who could satisfy all the needs of the group and have the answers and solutions to the confusion and insecuritiy in the group. She let us know, that she had nothing more to give, then to be present with it and to be at service as much as she could, but that she could not carry and solve these feelings of uneasyness. She asked us to turn inside and to be present with and hold the space for our own feelings. To spend time with it and wait, until a new movement would arise out of this murky space.


It was a magical moment that became the turnaround in this seminar. 

The sharings in the group became more personal, the reflections focussed on personal process and what everyone found out about oneself, and turned away from expecting something from the groupprocess. It was this movement, this turning inside, and the sharing about that, which created a new and special feeling of interconnectedness, a feeling of being a group, on other levels then we had been looking for all the time. I was a special feeling of being connected in authenticity, acknowledging the differences between us, without wanting to change them for the sake of a common goal.


I am grateful for his experience, it remembered me how important it is, to take responsibility for our own inner process, wenn we are in dialogue with eachother. What is being touched in me, when I relate to you, might be not easy, maybe irritating, maybe contradictory. But when I hold the space for that and take time for these feelings and reactions, without wanting to change or avoid them, then they can evolve into a new sense of meaning and understanding for my own personal process, in unexpected ways. Something which has been touched in me, opens a new space, in which something in the way I experience myself and how I see the world changes. Maybe it makes clear what I really need and want, what I am longing for, on which path of development I am and where I am heading for.


This can only occur when I turn inside and give my answers the chance to come forth out of my personal experience in the moment.  

These answers can come, when I take time and hold the space for inconvenient and sometime even dark feelings, not avoiding them, but waiting with them, joining them in silence, refrain from reacting on them immediately and, while slowing down, sensing what is the essence about it for me. Dwelling there, in this liminal space, with attention, until that something which wants to become present shows itself, unexpectedly and unpredictable; It is an important aspect of living in a dialogical way, which impressed me and became anew clear to me during this beautiful seminar. With thanks to Heather Plett,



Eelco de Geus, 

The Dialogue academy, Vienna



More information about Heather: https://heatherplett.com

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