As my grandmother was aging, at a point when she could really only go outside with a walker and physical assistance, I recall visits where we would lunch at a local NYC diner. She would ask me things about my life, about school, about my friends, about my studies, and she would marvel at the complexity of the world I lived in. (This was 1984, so we can only imagine what she would say about our times today!)
What I recall most poignantly is the way she would pay attention, seeming to hang on every word, and the way she made me feel safe, and loved, loved no matter what I would say, no matter what I had to share. I never felt judged. No matter what she thought about the details, she would listen closely, look me in the eye, and continue to pursue an understanding of my life.
She provided a container, a space where I could see myself more clearly and grow as direct result of how she was seeing and holding me.
“Be the container for the group – be larger than the largest disturbance in the room.”
– William Isaacs
(Reference also Hindu Master lake story, first heard from Peri Chickering.)
When working with groups, things can get heated and fractured, and therefore our containers need to strengthen so that we can better support what is wanting to come to light. Other times the container in the room is so strong that we might be enveloped in its power, and therefore our ability to show up increases because the room is holding us, in a way, as my grandmother held me so well years ago. It is a dance in there – in that dark place where gold waits to gleam forth.
When my grandmother, somewhat hard of hearing and surely with many of her own personal concerns, was completely able to show up for me, I was completely able to show up for her. I could be more vulnerable, because I felt so safe. She brought out the purest part of me, by how gracefully she held me in her heart.
I do believe that love, as a base note, is the ore (“ore” retyped from the original iPhone speech to text interpretation “order,” which I also like here) of the container.
It is simply this: How we hold each other in our hearts, that is the container, that is what we can offer to each other, across any boundary.
PS: Her name was Margaret McKelvy Bird, and yes, that’s where Kelvy comes from…