What Is…Holding Space?

When I started my “what is” series, there were a number of terms that I thought were deserving of a post in the series, because they are viewed as social justice jargon that many don’t understand.

One term I was not aware of when I started the series, but sounded like jargon to me when I first heard it, was something called holding space. And then, I heard that term heard multiple times in short succession.

So, what is holding space, and why is it so important?

I’ve heard several definitions, but one of the more extensive definitions I’ve seen of it is that it is “to be present with someone, without judgment. It means you donate your ears and heart without wanting anything in return. It involves practicing empathy and compassion. You accept someone’s truths, no matter what they may be, and put your needs and opinions aside, allowing someone to just be.”[1] For example, if you need to process something that’s weighing you down emotionally and a friend of yours listens while you process things, that friend is holding space. When that friend is listening to your rant about something distressing in your academics, your job, or something else (and doing so without judging you, or even doing so by sympathizing with you by sharing their own experiences), they are holding space.

Holding space sounds easy, but it is actually really difficult for many of us. Holding space means that others and their experiences, as opposed to us and ours, are at the center of attention—something that some of us struggle with (because some of us can struggle to have anything other than us and our own experiences at the center). Some of us are more inclined towards taking up space emotionally instead of holding it; as such, that can make holding space all the more difficult.

In fact, certain topics are so sensitive and difficult to process that it’s not wise to expect a friend to hold space (for example, trauma of various kinds). I cannot say enough how important it is, in such a situation, to seek a mental health professional if at all possible. While I recognize the unfortunate reality that mental health care is expensive for many and has a scarcity of access for many (issues which could be the subject of their own blog post on access to mental health care),[2] there is no substitute for a good mental health professional when you need someone to help you process certain things. A friend may be helpful and loving in certain ways, but at the same time, a friend is not your mental health professional. Furthermore, mental health professionals—psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed social workers—are trained to do more than hold space; they are trained to help their clients process and address crises and other areas of concern.

Even if, in many cases, it may be best to seek a therapist, hopefully this post explains what it means to hold space in other situations.


[1] https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/holding-space

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/10/cost-and-accessibility-of-mental-health-care-in-america.html. One thing I should add though is that there are some resources out there for those who find money tight when it comes to mental health care; you can find some such resources here: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/mental-health-services-how-get-treatment-if-you-can-t-ncna875176

Coronavirus Update From New York City: August 26, 2021

Wow, what a week it has been, both Coronavirus-wise and otherwise!

The biggest news coming out of my state (New York) is that we have a new governor. Andrew Cuomo, who at the beginning of this pandemic was hailed as a hero, left his governorship disgraced and under a cloud of scandal. I know my third ever Coronavirus update begged my readers to not treat Cuomo like a hero, but good gosh–not even I could have predicted things happening in the way that they did! In any event, with Cuomo having left, in comes Kathy Hochul, who served as Lieutenant Governor for just over 1 1/2 terms before ascending to the position of governor as a result of Cuomo’s resignation.

Just hours after coming into office, Hochul did something that Cuomo should’ve done: have a school mask mandate.[1] Mask mandates in schools have been controversial, seemingly because kids and their parents feel they should have the freedom themselves to choose whether to wear a mask or not. However, my take is that, to put it bluntly, people need to care about more than themselves. People need to care about others, and namely, care about preventing others from getting sick–something that masks can help with. Mask mandates are the right thing to do.

Of course, Hochul will have more to do on the Coronavirus than just have the school mask mandate. She will, in my personal opinion, need to recognize the basic reality that certain things that were possibly safe before the Delta variant are not safe anymore. Things like indoor dining, big crowds that aren’t socially distanced (even outdoors), and large indoor social gatherings do not seem safe right now, even for those of us who are vaccinated (since there’s a significant body of scientific evidence showing that even vaccinated people can get and spread the virus). My hopes aren’t high for this, as the only place that I hear has started reinstating some restrictions on such things is the State of Hawaii, though perhaps Hawaii will end up becoming a trendsetter if the Delta variant grows worse.

Speaking of big crowds outdoors that aren’t socially distanced, I should provide an update on what happened to the so-called “Homecoming Concert” that I talked about on my blog a couple of weeks ago. This concert was billed as a return back to normalcy, of sorts, for New York City, a concert where people can come and enjoy some major musicians. Such a concert may’ve seem reasonable a couple of months ago when the virus appeared to be subsiding, but with the spreading of Delta, we aren’t exactly heading back to normal and it didn’t seem like a wise time to have a massive outdoor gathering with tens of thousands of people like that. Well, the concert got ruined, not because of the Delta variant, but because some dangerous weather courtesy of Hurricane Henri (a storm that delivered heavy rain to New York City, though thankfully I didn’t experience any of the flooding that certain other parts of the northeast United States had). I wished the concert wasn’t even a thing in the first place, though, because then we could’ve avoided the non-socially distanced scrambles for safety as a result of the weather issues.

While I thought this concert was a mistake, I am hoping that this (as well as schools, which are supposed to return in the next few weeks) don’t end up being super spreader situations. We shall see…


[1] https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2021/08/24/hochul-address

A New Feature at the End of My Blog Posts

When I started this blog, it was with the goal of educating people on injustices we may be blind to and/or blindly commit. However, in recent months especially, I’ve been thinking about whether education all by itself is really enough.

Now don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t considering abandoning my blog after all the work I’ve done over the years. Nor do I think that education is unimportant—it is important that people are educated on issues of injustice so that we can address the issues within ourselves (If I didn’t believe that to be the case, this blog wouldn’t exist!). Yet, at the same time, that education is only of limited use if we only keep the impacts of said education to ourselves. Simply put, education of oneself without doing anything else doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t change anything or anyone other than possibly ourselves, and it certainly doesn’t lead to the sort of large-scale changes that are needed to address large-scale issues. For all that one might feel virtuous for being more educated on matters of racism, sexism, ageism, or any other number of things, it takes more than one virtuous person to see the changes one may desire to come to fruition.

I therefore found myself thinking much more about how to turn education into action and how to further amplify the voices of those who are working tirelessly on various issues of injustice. Of course, that action can take multiple forms. Sometimes the action is in donating to an organization that would use the funds to work on systemic changes. Sometimes the action is in giving volunteer hours to an organization looking to achieve systemic change. Sometimes the action is in being a volunteer to knock on doors, attend protests, or call elected leaders to hold them accountable for something. The sort of help that is needed in advancing a cause varies from organization to organization and from movement to movement, but one thing I can assure you of is that there are many ways to turn education into action. I just needed to find a way to share with others where we can turn education into action.

It was through this thinking that I came up with a new idea for my blog: with blog posts where it is clear that one or more organizations are looking to address a particular injustice/injustices I am discussing, I list those organizations at the bottom of the blog post.

The new practice is intended to serve people who may be passionate about a particular injustice or set of injustices after reading one of my posts (or reading something not on my website) but are really unsure of where to go next. By having this new practice going forward, I hope to provide a place for my readers to go beyond the “like” button for my blog post or the comment section (though I certainly welcome “likes” and comments).

My hope in having this is that what I will do from now on can be a resource for people who want to turn education into some form of action. While yes, this blog is and will continue to focus on educating people about injustices, I also want to be sure that my readers have the ability to act after getting educated. After all, education only reaches its maximum usefulness if you use it to educate others and/or take action yourself.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: August 19, 2021

I hope everyone is healthy and safe, regardless of where you are.

My family, who is entirely vaccinated, remains healthy. We, of course, continue to practice precautions such as wearing masks indoors, not eating indoors, and avoiding large gatherings as much as possible. This is sometimes labeled as living in fear, but in reality, we are doing what we can to prevent the virus from spreading to others, and particularly to unvaccinated kids and the immunocompromised.

However, COVID cases continue to be on the rise where I am, and rise at a startling rate, at that. Just to put into perspective how quickly things are increasing, in my county, we were at 10 cases per 100,000 just a few weeks ago, and now we are at nearly 22 cases per 100,000. Just as concerning (if not even more so) is the fact that hospitalization and ICU rates are quickly increasing again, and increasing to a point that if we’re not careful, many ICUs in our area will be under great duress in the next few weeks.[1] This would be a repeat of situations that I hear are playing out in other parts of the country, where ICUs are getting filled up already.

And this is all happening before school year even starts. The school year starts relatively late where I live (soon after Labor Day), so if we’re going through all of these problems now in New York, I am scared to think of what may happen after school returns post-Labor Day. If nothing else, at least I can take solace in the fact that mask mandates in schools seem to be the trend where I live, unlike with certain leaders (though I am still concerned that masks by themselves won’t be enough). I don’t think that mask mandates are enough (you need social distancing, good ventilation indoors, and vaccines, to name a few), but it’s better than nothing.

Speaking of leaders, by the time I write my next COVID update post, my state will have a new governor. As Governor Cuomo is resigning as a result of the sexual harassment scandal he’s implicated in, we will have a new governor in the current Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul. We will find out in due time how good Hochul is in dealing with the dual crisis of the virus and the economic fallout resulting from it. My hope is that she won’t be distracted by scandals, and therefore able to focus on the crises she will confront.


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/new_york-ny/county/queens_county/?s=21821108

Access to Free Coronavirus Testing: An Important Issue

The other day, I was searching for where I could get a free Coronavirus test. Namely, I was looking to hopefully get what is called a PCR test—the test that usually takes a couple of days to get the results from, but is also very accurate.[1] And so, I called around and looked around to see where I could get my test.

The first place I called said that their test would cost $290. When I first heard this, I asked whether he meant $2.90, stunned that it could possibly be $290. But it was $290. A place taking advantage of legitimate fear about the Coronavirus to charge nearly $300 for a test that you can get for free in certain places should be ashamed of itself.

The second place I called said that their test would cost $125. Okay, so it’s not as bad as $290, but it is still far from free.

Eventually I was able to get a free Coronavirus test from a public hospital that was about 15 minutes away from where I work. I was blessed. Yet, I left myself feeling extremely bothered by the fact that a place had the gall to charge $290 (or even $125) for a test that everyone should have easy access to in order to make sure that they are not spreading the virus (even asymptomatically, which can commonly happen even among vaccinated individuals) to other people. 

My experience here leaves me with a bothersome question: Are there other places where the only testing options nearby are places charging ludicrous fees? I hope the answer is no, but I fear that the answer is yes.

Even if the answer is no, an effort needs to be made to make sure that as many of the testing sites as possible are made as cheap as possible (ideally free). That way, instead of having a few free testing sites in each area where the lines are long, there are a lot of free testing sites in each area where the lines are short and the chances of coming across someone else with the virus are relatively low. After all, one should desire for it to be as easy and quick as possible to get tested, so that they can see whether they have the virus and need to act accordingly.

But if the answer is yes, then I personally think this is something where government needs to step up its game and provide free options for testing. In a case where we’re trying as best as we can to control the spread of the virus, it seems ridiculous that we would have areas devoid of free testing sites so that it is practically impossible to get a low-cost or no-cost test for the Coronavirus.

Ultimately, with the fact that even fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus and spread it, it is extremely important that we make sure that all people, regardless of vaccine status, have easy access to free Coronavirus testing. This is an important issue indeed, because nobody should have to pay $125, let alone $290, just to see whether they have the virus and could potentially spread it to others.


[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/covid-19-diagnostic-test/about/pac-20488900