‘Holding Space’ at Taliesin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright
Last fall, we visited Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Wisconsin. It was a thing to do during a family visit, something I hadn’t expected or known much about. I had heard of Wright, of course, but didn’t know much about his way of working. The ways humans shape their spaces is something that I’ve appreciated in my life, but not in a studied way.
And yet, there’s such an obvious connection to our work of ‘holding space,’ of ‘creating a container.’ In bodywork, craniosacral work in particular, we acknowledge the importance of the body’s dynamic, living field. We appreciate its organization. We engage it with our own living field, our intention and our actions–no matter how subtle or gross they may be.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Walk among the trees, even just one tree. This time of year, deciduous trees are starting to leaf out, but there’s still enough of their architecture showing to get a wonderful felt sense of ‘creating a container.’
The limbs reach upward and outward. There’s a dome etched against the sky by the edges of the last twigs. That creates a periphery, while the truck holds a central axis. Both are needed for a strong container: center and periphery. With trees, those are fixed, excepting extreme winds. I believe it is part of what gives us the experience of shelter, of being held.
What was so compelling to me in moving through Wright’s home was that each room had movable, breathable centers and peripheries. Each room has its natural purpose: sleeping, socializing, music, reading — giving the space a functional center. He didn’t think much time should be spent about the body: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets are all quite small and spare.
The larger rooms also had several structural focal points (windows, fireplaces, changes in ceiling pitch, crevices or alcoves). Commonly these focal points either drew nature into the space or nested a sculpture or other piece of art within the home. This often gives the interior space a layered feeling, a sense of potential. Everything felt placed with functional purpose as well as a sense of beauty. Details matter.
Focal points to organize movement
This also reminds me of our work with people, as the healing process is so layered. They come to us with a particular focus, an ache or a pain. (Such a place in the system is called an ‘inert fulcrum’: a place of stillness or lack of integrated movement.) After our assessments, we might identify one or two additional places that relate to their focus. We hold all of those in our awareness of their system (the periphery) while, at the same time, we work with the body in a focused way — either following what arises from the system, or inviting the system as we initiate changes.
In our work, what we would call ‘natural fulcra.’ A natural fulcrum, in our work, is an place in the body around which movement organizes, that is itself moving or dynamic. Our center of gravity is one example. The central tendon of the diaphragm is another: the respiratory breath organizes around this relatively fixed structure, and the tendon itself moves slightly with each inhale and exhale.
Compression — Decompression
One remarkable dimension of Wright’s home was the way he designed the overall layout. These crafted rooms were joined by passageways that are intentionally snug. Low ceilings, close walls, and dimly lit, these hallways provide a very intentional “compression” experience as he called it. And compressive it was.
The intention is to be compressed between the rooms, so that when you enter into the next space, there is the “release” of being in a more open and light-filled space. This is such a consistent, physical experience, that you can listen to the quick intake of breath (expansion!) as each person on the tour crosses the threshold!
It was such a blessing to be in a place of such layered intention; where the body’s experience was taken into account; where details matter and the whole field is held and interwoven with nature. I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s often quoted line: You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.