Today in our Yoga Teacher Training, my dear friend Robin asked Maureen, myself and the other Program Directors at our full day of training in Concord, “Could you further explain what you mean by ‘Holding the Space’ because it’s a true art and I’m not sure everyone understands it.”
Holding the space. The first time I heard this phrase was in my yoga training and then I heard it again a few months later in my permaculture circles. This idea that we are in community and we hold the space for others was beautiful and yet I’m not sure I completely understood how to do it. For me, I assumed holding the space meant taking care of which I know now from my years of experience that the two are very different. “Taking care of” sort of assumes a responsibility to fixing or nurturing or protecting someone while “holding the space” does not assume there is anything to be changed, however, you give yourself over fully and freely to be present for someone in whatever way you energetically and intuitively know is what is needed. It may seem vague but here’s how I look at it.
When someone is crying or releasing emotions, we can’t always assume they need to be hugged and rocked to comfort. Nor does it assume that we need to tell them that “everything will be alright” because will it? Do we know that? Instead we can get them a tissue and listen, not hear them but really listen. Maybe offer some words but let them work through their own words first.
When someone has not spoken up for themselves, don’t assume they want you to speak up for them. Perhaps they are comfortable in knowing that the situation does not affect them, that what you perceive to be insults are not insulting to them because they choose not to be insulted. And if they were insulted, let them choose whether its appropriate for them to stand up and say something.
When someone disagrees with you, do you need to actively debate the issue, try to get them to understand your point, or defend your position. Why do we feel we need to change something because we have differing views of the world? Why not see the world through their eyes, gain new perspective and respect them for providing it.
For me, “holding the space” was a difficult transition, at first, from “taking care of” but the more I allow myself to really be present with those around me, the more I take time to listen, the more I let go of the need to fix or change the situation, the more I come to love and appreciate the need to hold space for others.