We have all heard the phrase “holding space” especially right now with everything that has been happening in the world. We are beginning to hear not just your enlightened yogi friends, or those who have spent time on a therapy sofa, but all kinds of people broadly using this phrase, in many cases using it without a full understanding of what it actually means to “hold space” for others. I must admit I was not fully aware myself until I started to not just practice… but teach yoga. So, let’s break it down, from the true definition to implementation and look at how we can effectively hold space for others.
So, what is the definition of holding space? Holding space means to be with someone without judgment. To donate your ears and heart without wanting anything back. To practice empathy and compassion. To accept someone’s truth, no matter what they are, to put your needs and opinions aside and allow someone to just be. Seems simple right? Easy right? Well, it’s not always as easy as it seems since we all have our own opinions, egos and are interested in being heard. Also, we are never taught this skill growing up. In fact, most of us grew up with family members, friends, or significant others trying impress their thoughts or opinions on us even if there were coming from a place of love. In some cases, we were judged and bullied by our peers and therefore we continue this cycle of judgment of others. The good news is the skill of “holding space” can be learned and is not just relevant in love relationships but in all relationships.
How can we hone this skill?
- Practice deep listening
Deep listening is the art of listening not just to hear what the person is saying but to understand. This type of listening is done not only with the ears but more with the heart.
- Practice Loving Kindness
Loving kindness is a simple Buddhist philosophy of cultivating compassion and love for all living beings, the earth and self. There is a widely known loving kindness mediation mantra that reads; “May all human beings everywhere be healthy, happy and free”. It is the art of sending positive and loving thoughts to all in the universe on a daily basis.
- Practice non- judgement
Practice being non- judgmental of the person sharing as well as yourself. This one’s hard but the true definiton of nonjudgmental is someone or something that doesn’t express an opinion. When a person does not judge the behavior of others and is open-minded about different people and ideas.
- Make Room
Make room for and allow the other person to feel all that they need to feel, holding them if they need to cry or allowing them to yell or scream if necessary.
- Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected to yourself, which will in turn allow you to deepen your connection to others
- Practice Pain Separation
Holding space for someone in pain can often bring up pain of your own. Stay grounded in the knowledge that you are there as a shoulder to lean on or a hand to hold, but do not allow yourself to take on their pain.
- Don’t try and fix it
Our instinct is to offer solutions when we see people in pain, sometimes mentioning things that might make us feel better. Be there to listen only. The process of moving through pain is individual and the only way past it is to sit with it.