Recently, there was another school shooting. There was tragic loss of life and the unbearable grief that family members, friends, classmates and colleagues have had to endure. My mentor’s wife went to that high school and is now watching her high school classmates suffer imaginable loss. The grief and disbelief is palpable and left my mentor feeling helpless as to how to support her wife and their friends.
Several years ago, I was in a coach training that introduced me to the Taoist tradition of Holding Space. This beautiful idea enables one to be able to be of service to another human being by just bearing witness and to provide a safe container for all the emotions that come with grief and loss. Heather Plett describes Holding Space so eloquently, “When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them. You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you’re completely willing to end up wherever they need to go.”
The most difficult part of holding space is to reject the impulse to attempt to fix the situation or to offer advice, as well as to be able to sit with our own feelings. Our only job, when called upon, is to provide safe, sacred space for our loved one during their time of need.
Here are a few ways you can hold space for a person:
You might be super uncomfortable. You might have your own emotions about what has happened. Just breathe. More often than not, stress, fear and anger cause us to hold our breath. The person that has come to you might be crying and having a hard time breathing; you can help by just breathing deeply and completely with them (inhale, two, three, four…exhale, two, three, four).
Holding Space requires us to be present: be present with the person you are comforting, be present for what is being said, and be present for the emotions that arise. There is no room for opinion or fixing in the container of sacred space. Just listen.
Notice how your body is responding to what is being said. Notice your breath. Notice your thoughts. Being connected to yourself is an integral part of holding space for another human being. Witness yourself without judgment, but with acknowledgment of what is.
It is a powerful practice to be able to create a safe space for someone, to suspend judgment, to allow the emotion to expand and flow and to trust the process of witnessing. We are natural fixers. Sometimes, the only fix is contrary action; letting it be as it is, rather than trying to control and manipulate a situation that cannot be controlled or manipulated.
Jen Yockey is the owner of Gather, a movement and wellness studio, and founder of the Recover You™ Program. She is a certified yoga instructor and master life coach and can be reached at (760) 219.7953, [email protected] or jenyockey.com.