How To Hold Space + Where to Begin

We are living through some intense changes, my friends. How we show up for them is everything. It's the difference between the New and the Old, the welcoming and the deterrent, the unknown + exciting and the fear + avoidance. It stars with us and what we are taking with us when we co-create our exchanges for the life, relationships, and world we wish to see as we move through and forward. To do better, we have to know better.

It's time to hold space, it's time to begin anew.

the journey, sign, encouragement

Maybe you've come into contact with the phrase "holding space" at some point on your journey. You may have asked yourself what the hell that means. You may have written it off as some spiritual woo woo nonsense. If you're anything like me, you've done both of these things, and more.

To both of those points, let me say this: I have come to Know that holding space is not for the 'spiritually elite'. It's not for people who have been involved in deep psychological work for years and years. It's not reserved for coaches telling you how to have more fulfilling relationships. It can be for all of these people and circumstances.

It also can and IS for you, too.

Like anything else worth doing in this life, holding space takes a lot of work and a lot of practice. It will take a certain amount of non-linear time for the actual process to sink in and become embodied. I would say that it is an integral part of the healing process. And healing, while challenging, is THE most rewarding activity we can ever involve ourselves in.

Learning to hold space, or hold yourself open to experience, involves other and natural parts of the learning and growth cycles we as humans find ourselves on. It's a completely different and new way to relate to both your self and the beloved others in your life. It takes a certain amount of readiness, willingness, and buckling up for the ride that will lead you towards successful space holding life experience, and putting down the armor of defensive and offended narratives is the the exchange we make for the curiosity of space holding.

What are we doing when we are holding space?

This is the question we want to ask ourselves over and over throughout our process.

And I will start by saying this: What we are doing, first and foremost, is entering into a state of witnessing.

To be a witness means, most importantly...

  • we are not casting judgement upon the other

  • we are not poised for advice giving

  • we are not aiming to "fix" any part of what we are observing

  • we are not in any way claiming responsibility for the feelings of the other

  • we are not in a reactive state

So if that is what we are NOT doing, what ARE we doing?

We are holding ourselves open. We are setting aside any propensities or tendencies to judge or fix or feel responsible. We are doing this by affirming, "I am open, I am a witness. I am here to observe." And instead of using our energy to do any of those things we may be in the habit of doing, we are using our energy to listen to the other (or others) and to ourselves.

I like the 70-30 ratio. When I am actively holding space, I am using seventy percent of my energy to be curious about and witness and listen to you, the other outside of myself, with my whole being, and the other thirty percent I am investing to listen to myself and my body and my internal narratives and reactions to what I am observing from you. Its not balanced, per se, yet somewhere in there is a balance. Because it takes practice to do both. And it takes a lot of mindful intention to engage yourself in two ways like this. And it starts with curiosity.

holding space, blooming, practice, standing tall

When we are curious, we are not reactive

That does not necessarily mean that we won't feel defensive. We may very well feel defensive. Especially if our partner or dear friend is coming in hard on something we said or did that did not make them feel valued or appreciated or loved by us. However, it looks and feels different than pure reaction. When we are reactive, we are controlled by emotional response and an overestimulated nervous system that is trigged by fright/fight/flight mode. That's our reptilian brain saying "You need to stay safe! You are under attack! Yikes! Ah! This can't happen! Use any means necessary to squelch the threat!" And while that can be very useful, and certainly has kept humanity alive in wilder times, it is not useful when we are looking to have deep, meaningful and productive conflict with significant others in our lives.

Being in a state of reaction, or defaulting to a triggered state, is not a curious way to show up for what is happening. It's the way of the autopilot: Basically, something else other than your Self, is running the show. And we shift this by becoming curious. First about ourselves, and then about the other. By agreeing to hold space for the other, or for ourselves, as we open up about how we feel, we are also agreeing to hold ourselves in a state of curiosity as an antidote to the judgement, defensiveness, avoidance, or counterattacking that we may be in the habit of using in these types of interactions.

How do we become curious about ourselves? How do we reframe our wounding and our triggers to be a source of inspiration and healing, rather than a set of painful and scary emotions and/or memories?

This is a journey all in itself. It's the journey into relationship with curiosity, and as I always say about the journey, it looks and feels different for everyone. I think that, universally, it begins with a spark of desire. How that spark comes, that's the magic and mystery of the individual experience.

For me, it came within the container of romantic partnership. I was sparked to understand this beloved other better, and as I opened myself to doing that, came the realization that I had to match that desire for being able to understand myself better. This realization turned into a Knowing. A Knowing that it all had to start and end with myself and how I was showing up for the exchange.

Many times, the catalyst of desire comes from beloved others in our lives. And that is so powerful. It's not always the case, though, and it absolutely does not need to be. The call to become curious can come in infinite ways. We just have to be willing to hear that call. And if it feels like a spark, like a flicker of desire, it can become something much bigger and more powerful. That's the promise of a spark. A spark can always Become--a flickering candle flame, a contained and comfortable hearth fire, or a full blown all consuming bonfire. I would encourage you to grow your curiosity to be of the all consuming fire kind. Because this is how you become a spacious, expansive partner in all of your exchanges. With insatiable curiosity.

One of my passions, my unique gifts in this lifetime, is how I hold myself in relation to others. My desire and intention to teach and model this to others is a driving force in my life. It is something I Know how to do, as I know how to breathe. With that, I offer you this: if your curiosity begins with a free, flowing wise woman one on one with me, A'ho, what a blessing. Sometimes we very much need another to help us catalyze. I have seen this over and over in my life. Becau