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.

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.




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. Because sometimes we can only take ourselves so far. And there is no need to go it alone under all circumstances. Especially when there are others on our path who can support our unique process, and can hold it up in a reflective and deep way. Start with them, start with me. Start with you. Commit to yourself and then show up for that commitment. Curiosity is in the fiber of all beings. Directed intention allows it to be channeled into beautiful pathways of growth + evolution. This I can promise you.


What does holding space look like once we've worked on it some, and have a conscious Knowing of what it means in our lives?

The first thing we notice is that that those intense feelings of reaction that hijack our whole selves has ebbed considerably. This takes awhile. There is no need to rush this or expect it to be gone instantly. There are many layers of patterning that direct our reactions, and excavating them one by one is a tender and loving process that requires much patience, compassion, forgiveness, grace and, always, curiosity. With persistence and dedication, curiosity will replace reaction.


With the ebb and healing of reactive patterns comes the space for understanding, empathy and compassion. There is no need to argue or create unpleasant conflict because we are comfortable sitting in the curious state that is required of us to be able witnesses of ourselves and others. There is a lot of peace here. An abundance of it, really. Because when we are actively holding space, we are not making the experience of the other mean anything about us. We are allowing their experience while also investigating our own. Words, actions, feelings that come up within the space we are holding open to serve the purpose of the the interaction are ok to be there, and we do not need to take them inside and/or use them as descriptors of who we are after the exchange has ended. They remain in the space we create for the exchange. What resonates as a truth, we can take home and work on further. That is the door that curiosity holds open for us.


Also with an active ability to hold ourselves open/hold space come the feelings of safety that will return to our bodies. The threat of fighting or running for our lives will no longer be a part of our conflict M.O. Instead, we will know that we are safe, we will know that we are able to hear our true voices clearly enough to not get lost in whatever else may be happening outside of us. Even if someone is loud, or angry with us, and they are strongly in an emotional or reactive state, we can offer our curiosity with a simple, yet powerful "tell me more", and that diffuses any need on their part to be defensive, while we also affirm to ourselves that their reaction or emotional state is not our responsibility.

We hold ourselves open, within the safety and spaciousness of our full selves and bodies. We no longer feel those signals of anxiety like a knotted stomach, tight throat, sweaty palms, pounding heart, all the symptoms of an unpleasant conflict coming to boil. And we will know when we walk away that we have showed up in our full integrity, regardless of how the other person feels. If we have truly held the space open within ourselves for the experiences of all involved, we have shown up in an unshakably sound and loving way. And so any feelings of regret or "I shouldn't have said that" or "I could've done xyz differently" simply won't exist. Because you did everything in your full power to be open and engaged and a witness in the exchange.


Now, important to note here, is that holding space, especially for someone's anger, does not mean we turn ourselves into a dumping ground. Even the most grounded and powerful humans do not wish to hold space for an explosion. And there is a teaching opportunity here when someone comes to you, explosive and reactive, which looks and feels like calmness as we gently disallow the engagement to persist. We can say something like "I can feel/see that you are feeling a lot right now. I'd like to come back to this when we can address this in a more calm dynamic together." Of course, you will need to use your discretion on what you say based on who the person is. However, we, as well-boundaried individuals, have the right to defer the intense reactions of others to a time when we can feel more safe. No matter how strong the space you hold is, you are NOT a dumping ground.


In fact, as you become stronger in holding yourself open during exchanges, you are, in this way, inviting others to meet you there in this practice. And they will want to, most likely, especially if they are on a path of self-reflection, with growth + discovery at the forefront. You may even start asking each other to hold space before you begin a potentially uncomfortable exchange. At this point, you will have had enough practice (and there will be times when you fail, and that is part of learning how to do this, I promise) sitting through and with the discomfort that it won't be daunting at all all to request the beloved other to hold the space for you. In fact, this doesn't even have to be a conflict you are having with them. This could be about something completely different and unrelated to them. Maybe you have a lot of life decisions coming up and you are feeling overwhelmed and want to talk it through. A simple "hey, I have a lot on my mind and in my heart, are you able to hold some space for me?" is a really respectful and honoring way to approach someone with your request.


Holding space is loving, for Yourself and your Beloveds

Its a deep intimacy practice. And it will show you how deeply intimate you can be with your Self, and it will take you to the depth of your compassion along the way. Compassion and intimacy are absolute lovers of the other.

Even when you don't desire an intimate exchange with another person, you are still having that intimate exchange with yourself by using that part of you to be curious about what is happening outside and within. And yet, the conversation and exchange on the outside is inevitably seeing the tremendous benefit of those efforts. Most often, though, we are holding ourselves open for the beloved others in our lives.


We also hold ourselves open for things and timing as well. We can hold space for our past when we experience an ending and are sitting in all that it has to tell us and teach us. An example of this is the healing process after a relationship of any kind ends. You hold space for all that you are being asked to learn from that partnership, and you hold that space for as long as it serves you. Then you let it go, and it creates space for your future.

For the future, you hold yourself open. You create your vision and feel into the life you desire and that is aligned, and then you let that go, too. And the space is there. Holding your vision means holding that space open for that vision to come into fruition. Without the space, the vision cannot manifest. Physical manifestation, new emotions, new habits, new processes and wisdom all need the space to manifest themselves into. That is why releasing what has run its course is so very important for moving forward with your life and the ability to create it exactly as you wish it to look and feel.


All of this involves space holding. All of this is the practice of you taking yourself and making yourself expansive enough to extend to a person or scenario without taking it in and making it part of you. You are not defined but what is held in the space you create. You can be defined, though, by the integrity and strength of the space you hold. And that is what we are striving for: a stronger, more expansive, loving and compassionate space created for us to have our exchanges in.


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New Beginnings Affirmation:

I am here, standing ready to uncover my sacred wisdom and work towards a life that is shaped and called in by my Unique Voice. I am ready for the New Life that is meant for me and my world. For this, I will stand tall in my Self. I will do this by restoring my unique voice, resonating my soul purpose, healing and using my strong and soft power, and grounding into All that I Am. 

I have sacred Original Medicine, my truth. And I am here to speak it lovingly to myself and my world. A'ho

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