Recently, my husband John and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary in Thailand, where we repeated our vows to each other. One of them was, “I’ll always be there for you”. I couldn’t help but recall teaching from yoga, where we call this ‘holding space’, and you might have heard me or other teachers at Inspire talk about it.
It’s like providing the feeling of safety by being there, however it is more complex than that. If you’ve ever said to someone that you love him or that she’s your best friend because they “didn’t do anything but were just there for you in times of need”, I’m sure you’ve experienced someone holding space for you. In essence, it means that a person is simply there for you and allows you to express your feelings and go through the experience of pain, hurt and suffering without judgement or forceful help. Those last two words are what differentiate sympathy from compassion. As humans, it’s not easy to see suffering and not do anything to help alleviate it, and that’s because it affects our emotions and brings our uncomfortable memories to the surface. That’s what makes holding space so much more difficult as one needs to be selfless in the suffering of another.