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.
When someone holds space for us, we feel loved and supported, and it makes us feel that it is okay to feel what we are feeling, without feeling inferior, and in that moment we can experience a profound healing taking place.
Holding space has its roots in Buddhism and Asteya (non-stealing). Buddhism teaches us that compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded, but that of equals. It tells us that when we feel we can solve the other’s situation through advise or are worried about them making it through, we are essentially taking the power away from them. In the relationship of equals, we know that the other person, even though in pain today, is mature and smart enough to know what is good for them and will take action to get better and solve the situation.
During this journey of theirs, I believe that the best thing you can do for someone is to simply hold space for them to experience and heal. However, being able to do this takes time and effort; and as always it begins with ourselves. We need to experience it to understand it, which means that we need to first learn to hold space for ourselves, give ourselves the permission to feel and be raw, so that we are able to work through our pain in order to heal. And only once we learn how to do this for ourselves, can we truly hold space for our loved ones in the manner that they deserve – with respect and compassion.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this in some form or another. It’s the most precious feeling, one on which strong and everlasting relationships are built – one that is key to sharing your life with the one you love. If you’d like to share your experiences or talk about how you experienced someone holding space for you and how they relation blossomed, please get in touch and don’t feel shy to share. We’re here for you.