As a Yoga Teacher, I often hear and use terms like, “being centered,” and “feeling the breath.” These aren’t just meaningless, fluffy phrases; I understand and experience these game-changing phrases; however, the one phrase that stumped me the first time I heard it was “holding space for each other.” It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the words in this phrase; I just couldn’t fully grasp what holding space looked like. After many hours of teaching and living my yoga practice, I have a better understanding of what this phrase means (at least to me).
Creating an Imaginary Safehouse.
I’m very visual and imaginative, so I like to picture creating walls around me and the one I’m holding space for. Sometimes I like to picture a room with four walls, or a room with one circular wall that wraps around. I imagine the room to be filled with bright white light. These visualizations helps me to calm my mind and let go of any distractions so that I can be fully present for the other person.
Letting Go of All Judgement.
When we hold space for someone, it’s important to put ourselves in their shoes completely. In order to hold space for someone else effectively, we must check biases and opinions outside of the imaginary room. It’s not easy to let go of all judgment, but by practicing this, we will grow in our empathy toward others.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, listening is defined as “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration,” whereas hearing is defined as the “process, function, or power of perceiving sound.” When we give thoughtful attention and consideration to what we’re hearing, it’s called listening. When we listen — really listen — we don’t formulate opinions, solutions or advice while the other person is talking, which leads me to the next one…
Do Not React Negatively.
I have learned the secret to being a parent that guides their teenager without telling him/her what to do. Not that I have mastered it, but it is a golden nugget that I try to practice as often as I can with my daughter. When my daughter shares things with me — whether it be random, light-hearted things or deep, vulnerable things in her heart — I don’t react out of emotions. Sure, there are times when I want to get upset, but I made a choice to always listen, thank her for being open, and ask, “Is there anything else?” (or a similar phrase that’s appropriate for the occasion.) With adults, I try to practice the same concept. The minute we give a negative or an opinionated reaction, we’re no longer holding space for others.
Give Advice or Offer Solutions (Unless They Ask).
This is another “secret” I learned in holding space for others. When my daughter opens up to me about a problem or a struggle, I ask her questions that will get her talking more so that she can come to a solution on her own. After doing this for a while, if she can’t seem to figure out a solution, I ask her if she would like my input. If she says yes, I give her advice but make sure that she doesn’t feel judged by the words that I use or by the tone of my voice. If she says no — which rarely happens — I simply thank her for her honesty and tell her that I’ll be praying for her. There are times though, when she will tell me she would like my advice even before she starts talking, which makes it much easier to navigate. With adults, I rarely move into an advisor role unless they specifically ask me for advice or input.
Thank Them for Trusting You.
Whether a child or adult, everybody likes to be thanked. When someone is willing to enter our space and take the chance of being vulnerable with us, we should always express our gratitude. It takes a lot of courage for anybody to open up and share their hearts. By thanking them, it keeps us humble and it allows them to feel safe to be in the space you’re holding for them… and perhaps, they will hold space for you in the future when you may need it.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible about Jesus holding space for others is when He saved the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. While everyone wanted to stoned her to death, Jesus held space for her so that she can repent and live a life that God has always intended her to live. There are so many other examples of Jesus holding space for people, such as children in Matthew 19:13-15 and Zacchaeus the Tax Collector in Luke 19:1-10.
I pray that we all practice holding space for each other so that we can increase love and light in this world.