Holding space is indeed a sacred act. The term may seem vague or lofty to some, and even the notion of it being deemed sacred may veil it in skepticism. Here are 10 principles of holding space that may shine some light on what it means, why it’s important, and how it’s so powerful.
- Listen to hear, not to respond.
- Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart.
- Be present.
- Know that the person sharing is not broken. They have everything they need within them.
- Believe that they will come through this spiritually stronger.
- Envision them healed and whole.
- Be responsible for your own emotions.
- Allow them to express themselves fully without following the urge to console them.
- Remember this is not about you. Notice your triggers.
- Ask how they would like to be supported.
Listen to hear, not to respond. Your friend is opening up and sharing deeply with you. It’s natural to either take what they’re saying and relate it to a story in your own life, or to pipe in with your own opinion on the situation they’re talking about. True listening is offering your friend the service of being heard. Until advice or input is asked for, don’t offer it.
Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart. As your friend is sharing, tune out all other distractions that could take away your focus on them. Make eye contact with them. If their eyes are directed at the floor or closed or darting around, keep your gaze gently on your friend. Allow them to feel seen while feeling heard. Allow what they’re sharing to drop in to your heart. This means to imagine beautiful love light beaming from your heart to theirs. This builds an energetic connection between you and helps them to feel safe.
Be present. Stay with it. Your friend may have a lot to release. Make the choice that holding space for your friend is what you’re here to do right now. Breathe deeply. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your love light and the connection between you and your friend.
Know that the person sharing is not broken. They have everything they need within them. Expressing what is real is extremely important. Sometimes to get to the silver lining we really need to swim in the dark clouds. This is part of being human, and life’s challenges are our greatest teachers. Our Souls are infinite and perfect, and our humanness brings us closer to our Souls when we can worth through the darkness. It’s in the cracks that the light shines through. It’s in there. It’s not our job to patch up all the holes and cover up our pain. It’s our job to feel it all fully and recognize that we’re still okay.
Believe that they will come through this spiritually stronger. As you witness your friend, believe in your heart that whatever pain they are experiencing is necessary for their spiritual growth. It’s up to them to figure out what it means for them, what lesson this situation is meant to teach them. Your friend needs you to believe in them. Not to offer solutions or reassure them. Allowing them their own experience is the best way to honor them.
Envision them healed and whole. In your mind’s eye, picture your friend on the other side of this pain. See their beautiful Spirit inside their hurting body. This is a beautiful energetic way to support your friend as they sit in their weakness. What we focus on expands. If we only see their struggle, that is what we will continue to see. We desire to see our friend in peace, so focus on that.
Be responsible for your own emotions. We can’t control our friend’s emotions, but we can control ours as we hold space for another. Your intention is to allow your friend to express, process, and move through their feelings. Your emotions are not in service to that intention. If you get lost in their pain, your tears are not in integrity with your intention. When your gaze holds the vision of your friend as whole and capable of finding their way, they can be in their own emotions without the compounding of yours on top. You can always have a good cry together later.
Allow them to express themselves fully without following the urge to console them. Pause for them to rest. Allow them to repeat themselves a couple times. If a sentence ends in a question mark, resist the urge to answer. So many times we cut each other off without allowing our friend to release all they have to release. It may be painful for us to sit through, and that is the time to again open your heart and envision them healed, whole, and capable. We don’t often have the opportunity to fully express ourselves and release what is bottled up inside. Practice self control.
Remember this is not about you. Notice your triggers. You are holding space for your friend. Yes, you have your opinions and your reflections on your own life. But this is not about you. Every one of us has our own unique experiences. It doesn’t mean that your stories aren’t important. When you begin to talk about yourself it takes the attention off the friend that you are supporting. Your ego needs to be released in order to hold space. Your friend may say something that makes you angry or puts you on the defensive. Notice that–that is your medicine. If you want to explore that on your own or with your friend later, that’s okay. But if you desire to hold space for your friend, don’t respond to your trigger in the moment.
Ask how they would like to be supported. You may think you know exactly what your friend needs to hear when they are finished sharing with you. That would be presumptuous. It is best to ask your friend what it is they desire. Maybe a hug will be most soothing. Maybe advice is welcome. Maybe reassurance or validation. Possibly just to be left alone for a bit. Leave it up to them. This is their experience and holding space means you keep your needs out of it. And when they share how you can support them, do that!!
To be sacred is to be reverently dedicated. That’s what holding space is–it’s to honor a person through the devotion of your loving energy for their highest good. To process life’s teachings alone can be isolating and extremely challenging. When we feel witnessed and lovingly supported, we feel safe. We feel like we’re okay. We don’t feel alone anymore. I invite you to practice holding space for someone soon. Keep these guiding principles in mind and afterwards, notice. Just notice. You could be surprised.