I had a fella friend of mine ask me, a few weeks back, what we women mean when we say "holding space".
The question stopped me for a moment, as I realized simultaneously that 1) I am now so familiar with this notion of holding space and what it feels like that I'd forgotten what words describe it best for someone who doesn't necessarily, and that 2) if he was asking within the casual trust of our years-long friendship, that there are probably others who really aren't sure how to take that phrase that aren't asking someone they trust.
So I did what I often do when words seem inadequate and elusive... I got quiet and went within to that place where I can tap into how it feels - both in my memory and my desire of holding space and being held... as a woman, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a nurse, a creative type, a spirit in body. I asked inside to know the words that would speak to him.
Then I told him that it's all about Presence with another. Witnessing. Listening without agenda. Acceptance for what is, non-judgment for how they are, being open to receive every part of them that shows up without letting one's own discomfort lead us away from compassionate response and into unhelpful, logical or otherwise negative knee-jerk reaction...
No giving unsolicited advice, no shifting the conversation onto yourself or anything else without real self-awareness for your motivations in doing so, no trying to control, fix, change, organize or shift their perspective from where they are...
Just being unafraid of any uck and muck that might emerge. Unafraid of silences or emotions. Unafraid to just BE the space for that person to BE exactly who and how they are. A simple celebration of the moment together... whether the stuff that shows up is sticky or celebratory or just ho-hum. It's about being really Honest.
I told him it felt like moving into an open field within yourself and trusting bigger 'things' to just work through the moment and expand us into compassion and true connection with another spirit. Or something like that.
I also told him that at the end of the day it is rather hard to describe, but that you know it when you're receiving it, and eventually you begin to know how it feels to be able to offer it, as a practice.
I told him it feels like being pure Love, unconditional Living Love. That it's hard sometimes, so hard, but that it's the best work I know.
I told him it changes everything when you make it a practice in how you live.
He got it. I felt it. I saw it in his eyes. We had a great conversation thereafter.
Today, is all about Holding Space.
It's also my birthday. The big 3-6!
Today is about Holding Space in a way that I forgot to mention to my friend, Tony - a way that is maybe even the most important.
Because I sometimes forget to apply these practices to myself... as we natural born care-givers often do.
So today, I hold space for me. To breathe into my New Year of life, one moment into the next.
And whatever adventure or comfort or color calls my heart, attention and curiosity, I will lovingly show up to, without agenda, because this is the best way I know how to celebrate Life.
So if you need me today, I'll be testing the best work I know on myself...