We have all been called upon at one time or another to help someone else through a difficult time. When the help required consists of concrete actions, such as running errands or making phone calls, we know what to do, but what happens when the help requires a deeper level of care? When we are called to help someone deal with emotional pain, how can we help?
We can hold space!
Holding space is the art of being fully present for the person before you. It is more of a meditation or prayer than a physical action. When we hold space for someone, we allow the person to have "room" around the potentially overwhelming feelings he or she may be encountering. We provide a space in which he or she can simply be.
To hold space one must be aware and open. We can help someone confront his or her feelings when that feels right, and back off when a break is needed. Holding space requires humility, conscientiousness, and the ability to step out of the way honestly understanding that this is not about us.
When we offer ourselves in this way, the more neutral and calm we are, the better. Our steadiness allows our companion to lean on us for support, as our presence provides an environment in which he or she can be free to move. Deep breathing is an excellent tool to help you maintain a calm neutral state, while providing an example and pace for the person in need. Gently encourage deep breathing, tactfully and without verbalizing if possible. It is important to avoid feeding the emotional pain which often accompanies emotional release. Do not take personally any of the emotions present. Bring gentleness and consciousness to your engagement using loving supportive encouragement and/or affirmations. Say what comes from your heart and do not engage with attempts to hook you into feeding his or her pain. Just notice the feeling and breathe.
Every person is sacred space, and by holding space we offer a subtle reminder. The greatest gift we can give is ourselves, fully, completely, without expectations or judgments. Just Be.
The art of holding space is an essential component for anyone interested in the healing arts. One of the strongest elements of the Healing Arts Center's Massage therapy program is that the students harness the ability to hold space. As I completed my training at the Healing Arts Center, I realized one of the greatest gifts I have received is the ability to hold space. As I progress I've noticed that I can remain calm and collected even amidst the most emotionally charged situations. I have seen first hand the ability to change one person or an entire room of people simply by holding space.
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