Holding Space

When I first started my training as a Breathwork Facilitator with Breathing Space, I wasn’t totally sure what was meant by the term holding space. It was used a lot! I began to realise we don’t just hold space for others, we hold it for ourselves too. But what does it mean? There were other terms that were used, like ‘going to our tender edges’ and ‘container’ and ‘framing’ that were somewhat new to many of the participants.

But going back to that space holding concept for now, I began to see it as a beautiful way to sum up what we have been doing naturally in many situations for as long as we can remember and of course we did it a lot more before mobile phones arrived to take our attention away from the person we are with. Holding space means being present for someone. Fully present. Not just physically present, but mentally and emotionally and spiritually present for this person who is with you.

Cast your mind to the last time someone did that with you? Remember how there was no judgment, no interruptions, no taking over the conversation and changing the topic, no bringing the conversation back round to them and their stories, however relevant? There was space for you to simply collect your thoughts, to deeply feel your emotions and to openly express yourself how you needed to within that time you had together. There was compassion and openness and a willingness to explore and you felt safe enough to experience vulnerability as you lowered the mask that we wear to hide our true selves so well.

They didn’t attempt to put themselves in your shoes and solve your problems. They listened and they really heard you. They saw and they really witnessed you. Maybe they placed a hand on your shoulder and they really held you. They stayed with you and they really understood you and cared about you and supported you unconditionally in this time and space.  

One of the most difficult practices that I have begun to put into my daily life is to be fully present physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for myself without judgement or problem-solving creeping in. Taking the playful curiosity of a child, I invite myself to just sit for a while and tune in to myself, letting thoughts come and go and observing the accompanying emotions without any other objective than to be still with myself and witness myself with love and compassion.

At first, it was so hard not to jump up and get on with some action that sprang to mind as a solution to some problem that my thoughts took me to. Or to make notes on the same. It was hard not to let in that inner critic who is so quick to judge. But I got quite accustomed to the practice and began to look forward to it. I found that the better I got at holding space for myself, the better I got at actively listening to others and holding space for them.

It is the most beautiful thing to have a conversation with a client and be able to support them with a conscious connected breathwork that gives them more of that sense that they are safe, they are held and they can trust their inner wisdom and their breath to take them where they need to go with whatever thoughts, emotions, physical movements and spiritual experiences that may arise.

Last week a client who has participated in my conscious connected breathwork journey as a breather and who has visited me often for Bowen Therapy and Reiki commented, “You really listen, don’t you? You make it feel like we are just having a conversation, but you’re taking everything in and that’s how you know what’s needed in the breathwork session, isn’t it?” I agreed and told him what I’d learnt about this concept of holding space.