It was one of the circle back conversations. After one of the rolling tides of life had crashed over. Resurfacing.

When we are at the end of the rope, when we are taken to our knees, we crack open and spill out our hurts, losses and disappointments. We will speak to the overwhelm, betrayal and confusion in our soul with raw vulnerability. Days ago I had heard the flood pouring from the cracks. Now, resurfacing, he sat across from me. It would be easy enough to go forward and allow the flood to slowly sink down into earth. Never to be spoken of again until life pulled the rug out. Which it will do. There is no such thing as easy sailing forever.

So I speak and ask about those things I heard in the flood. Asking the open ended question is easy. The really hard part is keeping my mouth shut after the ask. In coach training we call it holding space. It’s a sacred practice. To listen without judgement and provide an environment that is safe. It takes diligence. As human beings we want to jump in and solve the problem, provide solutions. Think about it. When was the last time you just listened?

Holding my tongue. Sometimes literally pushing it against my teeth. The pause grows long.
Then he begins to talk. I listen. I want to interject when the commentary points at me and my part in his pain. My head answers. Justify! Protect! Defend! My lips remain closed. At some places I do, despite my intentions, offer options and solutions. This is deep work. That of allowing full expression. That of holding space. I could weave a fairy tale of wondrous revelations and breakthroughs that have come from this interaction. I prefer the truth. The story is yet to be written.

Expression, giving voice, speaking out loud is a tonic all by itself. It is a beginning for transformation. A necessary first step on a path to something different. When we quell our own voice with the specific intent to hear someone through we are being transformative. 

There are so many ways to hold space. When we have the courage to do so we allow the individual access to strength, confidence, and knowing confirmed at deep places. 

Stand back and watch the toddler make his way through the after service coffee hour crowd. Letting him interact on his own with the world is holding space. No rushed apologies when he stumbles grabbing hold of a silk skirt for support. Let him receive the coo of adoring grandmother types and discover some folk pay him no heed. As parents we can put so much energy on expectations for choices, behaviors, and desired outcomes. We can be so afraid of where the minutia might lead that we spend copious time in oversight. I believe our children are more aware and world smart that we know. Given space and boundaries they will self regulate. The crux for us parents is to let go enough for them to make mistakes so they can learn from them.

Brene Brown in “Daring Greatly” speaks about sitting with her son in the dark place when he was not invited to the party. I remember my own son’s pain when his girlfriend broke up with him. “I’m sorry about that.” “You want to talk about it?” The key is being okay with them not wanting to talk about it. Simply sitting with people who are hurting is the most sacred space holding. Know that pain is not permanent nor fatal. It can be scary as pain of others triggers our own losses and hurts. Yet when you can simply be present healing happens for both of you. 

Space holding, I think, at it’s essence is letting go while being present. It’s trusting those around you. It’s believing in others. It’s knowing that just as you have learned and grown and evolved, so can they. When we over protect, over instruct, coddle, warn and, worst of all, rush to make it all better we deny others their full growth potential. 

So how do we I hold space you ask? Like all practices of our higher selves it takes awareness, diligence and persistence. Start by practicing silence. Hold your tongue (against your teeth if necessary) and see what opens up. Ask if advise is wanted before you spout fixes. Ask if they want to talk about it. Be okay when the answer is “No”. Confirm, for yourself and them, that you are here for them. Hangout without expectations.

For Your Best Possible Self
Coach Christine Clark