After all the seeming of our trying In an effort to make ourselves big and more important, more powerful more of whatever is more than what we have or what we are now We are still little people who are mortal. Every effort to compare and judge, each time we throw ourselves into competition with another, whatever we think we've won We are still little people who are mortal. When we objectify others, when we engage in war on them, when we rape, torture or kill We become even smaller, less significant and still very mortal. Want to know what makes us bigger? Basically Compassion and Insight are the tools that work best Compassion because it enlarges our Heart-Mind to include all other beings Insight because it grows our perception and understanding of how to be in relation with ourselves, all other beings and the Earth And that I believe is how we may change from always showing up as little people And sets us each on the path to become a Bigger Person though we still be mortal.
Tag Archives: compassion
This phrase, “holding space” is a relatively recent addition to the lexicon of those who speak about interactions and relationships between and among people. None of us grew up with this phrase in our vocabulary. I’m not sure what I would have imagined it to mean if I didn’t already know. As I consider it now, an image comes to mind of throwing oneself onto the empty space in front of the curb along a city street in a vain attempt to keep anyone else from parking there. Perhaps this isn’t an accurate picture, but the whole body energy required is not so dissimilar. It can take a great deal of focus and energy to “hold space.”
My intention here is to consider the meaning of the phrase and what it looks and feels like when you are “holding space” for a person or group of individuals and their experience. Behind that initial intention is the wondering about how we learn to hold space since clearly it is a learned skill or action, and frankly, most of us haven’t got it.
So, to begin, it would seem that you must be present to the person or group. Does that mean physically present? I know what it’s like to hold space for someone over the phone, so it would seem that physical presence is not exactly required. I do believe that you must be connected in some way through the senses of seeing, hearing or touching. Tasting and smelling might be available but certainly not required. And thinking or mind activity as the sixth sense is another issue entirely – one I will touch on later. The point is that being present to a person or group means that you are connected in some way. This connection also has some focus to it; it isn’t a casual flyby. It isn’t a person you pass on the street or someone sitting across from you on the train, although it is possible that some circumstance shifts the focus of your interaction or relationship with that person and you find yourself holding space for him/her.
Once you are present in this way, perhaps the next consideration would be the nature of the space being held. The qualities of this space help determine the qualities that you, as the holder of that space, must bring to it. First it must feel safe, both on a physical and emotional level. Second, The space must allow for the person to be heard and/or seen without hindrance. Third, the takeaway must be determined by the person, not the holder of space. These are seemingly simple requirements, but how do you ensure that they remain alive in that space?
One of the most critical qualities of the person holding the space is being fully focused on what’s happening with the person or group before you. No thinking of what you need to do later or of some incident that occurred the day before. Your thinking or mind activity must be calm and open to the present moment. It means relinquishing judgments, reactions and interpretations of what is happening so that all of your energy is available for witnessing. In effect, holding space means being the best kind of witness – open, accepting, able to meet what’s happening with loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
If these seem familiar, they are known as the Brahma-Viharas in Buddhist practice. One does not, however, have to be Buddhist to see that these might be beneficial to pursue. These are not concepts to be understood but ways of being in this world. How could they not serve us to be the best humans we could possibly be? What I love about them is that they are not presented in terms of what NOT to do; they don’t have the sense of rules or laws. They do not threaten or exhort. Instead they represent an inner grounded state of being from which speech and actions emanate. They enable us to speak and act with the kind of intention that supports healthy and humane interactions.
I suspect by now you might find that exploring the phrase “holding space” has led us far afield. In response, I would invite you to imagine how your life might be different if you learned how to incorporate these practices into your relationships and interactions with others. This is a path that can even help us accomplish a related and most difficult task – that of holding space for ourselves. Allow yourself a moment to consider what that might look like…
It seems that none of us are born loving ourselves. It even sounds odd to talk about an infant “loving” in our most familiar sense of the word. What’s happening for him are sensations which might be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, what feels good or not, but hardly anything we would call love. How does the feeling of loving oneself emerge or develop?
Suppose, just for a moment, that this is the purpose for each one of us in our lifetime, to come to feel unconditional love for ourselves. How that happens can be a very convoluted route. We first experience love in some way from people around us. Mostly it would seem that what we learn is conditional – based on our behavior, how we look, what we say or issues that have nothing even to do with us. An infant growing up is left to interpret the signs, some of which may be subtle and some loud and obvious. We don’t come knowing who we are, so we depend on these messages from those around us. We internalize what is shown or said to us and, for the most part, come to believe this is who we are.
It’s true this may not be information that is new to you. But, in the context of growing to love ourselves, how is it that we can come to learn that we are really okay and worthy of being accepted completely as we are? Might it not be a matter of remembering a moment of wholeness – where there was no judgment, no sense of unsatisfactoriness. All that is there is a fullness, an acceptance of however we are in that moment. It’s a felt sensation that is independent of where we are, who we are with or what we are doing. It’s simply a matter of being.
Mostly we consider that how we feel about ourselves depends on what’s happening, or what has happened or the possibility of what may happen. All these considerations impinge on what we think of ourselves. Interesting that so much effort can be spent on shoring up the bulwark around our own identity, trying to make it stronger or less impervious to outside influences. It takes some remembering to get back to the whole and realize that nothing can touch or change the core of our being. It’s not possible.
So, suppose you find a comfortable seat, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in and out. Now let yourself remember an earlier time when you experienced the sensation of loving and/or being loved. See if you can set the story aside and focus on the feeling. It needn’t be one of those BIG, LIFE CHANGING events; it might be a few moments when you felt ok inside, when there was the beginning of an inner smile happening for no particular reason. After you’ve connected with that feeling, open your eyes and move to where you can see yourself in a mirror. Look directly at the person there in front of you. Allow yourself to remember that inner smile and consider that, regardless of what may have happened since that earlier time, or what might happen in the future or even what thoughts and emotions are creeping in at this very moment, you are the same inside. That inner smile, the feeling of loving yourself, is there, simply waiting to be remembered.
It’s really amazing how one simple word can bring with it so much energy and angst! “Discipline” is definitely one such word – one that accompanies us often from childhood all the way through to where we stand today as adults. Ever notice the harshness in it? Or is it simply seriousness? Difficult to say, and of course, it depends on our first introduction to the many layers underneath the linear aspects of its ten individual letters.
I suspect that each of us has our own story – the story of our relationship to discipline. Maybe it began at a time when you were “disciplined” as a child or were criticized for a lack of discipline. How does this translate into your present attitude toward being disciplined in the way you approach your practice of yoga or meditation? Does “discipline” have to mean that you show up to practice every day for a certain period of time, even that you show up in a certain way? I’m not so sure.
It would seem that discipline generally applies to those practices which we do not embrace easily. So, it takes some resolve to get on the mat or the cushion and then more energy to follow through with what we are there to do. I might add that there seems some sense of obligation or doing the right thing that accompanies this resolve. Interesting that we seldom speak of activities of love or true enjoyment by using the word “discipline.” When I think of doing an activity that I love, there is an inner drive that pulls me toward it even when I’m not actually engaged in it. My thoughts don’t dwell in a negative space that overflows with berating words when I haven’t done it everyday. Perhaps this is in part because there are no “shoulds” attached to these activities – they feel much more like gifts and easy to welcome when they do happen.
How would it be to face your yoga practice or sitting in meditation as though you were accepting a most precious gift? If you show up so that your presence is drawn there by this inner drive, there may be more excitement at what can happen during these moments ahead. Even if you feel you are still learning technique, still developing the skills needed to feel that you are accomplished at yoga or meditating, can you be a loving presence for yourself in this practice? Perhaps that is, in truth, the bottom line – that you show up with compassion for yourself in the doing. Even if you are a beginner, or a beginner again, you show up as if you are about to receive a wonderful gift.
This isn’t about the work required. A change in attitude doesn’t mean that the practice will be easy, although you can explore the possibility of being more at ease with it. The point is that how you frame the experience will undoubtedly influence what your practice will be like. Of course, it will be different on different days. No point trying to introduce sameness. But honestly, doesn’t receiving your practice as a gift feel so much more supportive to moving forward with it than a more “disciplined” approach. I can already hear some of you saying, “But sometimes I need the kick in the ass that comes with discipline in order to get on my mat or my cushion!” So, perhaps at times like these, what you really need is to give yourself the “kick ass” gift of compassion!