Holding the Space
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey
I get asked often by new Yoga teachers "How can I remain positive when my students are experiencing intense negative emotions?" or "How can I remain unaffected by the suffering of those around me?"
Life has taught me that an important and understated skill is the ability to "hold the space" for someone. Holding the space means remaining present and attentive to someone's needs without making their story your own. In simple words, it means not being in the story that they are telling.
Often when we engage with someone who is going through an emotionally challenging time is that we make their story our own: we share our own experiences, we give advise, we try to get the person to look at things from our point of view, we try to "fix" their problems. Worse, if their challenge was caused by something we said or did, we become defensive or shut down.
And while all of these things have their place, there is also a very important element that is especially vital when the emotional strain is at its peak: being there. There were moments in my own life where the greatest help I received was a hug and an ear. Where there was no "stop crying", "cheer up", "why don't you", "when I had this", "you must", "why don't you try".
Instead there was accepting, embracing, understanding silence and stable physical presence that just allowed me to be who I needed to be in that moment. To express myself in the most relevant and authentic way. Not to be scared to let my heart and mind roam free through this tornado of emotion.
And I believe for a person to "hold the space", there needs to be a clear understanding that "this is not my story", that you can completely be there for someone without being involved, that everyone walks a very unique path and only they can do that. And that sometimes the greatest help you can give someone, is to apply pure, detached compassion.
Weam is the founder of Namaste. She had started a very deep and intense spiritual journey at a young age having refused to continue to suffer with the common challenges of her generation: depression, anxiety and being lost. She insisted that there must be more to life than the constant rat race she was in