Holding space – perhaps this is an over used term for you or maybe you have never heard it before. Wherever you are in your discovery of this phrase, it holds a vital role when it comes to listening to those in grief. What is meant by this term, is to be with someone who needs their inner pain and turmoil to be witnessed by someone who is skilled at listening. Someone who is skilled at listening does so with intent. They are doing it because they care, they have compassion and they want to help.
Giving advice, interjecting the person talking or bringing their own experience into the fold as a way of making the other person feel more heard are tactics that we use in everyday conversation. These are the very things to be avoided when holding space. Listening with intent may be giving a small nod of understanding, or the words ‘I hear you’ said softly to let the person know you are following them, you relate, you are right there with them. Some people who may find it deeply uncomfortable to take up space, may need small questions to know they can keep opening, such as ‘is there anything else?’ It might be the first time that anyone has ever given them their undivided attention which could be unsettling at first. A suggestion would be to begin a conversation with a sentence like, ‘it is my intention to hold a loving space for you to share whatever is going on for you right now.’
A skill that I was taught whilst studying Spiritual Psychology was ‘See The Loving Essence’ in each person that you listen to. The purpose of this is to breakdown the judgements that can often block us and distract us from really listening. If we imagine each person we listen to as their soul essence, or often I think of a baby, when a baby is born, it is like pure love. As life happens, we build barriers to protect us, which take us further from our essential nature – love.
Heart Centered Listening was another term taken from Spiritual Psychology which teaches us to listen from our hearts and to be totally devoted to the person talking. We mostly listen from our heads, thinking about what we can say in response and only listening to a fraction of what we hear. When we listen from our hearts we hold a pure space. The person we listen to will energetically feel that and be able to go deeper, they will trust more and feel safe in their vulnerability.
Holding Space is like an act of service. It is putting aside our own agenda, and being so present to what is being shared. It is sitting with that friend, client, stranger whoever it may be and witnessing their pain. It might make you feel very uncomfortable to see someone desperately upset, it is not about you taking on their pain, it is about showing that person they are heard on a deep level. It is profound what listening can do. We may worry that we do not have the answers to resolve someone else’s pain, but your heart centered listening will bring more healing than you can ever imagine.