Holding Sacred Space for Each Other
The absolute greatest gift we can each other is holding sacred space for each other. We need to change the way we have conversations. We need to listen, truly listen, deeply without judgments, and without waiting to reply, without waiting to add our experience or expertise.
This is a practice to hold space for other people in the conversation. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful, and it gives the person you’re holding space to be vulnerable, be real and feel truly heard.
In short, a gift.
I am currently writing a course and I’m calling it The Trail. The Trail has got me on my knees, writing this course is a revelation. It is so full of love, so full of passion, and just one of the most beautiful things I’ve probably ever created, which is saying a lot. I feel like I’m always in this joyful place, where the tears seem to come every time I’m working on it. Even when I think I’m not working on it, I’m working on it. So it’s sort of the everything that’s happened and the greatness that’s come out of the journey that I’ve been on, and how to help others find their journey too. It’s pretty incredible.
One thing that came up this week, when I’m writing this course, was the art of holding space for other people. I actually was dissecting right before I decided to jump off the cliff of somewhat rural life into farm life into us setting up the Wild and Free Farm and really moving onto this property. And the conversation that really struck me in this time period was one with my boss at the time. So we worked together in municipal government job and he was my manager, he didn’t know what he got himself into. But, long story short, he has been a really amazing mentor for me and I have looked back at many ways that he did leadership over the past few years, with the hindsight I can appreciate now.
So there was this moment where I had accepted … Well, no. I hadn’t accepted yet. So I had been offered a new job, doing recreation coordinating but doing it at a different place, out of county. I was right at the point where I would have to say goodbye to the job that brought me to Alberta, say goodbye to the people that felt more like family, honestly, to me, that I had spent the last five years with. I was in the middle of making that decision, as a family we were in the middle of deciding if it was what we wanted to do, really the composting period, and somehow it got out that we were considering this and people started rumours. Don’t people always start rumours? The people started rumours around my workplace that we were leaving. And not that it wasn’t untrue, but more so that the decision had been taken, what it felt like, out of my hands, which is kid of hilarious.
So I was an emotional wreck and I was really trying to keep it together and having a really hard time. And my mentor, boss, said, “Let’s go for a walk up on the trail.” There was a trail that ran behind our recreation center and him and I would go on these walking meetings. So we’d have a walking meeting and we would walk the trail a couple of times and we’d work out whatever it is that needed to be worked out. On this occasion it was me, I needed to be worked out. So we went up to the trail and in having a conversation with him about this last week, I was like, “Do you remember what you said?” And he said, “Well, I don’t remember the exact words because it has been some time, but I feel I would have asked a question like this.” But long story short, in talking to him about this and looking at other times in my life where I needed help, I needed support, the people that helped me the most were people who held space.
They didn’t really respond, per se, they did but they didn’t. Basically they would ask you a question and you would start into your usually emotional rampage, right, about what was wrong or what wasn’t working or what had happened, and they would listen. And I’m talking like really listen, the kind of listen where you don’t say, “Yeah, okay,” or ask a question while the person’s speaking. They’re just silent, okay? And they’re really giving you the space to rhyme off whatever’s on your mind. So you go and you do that, and then they ask insightful questions or they ask a question not repeating back what you’re saying but asking a question about what you said, to help you find clarity essentially.
The thing about it is they don’t have their own agenda. They don’t have any idea, really, how the conversation is going to end or what decision you might make. They’re just sitting there holding space for you, and this is such a gift. I’ve got to tell you, this is such a gift. A lot of times we’re listening to reply or to add our spice to the conversation, but the people who are ready to go deep and the people who are ready to handle and hold space, these are the best kind of people. These conversations are ones where, largely, we come to our own conclusion. However, this person just facilitates you in getting there and lets you drain the emotion from it and really let you relax back down. So you’re not in the fight or flight and your brain can make a good decision, your higher self can get through, your god can speak to you, or however you want to put this. This is a gift, it’s such a gift.
So I find myself creating this group of wild women in my local community, and we did our first meeting and I realized that the greatest thing I could ever do for anybody that I was trying to help, essentially, is to hold this space. So this is why I went back to my mentor. I went back to say, “How do you do this? What’s the process of this? How do you do this in your blank slate kind of way? And thank you, in a lot of ways, thank you for this gift that you gave me when I was really having trouble.” He looked flattered when I said that, in a lot of ways, and then he explained it all to me and he gave me resources and showed me how it could be. And he did it again, of course. He wanted to hear what I had been up to and he listened with that intensity.
This is the greatest gift we can give each other, to have these conversations where we’re not replying, we’re not listening to reply, we’re not trying to add our experience to the stories. We just want to be heard, we want somebody to hold that space. We want to have that and we want to have those people who can and can handle it. It’s a really big deal. So it’s really changed conversations for me, in a lot of ways. It’s very obvious who’s holding this space and who’s waiting to reply now. No judgment here, I’ve been waiting to reply for years. And in practicing this, I have to really be aware that that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to hold space.