holding space….3-24-15


I first heard the term “holding space” when I dove into dance as a moving meditation. Curious how this phrase tenderly moved through me and informed every bone in my body. I knew immediately that this was the ineffable language for what I had been doing as a medical professional all my adult life. I just didn’t know there was a name for it. It’s a skill I’ve honed over a lifetime and still I fall short time and again, get up, dust myself off and keep learning. It comes most naturally for me when I’m at work one-on-one seeing you for physical therapy. It is more challenging to refine in the classroom setting, for me, easier in yoga than dance. Actually it’s a life craft we all practice, whether we know it or not. For most of us it shows up in our work lives and in our personal relationships as well.

An article entitled What it Means to Hold Space by Heather Plett is currently circulating in cyberspace. I encourage you to read her essay

(http://heatherplett.com/2015/03/hold-space/) that distills eight tips in the most stellar way. Here they are verbatim along with my own rambling commentary about how this plays out in one-on-one treatment sessions with you:

  1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom. I love listening to you relay your history and describe your unique challenges. So easy to feel your particular brand of innate wisdom and immediately reflect it back. So inspiring to witness your intuition operating, what you inherently know already and where you know you need help…why else would you make an appointment? Always throwing the ball back in your court: how does that feel? love how you made up that creative move! how are things different now that we did that? In fact, it is way more than permission…it is recognition and celebration.
  2. Give people only as much information as they can handle. I cringe to remember my early eager years, all that academia spilling over, way too many explanations and expectations about how self care should look. Now I don’t say much, I just listen lots, wait for questions, pass on volunteering that extra bit. You usually leave with maybe ten minutes of home follow through to do each day for two weeks only. Just enough to make a positive change that will be its own reward and motivator.
  3. Don’t take their power away. I love to capture and capitalize on each emerging moment you create a gain, where you figure a new way to move, where you have taken the wheel. I am so not the all-mighty healer type, the professional you surrender to in order to be fixed. For me, it is all about being a coach and witness and celebrating as you take the driver’s seat.
  4. Keep your own ego out of it. Easier said than done, for sure. I know I am in trouble when too many words are coming out of my yapper. I continue to learn to come back to the most important person in the room…you.
  5. Make them feel safe enough to fail. This is so important. I love to tell you about the Sanskrit word prajnaparadha, the natural human tendency to turn away from what we know is best for us. Because this is how we all fall down. We know what we need to do and we all lapse. Period. It is such a relief to know this is totally normal. Whips and chains don’t really serve and I am always here to serve independent of where you fall on this spectrum.
  6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness. Nobody needs a know-it-all. I love to share my own misgivings, lack of answers, acceptance of the unknown. We are in such a beautiful place when we hold hands and face the mystery together.
  7. Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc. We start our work together on the physical plane. It is, after all, physical therapy. As we delve into the body channel, all the rest opens. Your heart is in the room, your thoughts, your soul, your very spirit. This vulnerable fact is what moved me out of standard health care delivery, inspired me to face my own depth more completely and prompted me to create a tender receptive environment where every part of you is welcome. That word container goes hand in hand with holding space.
  8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would. I have lived in a body with its own diverse share of challenges for nearly 65 years. The decisions I have made on how to deal with trouble and the experiences I have had around this territory are vast. Of course, you have your own unfolding story. It is not my story. It is yours. Looking at expectation and prejudice is really alive for me right now. Shedding their insidious layers keeps me on my own edge, just the place I need to be in order to have your best interest at heart.

So there you have it. I could re-write this through the lens of teaching…the joy and challenge of holding space for students. We could all re-write it through the window of relationship, the way we hold space for the people in our lives. We are all holders and we all need to be held. What a soft-hearted world it would be if we all found ways to bring this more alive in our own lives.

Maybe this is the moment to make an appointment to be held in healing whatever is giving you trouble lately: (916) 267-5478. Be held in practice this week: Thursday night for the last of Winter Waves, Friday night for Let it Roll, Sunday morning for Sweat Your Prayers. And stay tuned to the next newsletter for the results of fundraising from Movement as Medicine.

For me, holding you is one sweet form of being held….bella