What is the greatest single act of service we can give to our fellow beings? High up on my list is the art of ‘holding’.
Holding a space.
Holding a group.
Holding an individual.
What does this mean? How is it done? It is not rocket science. The strategy is straightforward and most people instinctively understand it first time, because it is a natural thing to do if you love, respect and care for someone who needs support.
• You feel calm in your body.
• Your mind is generous.
• Your heart is open and warm.
• Then, from your torso, like friendly wings or arms, you extend and radiate your energy to encircle and safely hold the space and anyone in it.
People forget the comfort that is radiated by a grounded and stable body. In hospitals, patients in distress often reach for the reassuring hand of the porter or cleaner, not the nurse or the doctor, because it is the solid body of the physical worker that radiates a healing and reassuring vibration.
In tribal situations where the whole community may come together in order to discuss a crucial issue, there are elders in the circle whose major role is simply to hold the space. This holding is not done like hands-on healing which radiates into tissue in order to repair it. It is a calm lake of warm energy that creates safety and protective boundaries. In it people feel reassured and more able to be genuine and take risks.
If you hold the space in a business meeting, or family Christmas, or supermarket queue, it can dramatically alter the atmosphere.
The Gorilla Dream
I first learned this technique many years ago when I was the organiser of a large conference that was not succeeding. The atmosphere was terrible. Speakers and participants were becoming dissatisfied and grumpy, and they were starting to blame me. It was so uncomfortable that I began leaving the bungalow, which I was sharing with some speakers, through my bedroom window rather than encounter them as I passed through the lounge or kitchen. Not my most dignified moment.
My role in this conference was saved by a fantastic dream in which I met a wonderful and huge gorilla. She directed me to sit down cross-legged in front of her and to study her. She sat cross-legged too with her wide haunches grounded firmly on the earth. She then looked with great love deep into my eyes. Do it like me. Be anchored deep in your body. Feel love for the world and for everything. Now extend your energy field, particularly from your lower torso, to encircle and hold. Just hold the space. Hold the space.
I woke feeling blessed and very clear about what I needed to do. I went straight into a long and deep meditation in which I guided myself into feeling this warm acceptance of everything and everyone at the conference. I then expanded and radiated my energy outwards to hold the space and everything, comfortable and uncomfortable, that was going on in it.
Having anchored this new attitude and energy strategy into my body, I kept sinking back into it and radiating the holding energy as I went through the rest of the day. The atmosphere of the conference began to change. People started liking me again and I stopped climbing out of the bungalow window. It was an important lesson for me.
Good therapists, teachers, coaches and counsellors all instinctively use this strategy of holding. In many counselling and psychotherapy trainings, it is clearly recognised that the most important attribute of therapists is the warmth of their attitude. This is the foundation for a successful healing process.
For most people this is not, I believe, something new. When you care for something vulnerable it is, I believe, a natural instinct to behave with a reassuring presence that stays silent and loving as long as is needed.
Most therapy trainings do not describe these energy dynamics, but I know from having trained so many professional carers, that they immediately understand and appreciate the holding strategy. As they understand what they are already doing with their clients, it is often an ah-ha moment for many of them.
In Samurai, martial arts and Taoist traditions, the strategy of holding is explicitly taught as part of the chivalrous attitude of hara. In these traditions, it is specifically taught that the genuinely comforting energy comes from the lower torso. This may bother some people who are taught only to use the higher chakras, but it may reassure you to remember that the lower part of the body is your centre of gravity and, in women, it is the sacred space where children are conceived and develop. In Goddess religions and in Buddhism, images of a wide-hipped goddess or Buddha show someone who is grounded and benevolent. Children and animals find comfort in our laps. Hug a tree from your lower stomach and the sensations are deeper and more rooted.
If you calmly allow a warm energy to radiate from your lower torso the vibration is grounded and protective. Look at people whose presence is naturally comforting. It is a full body vibe, not just head and heart. (Of course there must be no excited vibration or any leaking sexual energies. Equally do not do this if you feel weak or vulnerable, because it may leave you too open.)
This full body holding – heart, mind and hara/womb – creates a therapeutic and healing presence that is completely non-invasive. It has a primal impact that is similar to the unconditional love that a mother brings to her foetus and infant. It is deeply comforting and soothes primitive survival mechanisms.
Now here’s a vision. Picture yourself calm, relaxed and strong. Connected fully to Earth and Spirit. Your mind, heart and hara/womb lovingly holding humanity, plants, animals, spirits, rocks, mountains, oceans, lakes, cities, places of work, wars, peace … the whole planet. Global healing.
All my love, William