If you are wanting to make your life better…go to the pain, go to the suffering, go to where things don’t feel so great, go to where you feel stuck… and just be with it. Usually we don’t need to add more to our lives to make it better; adding more can lead to overwhelm and anxiety anyways. Sometimes we just need to hold space for ourselves and allow a natural release, a natural healing in time.
Can going to the discomfort really be the answer? Read on and consider.
There are many ways to go about this kind of work. And of course, yoga practice is one of my favorite ways to to hold space for myself…both physically and mentally. So what does “holding space” mean? It’s simply being with yourself or someone and listening without judgement, without criticism and without trying to actually fix anything!
In yoga practice, we encourage students to go to the areas that don’t feel so good. This isn’t our typical tendency. Most of us look to avoid the discomfort and pain. But isn’t it interesting how a tight muscle actually feels so good when you work into it and stretch it? Is there a lesson there? Of course!
Physically in yoga when we do the poses, we work through areas of our bodies that are tense, tight, restricted and uncomfortable. We use the breath, the movement, our focus and seek to work the areas that feel uncomfortable. We pay attention. We allow ourselves to be in the experience. We hold space for ourselves and in time our bodies release. Things work themselves out. This doesn’t happen in one stretch, one pose or even one class. The more often and consistently we return to release tightness in our bodies, the more growth and space we will begin to experience. We take our time because it takes time.
For example, my big toe has been hurting me for a month or so. Maybe it’s gout, maybe it’s arthritis, it doesn’t even matter. I go to where the discomfort is and I work into it to relieve it. Instead of avoiding use of my toe, I go to the discomfort. I find a pose that brings attention, space, and sensation to the area and I simply be with it. I know when to go further and I know when to back off. I don’t take it too far and cause more suffering or injury. I just experience enough of it in a controlled manner. When I pay attention to it, work into it, breathe deeply…it inevitably loosens up. It hasn't gone away completely yet, but I’m making progress the more that I pay attention to it.
In a more static yoga pose and practice, we have the opportunity to sit with the stickiness of our minds as well. We can be with the repetitive and negative thinking that can plague our minds. We get the opportunity to be with the feelings and the thoughts that can consume our minds. We experience, we examine.
When I’m sad, I sit with the feeling. I allow it to be. I notice it, breathe into it and just hold space for it…allowing it to naturally release when it is time. Just like my toe, sometime this takes repeated practice and repeated work. I hold space for my emotions.
To be still may sound relatively simple, but it can be the most challenging truthfully. To be still and consciously remain in any discomfort can be anxiety provoking and irritating. Many of us want to wiggle, fidget, and even leave when things become challenging. This is an opportunity for us to condition the nervous system and train ourselves in the practice of non reaction. To be with and hold space, can be one of the greatest gifts we give to others and ourselves.
I have learned that the greatest opportunities for my own physical, mental, and spiritual growth have happened by going into the discomfort, by going into the mud and working there. Sitting with myself and examining the things I don’t particularly like about myself. I hold space for all of it.
Giving ample attention to yourself in all aspects is a healing, releasing technique. Just like you would sit with a friend and listen, we hold space for ourselves to process, to consider, to release and to heal.
Don’t be afraid to sit in the mud and be in the discomfort with yourself and with one another. It may be where your greatest growth and healing is found.
Let's get muddy ;)