The Art of Holding Space
I attended a training course in California over a month ago to become a certified practitioner of Kambo. Kambo is the secretion from an Amazonian frog and it's used to cleanse the body from toxins and boost the immune system. It was a very intensive 10-day course, learning everything that there is to know about Kambo, the science, applications, contraindications, and different modalities to name a few of the topics. However, I have learned much more than how to use Kambo during those days of training. I learn something much more important and valuable that I can take deep into the work I do as a facilitator in a community that works with the Ayahuasca master plant. I learned the sacred art of holding space.
During the first night, the instructor explained how things will unfold for the next 10 days and what to expect of the course. Then she told us something I was not expecting at all. I don't remember the exact words but she was very straightforward. I did get the message in my own way: this training will be tough but tougher on ourselves more than anything else not because of the material but because it will challenge us as a person, who we think we are, our beliefs and our egos.
I was like, whoa, what is she talking about? Is she picking on us, on me? this is personal, I thought. But then as she continues to talk and as the days of training unfolded, I got her message and it was loud and clear. This training it was not just to learn about the Kambo frog, it was to teach us how to hold space to become a better practitioner, a better facilitator.
Holding space means “that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control”.
I’ll remember what this course has taught me for the rest of my life. This is my takeaway of the entire course. When it comes to holding space, we have to ask ourselves a very important question that digs deep inside our core, our ego, our beliefs and way of thinking of who we are, our story, and then consider the person sitting in front of us. It asks us to separate ourselves from what we think is right for us and focus on them without projecting what we believe, transferring any emotions we hold from our experiences or influencing their journey in any way because we think it’s what we would have wanted them to do for us if we were on the same spot they are in now.
The question is: “am I doing this for them or is there a hidden need of being wanted?”
This hit home and deep. It made me search deep inside myself, my beliefs and my emotions. Its unearthed core wounds that were influencing my work as a facilitator and I didn’t realize that until then. I was doing things for people not just because I thought that’s what they needed, but because sub-consciously, I yearned to be wanted by others.
During difficult moments of their journeys, I saw their pain and struggle and jumped in to help them lessen their suffering. It’s what I would have consciously wanted other people to do for me if I am going through the same process, relieve me from pain and suffering and make my journey easier. Without realizing it, I became their rescuer just as I thought of other people that came to my help when I needed.
What I didn’t see then, was that what I thought was right for them may not be what they needed at that moment. It goes way deeper than the surface. It makes you think of your real intentions and ask you to be separated from it in order to hold space for others.
In playing the part of the rescuer, I was coming to rescue this person from pain so they don’t have to go through that because I know what pain and suffering feel like. However, in doing so I realized that I was crippling them from doing this for themselves. I was robbing them of finding their own inner strength, their own resolve to figure out their own problems and find the solution that works best for them…not for me. I was disempowering them, treating them like a vulnerable child who cannot fend for themselves instead of empowering them to overcome their fears and struggles for themselves.
This is what made me reevaluate the way I facilitate during Ayahuasca ceremonies.
As practitioners and facilitators, we are not there to act as their rescuers, we are not there to save them from their pain and struggle. We recognize that in that struggle is where they can find their own power, it is where they let go of who they were and welcome the new person who they are becoming. After all, that is exactly how it happened to us in our own journeys of self-discovery and inner power. One way or another we got there and found our own courage and inner power to face our demons and overcome our suffering. We owe that to the process of the experience and we should never neglect that to the people we serve, whether consciously or sub-consciously. That is why holding space is a practice that goes far and beyond ceremonial circles. It’s the way we learn and navigate through life… in our own way.
Our job is to empower them, so they can find their own light themselves. Like our Taita Pedro would say all the time” is to help them to help themselves”.