Writer and psychotherapist, Kimberley Lipschus has had a longstanding fascination with storytelling and the human condition. The focus of her psychotherapy practice is on life transitions.
She shares the simplest way to hold space. An important tool for all yoga teachers.
Charles Mackey is a poet and artist famous for his soulful sketches depicting a young boy with a talking mole or a horse. In one of his drawings the boy and the mole sit in the bough of a tree and the mole, with his infinite wisdom tells the boy,
‘For every bird that sings,
one is listening, and that’s just as important.’
And the boys says nothing. He just listens.
Holding space doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It is a skill which calls for a quality of deep listening which, on paper, appears so simple yet in practice is surprisingly difficult. How hard it is for us to hear of someone’s heartbreak, their loss, their anxiety, grief or woes, and not immediately scan for solutions. We are compassionate if we can ease another’s pain. If they only did this, saw this professional or that; or if they only acted in this manner, then their pain would vanish. So we believe. Yet, the moment we leave ourselves and begin to plan ways out of someone else’s pain, we have stopped listening. We have ceased to be in the moment and we have skipped straight from empathy to sympathy. If we voice our thoughts we have become, as the Mole describes, the singing bird.
Deep listening requires one to hold space. To hold space effectively has one directive – don’t solve other people’s problems. Be in the moment.
In the here and now.
When I was training to become a therapist I asked my supervisor how it came to pass that he didn’t burn out after so many years in the listening chair? How was it possible to not take on the problems of others? How does therapy really heal others of their pain? He answered my question with a simple parable.
‘Imagine a man sitting on a bench seat in the middle of a beautiful garden. He has chains around his ankles. He can’t leave the seat to feed himself, nor to fetch a drink of water. When it rains he is there. When it is hot he is there. The shackles around his ankles hold him fast. From your kitchen window you can see the garden, the bench seat and the man, day in and day out, even in the snow come. You may leave your kitchen to sit with him. You offer him a tea which he drinks. You bring a blanket and he tells you his story yet, when the cold takes over your body, you must return to the warmth of your snug house or you will fall ill. Reluctantly, you know you must return to your house, to warm yourself by the fire and only return to him when you are able or you’ll be no use to him or yourself.’
‘But the man will surely die!’ I declared, shocked.
My supervisor looked at me for a long time and said, ‘Yes but what you don’t realise is at the foot of the bench seat is a single key. All you need to do is to direct him to where it’s buried at his feet. Then he can unlock the shackles himself.’
Holding space is this simple. Be it in a bar, a schoolyard, a classroom, a therapy chair or a yoga class, it doesn’t matter where, it’s the quality of listening that counts. We do love the singing bird but sometimes we must be the one that isn’t singing in order to make the biggest impact.
If you are passionate about furthering your yoga teaching skills, we offer a range of Bliss Baby Yoga online courses including Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Yoga for Fertility, as well as online extension modules including Pelvic Floor Anatomy & Physiology for Women’s Health, Prenatal and Postnatal Anatomy & Physiology, and Supporting IVF with Fertility Yoga. If you would like to explore the topic of holding space and how this can enhance your yoga teaching, we offer Online One-on-One Mentoring Sessions with our experienced team of Bliss Baby Yoga facilitators.
Kimberley Lipshus is a reproductive psychotherapist, writer and filmmaker. She has a longstanding fascination with storytelling and the human condition, which informs her psychotherapy practice, her group work as well as her work as a director and interviewer. Kimberley sees individuals, couples, families and holds groups with new parents. Her practice has a focus on grief, anxiety and life transitions. For more information visit www.kimberleylipschus.com. Kimberly is also a guest teacher on our upcoming Online Level 2 Yoga for Fertility Teacher Training Course, in which she offers some practical and insightful tips on ‘holding space’ for your fertility students’ unique emotional needs.
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