From my archives, this article was published back in august 2015. Not everything is relevant now but it was all part of my learning process. It might be useful for those who assist at workshops too.
My role in a workshop space
Assisting and co teaching with Faerie over the last 2 years has helped me realise how naturally I can co-create a safe space and hold it with joy. So I decided to spend some time on this topic, investigating what it really means to create and hold a space. In this article, I’m going to share with you what I found out.
I’m very thankful for my sensitivity, intuition and ability to read energy fields and feel what is going on for people in particular spaces. Coming from a spiritual background and spending couple of months in a closed ashram community, I had lot of opportunities to witness human behaviour in all sorts of situations. I find it all very fascinating. But I’ve found that an approach that combines and balances the mind’s understanding with experience of the heart brings a necessary clarity and understanding. This way people can find something more concrete to relate to. I also strongly believe that you can develop and cultivate your own capacity to build a space, be present in it and hold others.
I find a real comfort in Faerie’s more vocal, leadership and educational role, coming from his own personal experience and knowledge. My approach feels like a subtle but important spice. I love music and every time I’m in workshop space I’m thrilled to shift or slightly change the direction, intensity or depth of people’s experience by playing the right tune at the right moment.
I believe the combination of two of us creates the unique, magical and deep haven our participants describe at our events. I’m still finding it hard to describe my role though. I feel closer to an interdisciplinary artist than a teacher. I feel I’m creating a possibility, an invitation for experience for those who dare to dip their toes in, or for those who have a bath! I’m not so much one who gives teachings or tools.
What is a space and what does it mean to hold it
I’m sure many of you have come across the phrase ‘holding space.’ It might seem like something rather mystical or hard to explain, but I find it pretty straightforward: so I decided to make a chart and simplify the picture of it, to help you understand a bit more of our Sacred Pleasures magic, which in the end is a series of simple yet profound steps and actions.
In my experience, every place, room or situation is a space. A space with different lighting, soundscapes, temperature, atmosphere and overall energy. All those aspects have some impact on us, often without us realising it or giving it extra attention. We are all unique creatures and our receptivity and sensitivity varies. I think it’s fair to say though that environment affects us, whether we notice it or not. Most of us feel energised when sunshine coming into the room and most people open up more when someone gives us their undivided attention and listens properly without checking their phone, right?
So here’s my chart:
I’m going to describe the chart I made, coming out from the centre to the external factors.
In the centre is the space. In our case it’s a workshop, but you can add any situation you might want to create a space or container for: for example, an important meeting at work, a challenging conversation with a partner or a love-making ritual with a beloved. You can imagine it as a bubble you put things in. A bubble which is transparent, protected, flexible, powerful and expandable.
This space is surrounded by presence. What does this mean? Presence is the ability to be right here, right now. Ideally without too much distraction, grounded (aware of own feet and our roots/stability), accepting and welcoming all emotions, feeling sensations but not necessarily letting them overpower you. Any thoughts which have nothing to do with the workshop can be gently sent back to where they came from.
Presence can easily expand and this is a good thing. The more presence you bring, the more space you create, the more depth you allow and the more opening-up can happen. As this occurs, other people (participants) start to be more present too. It’s like an avalanche effect.
Slow down. Breath. Listen. Allow. More. Deeper. Wider.
Presence and space are influenced by external and internal factors. I’m going to talk mainly about the external today. Internal factors are much more complex and I’d need another article to talk about them. To name a few: awareness and emotional intelligence, intention, spirituality or beliefs, health and state of mind, lifestyle, level of personal growth etc.
For now, back to the external factors. Start on the left: these factors are pretty easy to navigate and prepare in advance. Clear communication about the workshop and its content, setting up and respecting boundaries and managing participants’ expectations are key pillars in building a safe container. I’m sure you have experienced in your life that certain things cannot thrive or even happen without proper preparation and foundations.
What music is going to be played, how spacious or cosy the room is going to be, how much light or what smell is going to dominate the space, are some of my favorite things to attend to on the day of workshop. I’m not suggesting that the space needs to always be pretty and warm. Think about what you want to achieve and how you can support this by setting up your space. Flowers and Mozart might go well with Afternoon Tea but probably not so much with an emotional release session.
With all of these factors in place, I’m confident that people who comes to our workshops will feel safe, welcomed, nourished and invited to go to their inner depths and vulnerability. It’s a simple practice which has many layers and each of them can open doors to new experiences, sensations and possibly breakthroughs. Also, by just acknowledging this statement you allow some magic to happen.
Witness, explore, reflect
I really recommend to go and visit different places and see what spaces the world offers you. How does it to feel to be in a gallery? A train station? In your boss’ office? Your mother’s bedroom? Let yourself be surprised by your sensitivity. You have it. We all do.