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.
Here we go. Are you ready for some tips and tricks on how to hold space? Simple structures and easy to understand do’s and don’ts and books to read? I’m sorry. Not here. Not today.
Recently I wrote a piece about holding space, where I shared the ins and outs of the external factors: how we can fiddle here and fiddle there to make the space richer, deeper and safer. When I was thinking about how to progress from there, I realized that writing about external factors is the easy bit. And to be honest with you, I think I slightly underestimated how complex, subtle and important the internal factors are. Maybe I should not even call them ‘internal factors’. Reading over what I’ve written this time around, it seems more like a frame of mind.
As you can imagine, this article might not be that straightforward to read. However, I will try my best to use everyday language so as to demystify the magical process, which in the end is all about presence. If you make it through to the end, you’ll be rewarded with some examples from my adventurous life as a facilitator.
I am going to gently open the curtains for you to see what is happening inside me before, during and after holding space. To make it a bit easier to understand, I am going to use a practical example and compare holding space to cooking (yes, I love to cook and to hold space).
Finding the right recipe for the right occasion. For whom am I going to cook, how much time do I have? Do I want to impress, please or simply get someone or me fed? And washing hands.
The thing that matters here is the intention. What am I going to achieve? Where do I want to take this group or individual? What would support me? A couple of questions in my head help me to clarify what space I’m going to create and hold. Do I need to energise myself, or calm down to stay clear and positive? A space for intimate sharing will be different from one for catharsis, for example. I might need to prepare myself by studying the topic a bit, make sure I’m ready to face the difficulty or joy that might arise from the space I’ll be holding.
I read an interesting article recently, saying that we should approach people with fresh eyes, like we never met them before. However, I find it very useful to know a little about the people I’m going to work with in my sessions or workshops, or at least have a glimpse of what they expect.
The process itself
Chopping, cooking and eating. Multitasking. Leaving soup to simmer quietly, while keeping an eye on the oven, and leaving the cake to settle before glazing it.
To be honest with you, this is the most expansive, challenging and rewarding part. I don’t really know how to explain, in a simple way, what is really going on here. It’s a complex series of events which are all happening at the same time. My role is to dance between all of those. Not to freak out. To stay open and allow anything or nothing to happen. Yes, it’s a dance. Constant flowing, finding the balance between surrender and being in control.
It’s a paradox. Life on Earth is a great example of paradox: the processes of living and dying going on at a same time. Good and bad, black and white. Hot and cold. Breathing, witnessing, grounding. Allowing myself to know when to step in and when to stay out. To connect and withdraw. To build and destroy. To push and nurture. To speak up and stay quiet.
Being in the moment after finishing meal, a cup of herbal tea to digest and doing the dishes
Time for a cup of tea, literally! For the ones who’ve been held and sometimes for me too. Let the energy drop at its own pace. Whatever is happening is coming to a close. With patience and care you can avoid a rough landing. Expansion flows naturally into contraction.
What can go wrong?
Nothing and everything, really. I’m sorry that this article is all about contradictions, how confusing! From my experience the trickiest parts, which need the same amount of care, attention and presence as the main event, are the preparation and aftercare. There is something rather comforting and soothing in knowing that I did everything I could to be ready, isn’t there? Somehow when preparation is done thoroughly, I have more space to be really present with the group or individual.
Afterglow could be a challenging bit, when there’s a temptation to rush. My head might be saying: “Oh man, I’m glad it is over, that was tough, let’s wrap up… oh, I’m so hungry, give me some food. I wish this will never end, it’s so blissful! Bla bla bla… Well, give it another couple of breaths and see.
Constant flow (when things are just happening) which suddenly stops being a natural flow could be surprisingly a good thing. Sometimes the group is building up to some wider action. Accumulating energy so it could burst into another layer of experience. I trust my intuition to know what to do. Bad decisions often follow good decisions. Again, I’m holding the bloody paradox when, sometimes I just don’t know. This is the scary bit. This is my edge. This is the edge of my comfort zone where the magic happens, for you and for me too.
Triggers. Well we all have them, don’t we? I did not know I could choose not to be triggered by something which is happening in a space I hold. Like shouting, anger, explosions or the state when “nothing is happening”. Now I know, I can choose not to be affected by those and you can choose that as well. Freak out, or expand and overcome myself? Up to you.
Last thought: Someone that I really respect and trust said to me once: “when you’re a really good spaceholder, people won’t notice you at all. They might think you are not even there or you are not important and you don’t necessarily get any praise or acknowledgment.” Ha! That is why I love (and sometimes hate) what I do so much. There is a never-ending challenge, expansion and confrontation within myself even if you might think I just sit there and play good tunes…
So originally, my article would end here. If you feel satisfied, full and you think you get what you hoped for, yay, good for you! But I think I need to write a bit more. I would love to share some real examples and stories with you. I hope you understand that from a confidentiality point of view, I can’t be very specific, so if it seems like I’m being too vague, that’s why.
Not that long ago, I assisted Faerie as he presented a basic intro to BDSM to a rather large group of very enthusiastic and open people. My role was “just” to assist, but I was overjoyed that I could do some music too. Usually, when we are teaching impact play, we have a variety of options on how we deliver this topic. One way, is to bring them really deep, poke hidden anger and make space for some proper rage to be expressed and released. Sometimes, especially when we don’t have much time or space for aftercare, or we feel it would be too much, we turn it around and make it a jolly and playful session instead.
The latter was the case with this group. I played the usual tunes to support them in rhythmical spanking; and after a while I got the feeling that something was getting a bit too serious there and it had stopped being fun or even deep. Simply, it got stuck in a not-so-interesting place. I waited a couple of minutes to see if it will shift. It did not. So I decided to quickly spin things around and instead of playing Burial (quite deep dubstep) which brings earthy, raw sensations, I played Boney M’s Daddy Cool!
Oh, you should have seen their surprised and frankly overjoyed faces! They were so grateful it moved away from being too serious and dark so they could have some fun wiggling their bums around instead while being spanked! In another situation that would have completely ruined the scene, obviously.
I know I need to be super careful when playing some cheesy songs, yet I love them so much! People could get pretty distracted (which was helpful and welcome that time) and the possible connections and associations they could have with the song are not always welcome.
Another example I’d like to share is from my early days of co-facilitating. Faerie & I led a beautiful ritual called “for My pleasure” at Osho Leela’s Conscious Sexuality Festival a couple of years ago. We split the group into two. Faerie took care of the dominants, who were going to guide a ritual of receiving pleasure from their submissive(s). My role was to prepare the submissives to be open, giving and devoted.
I thought it would be easy. At that time I was getting pretty confident in my own domming practice and I was thrilled to have a group of (mostly men) to warm up and get ready to serve their Mistresses by submitting to me first. Well, as you can imagine, having 30-odd men in a circle kneeling down in front of me was a pretty intense experience! Suddenly I forgot what I wanted to say, I forgot what I wanted and needed to do. I was overwhelmed by the responsibility and excitement. I did not know what to do.
But I had to do something, as the awkwardness was getting more annoying then pleasurable. So I followed the unforgettable advice I once got from my dear friend and colleague Ruby May: I started to breath into my pelvis. After that I don’t remember much, just being constantly surprised by what was coming out of my mouth. Most of the commands didn’t make any sense to me at that time. I just spat them out anyway, despite the fact that my mind kept saying “You can’t say that or ask for that, you can’t do that”…
Then suddenly I knew they were ready and I guided them back to a space where a group of beautifully powerful-looking Dominants was waiting for their servants.
A couple of days later I received so much thanks and lovely feedback for what I’d done. I could not believe that it had worked. I just breathed into my pelvis and trusted my intuition, despite my mind becoming crazy and my stomach swirling with the nerves.
Well, I am getting closer to the unshakeable faith that I can count on me. Slowly and steadily. I am really grateful and thankful that I can keep holding space for you so I can learn more about me and more about you. Thank you.