Holding Space

About six months ago I found myself in a wonderful conversation with several women outside my favorite yoga studio. It was one of those beautiful conversations that arises organically when people come together with an open heart, like we often do when we are practicing yoga. It was a small group of women, most I didn’t really know well, but we fell into a conversation about the things we are struggling with. It was a shared experience of overwhelm, the loneliness of disconnection and the deep, in your soul, exhaustion we were all feeling. I was wrapped in the authenticity of these women and the eagerness to share and connect with each other. The experience of this conversation, while spontaneous and powerful, is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the man sitting off to the side of the studio, on the edge of our conversation, listening… and longing in his own way.

As our group leaned into connecting and sharing, the man off to the side shifted uncomfortably, and finally offered an apology. He quietly said, “I’m sorry… I don’t mean to listen in. This sounds like a very personal conversation and I don’t mean to make you all uncomfortable.” This man, who was sitting in the yoga lobby, a very public place, where we had chosen to have an open conversation, was apologizing for hearing us. I wondered if it was the discomfort we feel when we hear or see others expressing emotion or if he felt he didn’t belong that made him feel he needed to apologize for being there. Either way, it was clear that he was uncomfortable. We assured him he was good… and then we all entered the studio to begin our practice.

It was after the class was over, as I was walking out, that he approached me and gently said, “You know, men want to have real conversations about our lives too… we just don’t know how and there is never a space for it.” Then he quickly left before I could engage any further. I literally stopped and stood for a moment. Had I judged his quiet for discomfort when what was under the surface was longing? Was he seeking the same sense of connection and authentic conversation that we had enjoyed in those moments before class, but knew the space wasn’t for him?

I was left with such a sense of sadness… for this man, for all men and for the world that has not made it ok for men to lean into the same connected and real conversations. I am sad for this man who saw it happening but did not feel welcome or able to engage in it. I grieve for the men who have learned to ignore, stifle and reject their authentic self, their deep and powerful emotions… so much so that their only acceptable feeling is bitterness and anger that must be held under the surface. I am so very sorry that there are so few spaces for these men to show up and be real, and that our world has made you turn your back on the beautiful, deep, wholehearted humans that you are.

So my Mindful Mini invitation for us all today is to hold space for the brave and authentic conversations where we show up for each other and allow ourselves to be fully seen. The idea of ‘holding space’ simply means we are fully present, authentic and opening a place of wholehearted safety and acceptance. While this invitation is for everyone, I do want to open a specific request that we show up for the men in our lives and allow for them to show up as their authentic selves. Let’s make it safe to let them put down the expectations of being strong and perfect and allow for them to join the circle of real conversations. Let’s hold space for the boys in our life as they learn how to be men. Let’s hold space for their emotions, their worries and wonders. Let’s make room for wholehearted conversations for all the people in our lives.

Ok, ok… I must also acknowledge that maybe, just maybe this is SUPER uncomfortable…for all of us. In fact, there are important people in my life who have recently said… “I just don’t want to talk about my emotions all the time!!” WHAT?? You don’t?! How is that possible when it’s literally all I want to do?? So there it is. We’re all at a different place and our journey is a personal road that only we can walk. If you’re not there… if you’re not in this place where you can lean into ‘holding space’… that’s ok!! I will continue to hold it for you and when you’re ready, I’ll be here. The point is, show up! Be brave and hold space for yourself and for the people in your life. They are so worth it and YOU are so with it!

Yours in heart,

Kelly Lynn Driscoll

About Kelly Lynn

Kelly Lynn Coaching & Consulting

I empower districts to transform culture and educators to transform their lives so they are connected, fulfilled and aligned with purpose. With over thirty years experience in education and education administration, I specialize in supporting Social Emotional Learning (SEL), balance and a culture of wellness. It is my MISSION to bring joy back to education!

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