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Living a life of awareness and compassion on this planet doesn’t mean that one is protected from pain or challenges. All it means is that one has tools with which to practice when such moments arise…for they will…because everyone is free to choose.

For much of humanity’s history on Earth, the response to a tragedy has been to create more tragedy…an eye for an eye. For those who actually experienced the tragedy this response is understandable…if a father lost a child he wants the killer to be killed. But what about those who didn’t actually experience the tragedy…they only heard about it or knew someone who had been involved? These people felt the pain of the situation and assumed that because they felt the pain, it was their responsibility to carry it. In time, people learned that by sharing pain, everyone’s burdens are lighter. At the time, this was appropriate and seemed to be the kind thing to do…the compassionate thing to do…the humane thing to do. And, this is still the present sentiment by many in society today…I feel your pain, therefore it must be mine to carry.

But are these the best responses to tragedy?

In Wilderness First Aid training, I was taught something vitally important: Never add to the tragedy by putting yourself, the responder, in danger; the emergency is not yours. This was a harsh pill to swallow at first because my instinct is always to help regardless of the consequences. I realized, however, that my instinctual response is one that doesn’t honor me at all. Rather it is a response that sacrifices me…but without the choice of sacrifice. This type of response is not honorable…it is foolish.

Similarly, when an emergency happens at a grand scale, it is natural for humanity to feel the pain of those who experienced it. This is called empathic sensitivity, and it is a gift. However, the previous coping pattern of carrying the emotional pain even if one didn’t experience the tragedy creates a society and consciousness that is all emotionally crippled and burdened…not just the ones who have experienced the tragedy. With the responders also damaged, very little help can be offered to anyone. This emotional pattern, while historically beneficial for survival is no longer honorable…it is foolish, and co-dependent. 

I experienced this so startlingly when my father had a stroke. He was in a different country from me, and I had no way of communicating with anyone in his country to find out what was happening with him. When his siblings and cousins finally were able to make contact and learn more, I went into grieving mode. I imagined what it must be like to not be able to speak, or use my arms to type or write, or be able to walk or move on my own. Just the thought of it made me teary, so I was teary quite often. When a wise woman asked me the source of my tears, I told her. Her response shocked me: “Why are you grieving something you haven’t lost? You can still use your arms. You can still speak. You can still walk. This didn’t happen to you; this happened to him. Let him deal with the consequences…they aren’t yours.”

I was shocked. She was right. It didn’t happen to me. I could feel guilty about it, but it didn’t change the fact that it happened to him and not to me…the consequences were his journey…the lessons were his to learn…not mine. Nothing about the situation belonged to me. And yet, I could still feel the pain and the loss in the situation. I didn’t know what to do with those empathic sensations…they were so strong sometimes. How does one cope with these emotions in a co-creative way?

By holding space.

In holding space you aren’t invalidating another’s pain…neither are you being insensitive to your empathic sensations. By holding space, the emotions stay with whoever owns them, allowing that person to fully learn and experience all this situation offers. This experience belongs to the owner of the emotions…not to you. If you step in and take some of those emotions, you are robbing the other person of the opportunity to learn and grow, ultimately injuring and confusing you both. Learning and healing stops. By holding space, you are witnessing another’s journey and supporting him/her through the tangled web of emotions without carrying them on yourself. Holding space for another is the most honorable thing one person can do for another. It says, “I see you. I honor you. I know you can do this because you are powerful. I value you too much to interfere, but I admire you too much not to watch your magnificence.”

So how do you hold space?

First, and most importantly, shield yourself. It is much harder to assist another if your own emotions are clouded by those of others. Clean and clear and protect your own energetic space first, inviting your body deva and team to do the same.

Then ask the other person if he/she will allow you to hold space. If you don’t know the person or you have no way to physically contact him/her, ask his/her Higher Self for permission.

Next, invite Archangels Michael and Raphael, your team, and Guides to surround that person, that person’s team, and Guides with a safe and protected space so that he/she only has to contend with his/her experience.

Fourthly, infuse the safe and sacred space with unconditional love, support, acceptance, courage, tenderness, and compassion. Quan Yin, Mother Mary, and the Sacred Feminine embody these qualities and will always be willing to participate if you ask.

And finally, watch. Without judgement. Watch as this person faces and struggles through the challenge in front of him/her. It is awesome and breathtaking. Never interfere…simply keep the space safe and infused with supportive energies. Be present and aware of all this person experiences and notice the humility that comes when you witness some of the deepest and most intimately primal parts of this human in front of you. Honor this vulnerability. Honor the trust placed in you to witness this process. Honor the connection that occurs when the energy between you is clean and appropriate. But most of all, honor the love that brought you together for this very moment…so that your empathy could be used to truly help and heal and support, from a place of integrity and co-creation.

And so it is.