Leave space for others to fill your needs
I’ve come to Sedona, Arizona, to work with a new client, holding space for what is emerging in an innovative and wholehearted business development process. The work is taking shape as we do it, and we are all opening ourselves to possibilities and new relationships.
Yesterday, I hosted the first circle process, inviting people to bring their stories and speak to the values and needs that will help create the container for the work that will be done here. After they’d shared, I talked about how we had each brought strengths to the circle, but we must also remember that we each brought weaknesses.
“I invite you to be brave enough to bring both your strengths and weaknesses into the circle,” I said. “It’s like a yin yang symbol – we are both the dark and the light, the strength and the weakness. We need both and we need each other. Our weakness creates a beautiful space in which others’ strengths can fill the gaps and make the circle more complete and balanced.”
Shortly after that, in a rather ironic twist, I modelled exactly what I’d been talking about. I didn’t do it willingly, though. I got sick – really sick. Not moving from the bed except to run to the bathroom kind of sick. Covering myself in three layers of blankets and still shivering kind of sick.
Suddenly, though I’m here to hold space for those doing the work here, the roles were reversed and they were holding space for me, bringing mint tea to settle my stomach, tylenol to bring down the fever, a bucket to keep beside the bed, and whatever else I needed.
I felt horrible – both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to be the needy person here. I wanted to be the one caring for other people. The worst of it is that I had to tell these people who are mostly strangers to me that, if I begin to vomit, someone needs to rush into the room to catch me. You see, I have this horrible tendency to pass out and wake up on the floor when I vomit. So they brought me a bell (the same bell I’d just used to open the circle) and made me promise to ring it if I needed them.
At one point, with a couple of them in the room checking on me, I started to weep. I felt so vulnerable and was finding it hard to need them like this. And yet, I had no choice but to admit my vulnerability and receive their nurturing and care. Not once did they make me feel guilty or ashamed for needing it, but that didn’t stop me from feeling that way.
This morning, as I began the journey back to health, I had to smile at the irony that, though I had told all of them to admit their needs and let others fill them, I was reluctant to do the same. Some things are easier said than done.
Those of us who are used to bringing our strength into the room in order to hold space for others, often forget that we need to give others opportunities to hold space for us. It’s always a humbling experience when we’re the ones in need, but it’s not only good for us to be in a place of humility, it’s good for the collective circle when each of us balances our needs with our offerings.
“Ask for what you need and offer what you can,” says Christina Baldwin in The Seven Whispers. That’s what creates the balance, the yin and the yang of relationship.
Even those of us who teach this need to be reminded to put it into practice.
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