When someone says that they’re “holding space” for a person, I have to ask myself, “What does that mean?” In this article, we will explore the heart as an energy center as well as a container for transformative processing.
This is my perspective on energy work, and is neither an absolute nor “the truth.” This is also my personal cosmology, so I can share my understandings and present them to the outside world. Measure the information found here against your own truth chord to find out if this resonates with you. May you find something useful in this article and go forth in a positive way to spread the productive medicine that has helped create a deeper understanding within you.
Let’s start off with the first concept to grasp before we fully dive into this subject. As a lot of people are awakening to energy work, some may be overwhelmed by the complexity and logistics of intricate energy systems like the chakra system. (Not to say that they don’t work, but just to approach them as another way of looking at things). For simplicity’s sake, I consider there to be three main energy structures within the body:
- Head – Mental understanding; the root of the mental wisdom body
- Heart – The meeting ground between; the root of the emotional wisdom body
- Belly – Gut feeling/intuition; the root of the physical wisdom body
In a lot of cosmologies, the heart is the connecting piece between all of the energetic bodies. If we simplify our understanding to three energy centers, the heart would be the meeting place where the passions of the belly, as well as the clarity from the mind, commingle.
This commingling is the perfect atmosphere to have a Transformational Process: the process to permanently change a pattern or belief you have. A transformative process is a specific event where something happens, you are impacted by this event, something changes within you and you can’t change back. The first mistake that I see people making is not grasping the fundamental difference between change and transformation. With change, you can always change back. With transformation, on the other hand, you create something entirely different, and you cannot fathom being what you once were. For a more in-depth explanation of this element, visit my article on Change and Transformation I posted a few months back.
As we break things up into segments, there are three categories that we will break transformation down into. Most of the time, it is a mixture of one or two of the categories, but this identification will come with time. These three types of transformation are:
- Personal Transformation (relationship with self)
- Interpersonal Transformation (one on one, relationship based)
- Group or Community Transformation
Some obvious physical examples of this include becoming a parent or getting a high school diploma or college degree. On a personal level, that experience transforms you because you can’t think of yourself differently after that. You have something (or someone) as a product of that transformation. The community at large looks at you differently, because in some jobs you can’t excel until you meet certain credentials and achieve certain marks of transformation. With group or community transformations, we hold ceremonies like graduations or coming-of-age parties like bar mitzvahs/bat mitzvahs or Quinceañeras.
All of those are examples of the outward marks of transformation – a memorable point in time marking things we’ve accomplished in the physical world. Half of the people in our culture don’t value these experiences for what they really are. Most kids graduating high school don’t really realize what it means before they enter the “real world.” Celebrations of transitions and transformations have been devalued because we don’t mark transformational processes for what they are worth. These are transformations that are larger in scope, but let’s refine this topic now to the smaller-scope transformations that can occur in our energetic body.
The thing is, emotional, mental, and spiritual transformation is unexpected, and we have to set up the right container for them to take place. It can often feel like a major shift or an “AH-HA” moment. There are a lot of times when a transformational process begins to happen, and we begin to change; however it’s not recognized as a process. Because we don’t allow the space for that transformation to take place, we resort back to the way we used to be. This is very similar to trying to get to the core of the problem, but then bailing on the full process and merely peeling off another layer off the onion instead of diving deeper. Transformation is an art, and an art that has been diluted and is easily confused with “changing.”
The real act of transformation is a MESSY process. It’s very similar to the caterpillar trying to transform into the butterfly. The caterpillar builds a chrysalis for itself, and its body literally breaks down within the confines of its structure, liquefying into a primordial ooze and swirling around inside of itself. If we happen to metaphorically be the chrysalis and we falter in being that structure/container, that ooze will melt through to the outside and the transformational process will feel incomplete, often leaving ourselves feeling incomplete. Transformation can often feel painful, like we are “dying” in the process.
There are varying sizes of containers that we can create for ourselves and others. Sometimes we need a personal-sized container for little changes/transformations, and sometimes we need a much larger one for a hard-core belief pattern that needs some altering.
- Personal transformation – being there for ourselves and not harming our own process
- One-on-one transformation – confiding in another person, personal relationships
- Community transformation – finding a group of people who set up and create a space to change and transform together
Transformation should always start at the individual level. We should be caring about our personal development and how we show up for ourselves. If we do, this leads to healthier relationships without the need for control or co-dependence. When we begin to focus on ourselves as a container for these processes, that’s when we begin showing up for other people in the same way.
Sometimes, however, there is something a little bigger that needs to change, and we need a little help from another person or group of people while going through this process. It can be hard to both be the liquid of the process and hold the container for that liquid. If what we are trying to change is overwhelming and we get lost within our own shadows and wounds, we might need a community or a group of people that will help set the container so that we have the ability to transform and break down together. We are all human, and many of us have similar problems. It can help our own processing if we realize we are not alone.
Some of you may have only a vague sense of what this post is about, while others will be reading this and having goosebumps. Let’s bring in some real-world examples to help solidify this concept so it’s not so “woo woo.” A common example of a personal transformation is someone trying to quit smoking or drinking. It’s very difficult because it’s a habit or pattern we are trying to break. There are some who have the discipline to successfully quit cold turkey, but many others will only “change” until they are able to transform their mind frame of how they approach it. Sometimes consistency is what is needed to build a container, and it’s small repeated actions daily that will over time have that “Wow, I’ve done this for this long” moments that can lead to us no longer identifying as that label (such as smoker).
A healthy interpersonal transformation depends on whether the other person can act like a good therapist. It takes strength to ask the right questions to the person that is breaking down without adding your own emotions to the mix. This is especially evident after break-ups, when we go to our friends to hold us while we feel vulnerable. Sometimes even the most well-meaning “advice” isn’t helpful, because part of us identified with being in that relationship and we become defensive of who we used to be. We are “transforming” from being out of that relationship and identifying ourselves without a partner.
For community transformation, let’s consider the example of ceremonies. There’s usually some motivational speech given before a ceremony that connects people together, like a valedictorian’s speech at a graduation or a eulogy at a vigil for the victims of a disaster. Sometimes when people pass away, it’s hard to mentally transform our own image of them into someone who is gone until we have some sort of ceremony to honor their passing. These ceremonies are just as much for honoring the people that have passed on as they are for providing closure for the people still here.
Before we go into what makes up a container, let’s talk about some of the things that can derail a transformative process:
- Mental judgements – ultimately succeed in impeding the transformation
- Emotional extremes – pollute the transformation and add extra distraction
There are so many times when we inadvertently get in our own way. How many times have you talked yourself out of going to the gym or eating healthfully? How many times have we tried to talk about our feelings with someone that we cared about, but then in our moment of vulnerability they say something that hits us in that wrong way and completely derails where you were trying to go?
Mental judgements throw us off track because we are trying to “control” the process before it even begins happening. When we begin directing it down a path that we think is right, we are not trusting it to flow and allowing the process to take its course. There are way too many people out there that believe they “know the right thing to do” and always believe they’re right. These are signs of egotism, and are something to watch out for. The greatest practitioners are those who don’t know what they’re doing because they are in the moment and supporting what needs to happen in the moment. They carry a sense of presence, instead of worrying about the future or the past. When we look to the future, we worry about what the product will turn into. When we look to the past, we think of all of the creations we have made in the past and how we want it to turn out the same or not anything like that. This is the art of projecting, and the mind is extremely good at it. It’s hard to let go of expectations and to let things happen. However, projecting is the exact thing that will make the chrysalis begin to break down and allow the ooze to slide out before we even realize that there was a transformational process that tried to take place.
Emotional extremes are an overindulgence in our own feelings, and this distracts us from what’s really going on during the process. When we are going through a true process, we are trying to decipher all the different things happening to us, but old feelings rise up and we don’t know why. We need to analyze what is happening, what we are feeling right now in the moment and what the emotions are that are coming up from the past. For example, if someone had a loved one pass away and they have unresolved emotions (resentment, guilt, shame, anger), these emotions will surface and they will relive those within moments of remembering that person. It becomes what they are feeling in the moment because they haven’t processed through how they really felt at the time it happened. When people “offer advice” when we are this vulnerable and trying to transform, they certainly mean well, because they see us in pain and they want to help, but this is contrary to the path of transformation. They know that transformation hurts and they want to make us feel better. However, expressing our feelings while someone else is trying to transform can “pollute” the process. Sometimes, someone just needs to be heard, and not told someone else’s opinion. If we are being this container and we allow our emotions to affect the transformation, a defensiveness can rise up in response to the “pollutant.”
Our job at that point is to create a container that allows for these transformational processes to happen. Everyone has this container within their own heart, and evaluating whether or not we utilize it appropriately is a wonderful form of self-reflection. The goal is to have the container be made out of non-reactive material. Remember in chemistry class when they had either a glass, metal, or porcelain container to hold reactions in? That’s the goal we need to keep in mind when we try to look at our own container and how it appears in our mind’s eye.
If you journey, this is a perfect opportunity to go within and ask yourself what state your container is in. Your container is a reflection of what you also offer to other people, not just yourself. Is your container porous? Does it react when certain chemical reactions take place within it? Does it have holes, or is it cracked or broken?
If your container is broken, cracked, or has holes in it, this is generally evidence of our mind getting in the way, resulting in self-sabotage. We ruin the process before it even begins to take place. If your container is porous, or is made out of a material that is extremely hard to clean, then that represents the fact that you allow emotions to pollute your transformations and you can’t really see the transformation for what it really is because you base so much of it on your past. If we have a container in our heart that is made up of a reactive material, when things heat up, do we throw off inappropriate comments? Our task is to create a container within ourselves that is healthy, expressing ourselves in the appropriate way.
The right transformations take the right crucible formation. If we look to our own heart, do we jump to emotional extremes and throw in mental judgements, ultimately derailing our own transformational processes? If we can’t show up for ourselves, how can we expect to show up for other people?
Our job as a good human (in my opinion) is to hold transformations in the heart. Create a heart that is not going to react emotionally to every transformation that’s trying to happen. Sometimes, we don’t need to be healed; sometimes we just need to be reminded of our strength. It takes a lot of strength to be a sacred witness and to just be there for someone going through a process. In order to break down and transform, we need to be vulnerable and feel safe enough with other people. We need to ask ourselves if we feel safe enough with ourselves, or do we judge ourselves for the actions that led us to this point?
The catalyst for this post is from my teacher Christina Pratt, with whom I will be studying beginning in 2017. If you’re an auditory person, you may wish to listen to her podcast specifically tailored to this post here. For the rest of you, I hope to see you at the Fairfax Journey Group so we can learn together.