Well, I practiced (or tried to anyway) holding space for Terrie last night, and unfortunately I failed quite miserably. (NOTE: In her kindness, Terrie takes exception to me using the word “failed”, but I think it is calling a spade a spade and is therefore constructive, if not just plain honest.)
Terrie and I have agreed that we will share the ‘miniscule truth’ with each other, regardless of the subject and in spite of any fears we might have about the other person’s reaction. In this case, Terrie informed me that she (and a group of other people) had just received confirmation regarding an upcoming lunch with a man she had previously been attracted to.
I found myself completely unable to prevent my thoughts from obsessing on what might have happened (years ago, mind you) between Terrie and this man. As a result, I withdrew from Terrie emotionally and eventually shut her out. I was simply unable to hold space in this situation, and instead let my fantasies carry me away to a dark place, causing me to disconnect.
I wasn’t able to take responsibility for my reaction until the this morning. Instead, I claimed that Terrie had used poor timing in her disclosure by informing me of the lunch appointment with this ‘other man’ just before we got in bed for the night. To put it bluntly, this was pure BULL SHIT. She is free to choose when she tells me something like this, but our agreement is the sooner the better. If I am able to hold space as we have committed to doing for each other, then Terrie does not need to worry about when to tell me–and she shouldn’t have to.
Terrie and I have found the act of ‘holding space’ to be absolutely essential to intimate communication and to building trust in each other. We didn’t invent the term, and I’m not sure where we picked it up. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from the Hendricks teachings on conscious loving (see www.Hendricks.com).
I am holding space for Terrie when I allow her to say whatever she wants or needs to say at the moment, without judging or reacting to it. In order to hold space I must be very present and listening actively. I might also express my presence physically, for example by holding hands, hugging or just maintaining eye contact.
For me, holding space involves active use of don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements, especially the agreements not to take things personally and not to make assumptions. If something Terrie says triggers a reaction within me, I must not let that reaction interfere with my compassionate listening, and I must resist the urge to become defensive. Rather than making an assumption about something Terrie says, I try to ask her questions instead, to make sure I have truly heard what she is trying to express.
We were recently introduced to the idea of using Sacred Space as a way to build intimacy and deepen our relationship. We create Sacred Space by setting aside a specific period of time when we will be alone with each other, preferably in a quiet spot where we won’t be disturbed. So far we have held one Sacred Space session outside in a natural setting, and the others have been in our bedroom. One hour is a good amount of time to spend in Sacred Space.
Sacred Space can be used in many ways. For example, one person can be the Receiver for the entire session, setting the agenda by asking the partner (the Giver) for one or more forms of loving attention. The Receiver may simply want the Giver to listen while the Receiver unloads something troublesome. Or the Receiver may want a massage or simply to be held in loving arms.
We have also used Sacred Space to process something that is bothering one or both of us. When we process an issue like this in Sacred Space, we each commit to making the discussion highly constructive, while avoiding defensiveness or other non-productive behaviors. One of the most valuable factors in Sacred Space is the ability of both of us to ‘hold space’ for the other. I will talk about this in my next blog.
Our Sacred Space sessions have been a true blessing to our relationship. We encourage you to try this out, and be sure to let us know how it goes! JEFF
We just got back from a wonderful eight-day trip to Florida. We went to a conference on internet marketing in Orlando, and we were able to spend some time visiting with family while we were there. We had a great time and really did some quality connecting as a couple, enhanced by the Florida ambiance.
Nevertheless, on the morning after returning to Michigan, Terrie expressed her feelings about a money-related event that occurred on the airplane coming back from Orlando. Although I tried to engage in a constructive dialogue about Terrie’s reactions to the event, my deep-seated money ‘issues’ were soon triggered and before I knew it, I was responding out of anger and resentment. It was amazing to see how quickly I descended into a dark place, separating and isolating myself from Terrie, even after such a wonderful time together.
It took me until the afternoon of the next day to fully emerge from my ‘trance’ and request some sacred space in order to process the issue. Fortunately, Terrie had been able to ‘hold space’ for me while I went through my stuff. In the next few posts, I will tell you about what I mean by ‘sacred space’ and ‘holding space’. JEFF
Terrie and I have been learning about how the shadow appears in our relationship and how to deal with it (or try, anyway). We had our first really “stormy” encounter recently (after seven months together). I ended up storming out of the house, because I didn’t want to face my shadow. This is a pattern of mine from the past: rather than deal with my negative feelings, I choose to run away.
I returned within minutes to find Terrie on the couch. I walked over, sat next to her and hugged her for a long time without speaking. Fortunately, I had been practicing this lately–that is, simply being with Terrie and staying silent. Like many men, I have a tendency to talk too much, especially when I’m sure I can solve the “problem” with my words of wisdom.
Eventually, we began to process the whole event by talking it out. We learned (not surprisingly) that a rather mundane set of incidents had turned into an emotional encounter because we had brought our baggage from the past into play–mostly unconsciously (at the time). Our commitment to processing our “stuff” as quickly as possible brings the shadow baggage into the light, where it can be transmuted into acceptance, greater understanding and more intimacy.
Expectations are something in my relationships I prefer to not have. I believe expectations lead to disappointment, and that is definitely something I don’t want to get in the way of intimacy. They are part of this human experience though. We all have them. It’s whether or not we are aware of them and whether or not we communicate them, as to how expectations will show up in our relationships.
After being sick over the holidays…and that not going the way I wanted it to [insert expectations here]…I discovered I had an expectation of how I wanted New Year’s Eve to be since I was feeling somewhat better. It wasn’t conscious at first, but it was there alright in the undercurrent of my emotions. I was quiet most of the day, contemplative. What I didn’t realize was that I had set my beloved partner and myself up for disappointment.
It played out in my head how I wanted the night to go. I wanted to connect with him and share our first new year’s together as “something special to remember”. I wanted to feel open, feel our hearts as one. Yet, because I had this expectation lurking underground, I was already shut down to my heart. My heart expected to be disappointed because my head told it so.
It could have been a disaster, but as it turned out, Jeff questioned me. Through that process I realized I had expectations of how I wanted our connecting and our night together to be. When it didn’t go that way, I felt let down and saddened. There was an instant wall between us. As we talked honestly and I let it go, it became magical. Both our hearts opened and the energy was flowing…our hearts felt as one.
Not only did we transmute a situation that could have escalated into an argument and ruined the entire evening, we transcended it. We were able to go above ourselves and observe what was going on underneath, sharing genuinely. We were able to accept the humanness of the moment and move into the divinity that presented itself, which led to ringing in the New Year in ways I hadn’t even imagined…or expected.
How have you let expectations get in the way of intimacy and possibly ruining what could have been a beautiful time together? Do you communicate your expectations so your partner knows what is important to you? Or do you suffer silently when your expectations aren’t met and build a case against intimacy?
December was a challenging time for me. With an acute sinus infection, I was sicker than I can ever remember being in my life. About ten days into it, I ended up dehydrated and worse with fever and intense pain wracking my head and body. My partner, Jeff, ended up taking me to the hospital because I was in so much pain. I tell you all this because it leads to something I hadn’t thought of as being very intimate. Being sick became a transformative process in our relationship and a very intimate one indeed.
First, I needed to let go. I wasn’t able to carry on the normal, every day tasks of running a household and caring for two teenage boys let alone preparing for the holidays. I had to let go of what that looked like—the expectations I had of others and myself. I had to ask for things I needed. I had to let someone care for me, which meant I had to let go of all the past relationships and how others weren’t able to show up for me during illness or surgeries long past or how I wasn’t able to ask for their help. I had to redefine the role I played in our relationship and the role my Beloved played. On one level he became the Father archetype with its core values in the forefront.
Carol Myss, in Sacred Contracts defines the archetype of Father as: talent for creating and initiating with the ability to oversee others. Characteristics of courage and protectiveness. A True Father guides and shields those under his care, sacrificing his own desires when that’s appropriate.
It felt foreign to me thinking of my Beloved in that role, carrying that energy, with me nonetheless, sure with his children, but not with me. Actually I was downright resistant to that thought at first. Now I understand more of Father from the viewpoint of an archetypal energy. There’s such a clearer, Divine understanding of what that means to me now. Sure, Jeff was in the role of Father, meaning protective, guiding, appropriately sacrificing, and yet still taking care of himself. I was relieved he was also taking care of himself. That was essential to me in letting him care for me.
I have not been in partnership with a man that truly defined the Light around this archetype…until now. I had not been in a partnership with someone I trusted to take care of me and still take care of himself…until now. I surrendered and he was present, loving me in what I felt was one of my weakest moments without resentment, judgment or expectation of some sort of payback. I learned to let go and welcome true, intimate support in my life. I am grateful for the gift and lessons this experience has brought. It has enhanced and expanded our Divine Intimacy!
Terrie and I have a lot in common when it comes to spirituality. This is certainly one of the major factors that brought us together as a couple. We have enjoyed developing simple rituals or ceremonies we can share together that bring us closer on a soul level.
For example, we have adopted a ceremony that we share together nearly every day: honoring or “calling in” the directions. We honor seven directions: East, South, West, North, Down (Earth), Up (Sky) and Within (Heart). When we get to the seventh direction (within/heart), we recite the following affirmation (not an original, though I can’t recall the source):
May our hearts be in the heart of the Universe,
May the heart of the Earth be in our hearts,
May our hearts be in heart of the Earth,
May the heart of the Universe be in our hearts,
May my (Jeff’s) heart be in your (Terrie’s) heart,
May my (Terrie’s) heart be in your (Jeff’s) heart,
And may our two hearts beat as one.
(NOTE: We speak the last three lines of the mantra while standing face-to-face, heart-to-heart and eyes-to-eyes.)
We speak of the trinity relationship is built on: Connection, Passion and Spirituality. This first entry for me is about Connection. I have had many opportunities these past couple of days, while my Beloved and I have been together, to feel connected and create intimacy. On one occasion I disconnected instead. To understand and share with him the reason for disconnecting brought me just as close, possibly even closer…for the simple fact that now we have a new tool because of the experience (Jeff also references this tool in his latest post.)
What I discovered in our process was that I disconnected from him because old tapes were running below the surface. Past tapes of things others I was in relationship said and did and things I did and believed were true about me. Things that were buried behind other things. I disconnected because I believed I needed to understand WHY I felt disconnected before I could bring it to the relationship…NOT TRUE as I further discovered! What a relief!
When I did speak to Jeff about my disconnection later, I still didn’t have much of a clue. Through his loving support and my willingness, I began to understand what happened. I disconnected because I feared judgment and retribution…neither had anything to do with Jeff at all or the current situation. It was my emotional reaction to the past, on some level judging myself. Through sharing my process of self-discovery with Jeff we both had the opportunity to learn and grow. I felt my heart open and the energy flow. I felt the love and compassion that was present between us and for myself with my newfound clarity. If I had chosen not to share my process we would not have the tool I mentioned earlier either.
This tool is simply to state to the other: “I am feeling disconnected.” These four words alone, for us, will open a door to further discovery and a deepening of connection and intimacy in our lives—within ourselves and each other. To share the deepest, darkest, scariest part of myself with another opens my heart, brings light to it and heals it. What words open you up to more intimacy, more capacity for love and compassion, with yourself, your Beloved, within your relationships, within your life? Terrie
As part of our commitment to conscious connection, Terrie and I have begun to use two really neat practices.
There are times when one of us–for whatever reason–is feeling relatively distant from the other. For example, an event or a discussion could trigger some of our “programming” from the past, resulting in one of us feeling hurt or perhaps angry–not necessarily directly at the other person, either. As you know, feelings of hurt or anger tend to make us shut down and go inside ourselves. Or worse yet, we strike out at someone, often the very people we love.
We have made an agreement that whenever one of us feels distant from the other, we will simply say: “I am feeling disconnected from you right now.” When the other person hears this, we know it is time to stop, focus in and be prepared to listen. Perhaps the person feeling disconnected will need to be prompted by a question or two, such as “What happened?” or “Why are you feeling disconnected?” By stopping to pay focused attention to each other, we open a doorway to connection and healing. It has been amazing to experience the warm, wonderful feelings we have toward each other after we have taken the time to express a feeling of disconnection and address it directly with each other with compassion and love.
The second practice is a proactive approach to maintaining quality connection with each other on a daily basis. We have committed to each other that on a daily basis (one or MORE times each day) we will remember to simply stop and say to the other “Let’s connect” (or something similar). That means we stop whatever we are doing and get in touch with each other in a focused way. Usually, this means hugging and making deep eye contact. WARNING: Look out, because there’s no telling where these conscious connection moments can lead–if you know what I mean! JEFF