Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again. ~Joseph Campbell
To heal, we must feel. Yet, one can’t easily feel unless “held” in a safe way.
We all need this. We need the experience of security that comes from feeling safe, where we can simply be and feel trusting there. In the comfort of such security, we might then allow ourselves to drop down into turbulent waters — the waters of big emotions, especially the core ones: anger, fear, sadness, joy, disgust, excitement, and sexual excitement. For these are the emotions that happen physiologically, to all of us, whether we want to feel them or not. These emotions occur because we are human, and because certain circumstances trigger the experiences caused by these feelings in our bodies and nervous systems.
Sometimes, we may need to become gently reacquainted with some of these feelings, especially the more challenging ones. This is because when growing up, we perhaps learned to deny some of our feelings, or transform them into more socially-tolerated forms. It just so happens that as children, we discover very quickly which emotions are deemed acceptable and which are likely to cause problems or be threatening to others. So, to preserve the attachment to the grown-ups we so needed for survival, most of us began pretty darn quickly to bury some feelings, lest they threaten to rock the boat.
What is lost, however, during this sad operation cover-up, are parts of one’s authentic self. When you deny or push away core feelings, you lose your sense of aliveness — of confidence, connection, curiosity, and calmness. It is through the amazing phenomenon we call healing that you find your way back home to your full self — to vitality, energy, and an empowering life-force. Your empowering life-force. But there is another essential step in this process of re-embracing the self. Healing can happen only after one feels safe.
Safe Realms Are Key
Today, writing this, I’m filled with appreciation for the areas in my life I’ve discovered or cultivated as safe spaces (be it locations or relationships) within which I can simply exist without fear or trepidation. I refer to these places as my sacred safe realms. Within such realms, I can experience my full range of genuine thoughts and emotions as they happen in the moment. I experience such without judgement or shame. I breathe freely. It’s a sigh of relief. Sometimes a giant one!
I learned long ago that the reparative work of the psyche and soul happen effectively only in safe situations. It’s in the cultivating of safety that we can open both to ourselves and to others. When you feel safe, you can drop the protective barriers and defenses you’ve constructed to avoid pain. You can let your guard down and feel respected and supported. This is why, first and foremost, my relationship with coaching clients focuses on creating a safe emotional space — a container of sorts — for our work together. Only then can explorations into the inner world of traumas, hopes, and dreams begin.
What ingredients make up a safe relationship with yourself and others? It’s in the details and the little moments, in the sweet nuance of meaningful connection. It happens when we slow down. It happens when you offer comforting words or gestures. Or when you communicate a message of acceptance, fondness, or care. It’s there when you reach out and touch another with a loving caress or hug. Or when you offer a high-five as you celebrate a friend’s success. These beautiful gestures all add up to make an offering of a safe and gentle feast of nourishment for our mental health and emotional well-being. If you’ve given yourself these gifts, or known this experience with another (and I sure hope you have), you’ve most likely been filled with deep gratitude.
The Trust Factor
Additionally, I believe trust lies at the heart of an emotionally and physically safe relationship. Trust involves having personal boundaries honored and respected at all times. Additionally, trust in relationships means looking for the other to be reliable and able to be consistently depended on. Accountability with each other factors in, too. For instance, can you and your special person own, apologize for, and make amends when there has been a misstep or wrongdoing? If so, that feeling of sweet safety is likely to return.
Trust is fueled by maintaining confidentiality in all areas deemed private or personal. Trust also calls upon us to have integrity at all times — doing what you know is right, and steadfastly upholding one’s values. I believe a trusting relationship is one where each person generously assumes the best of the other. There is non-judgement and generosity of spirit; believing, first and foremost, that the other’s actions, words, or behavior are centered around good intentions. My friends, if all of these factors are in play, you can indeed deem your relationship a truly special and safe one!
In addition to safe relationships, we of course need safe places where we can just be and feel held by good energy surrounding us. What constitutes a safe space varies, as what that means varies by individual to individual. A safe place could be your bed, place of worship, library, or living room. Maybe it’s your favorite local yoga studio where you regularly plop yourself on a mat, surrounded by familiar faces and a trusted teacher. This might be just one of several magical places that bring you great peace.
Or, these days especially, perhaps you experience that “safe place feeling” as you hop on a Zoom call with a group of trusted friends or colleagues. Many group settings can offer safe refuge if the participants hold similar values and are committed to honoring and supporting each other. Here one can take risks and engage in conversations that might feel uncomfortable. In the right space, infused with care and compassion, anything human can feel speakable, and is often made more manageable as well.
Of late, one safe place for me has been my meditation chair, which is beautifully crafted from vegan white leather — something I splurged on as a way of concretizing the significance of the emotional state I choose to enter daily. It’s a state of sacred calm. A space I’m ever-grateful for! And I can’t not mention my big, comfy couch. What’s not to love about the way the pillows on it hug against my body, leaving me able to easily drop into an emotional place of contentment and rest?
Lastly, yet perhaps most significantly, let us not forget to consider nature as a sacred, safe realm. For being amid the calming energy of the earth’s electromagnetic field offers us a most magnificent reprieve from anxieties or worries that stress and tax us. I don’t know about you, but for myself, a simple walk through my neighborhood woods — deemed my local temple — is all it takes to soothe a racing heart, tight chest, or upset stomach. In other words, anxiety often ceases when we put ourselves in safe spaces. So head there!
And so, my friends, in this month of November, a season of giving thanks, let us appreciate all the safe spaces we have in our lives. Celebrate these unique containers that support your growth and transformation. These spaces hold us, allowing us to then feel, heal, and thrive. What a sweet, exquisite place to land.
This article was also published in The Brick Magazine.