Key Skills to Move Towards Racial Equity: Holding Space

“A settled body enables you to harmonize and connect with other bodies around you, while encouraging those bodies to settle as well…Learning to settle your body and practicing wise and compassionate self-care are not about reducing stress; they’re about increasing your body’s ability to manage stress, as well as about creating more room for your nervous system to find coherence and flow.”

 – Resmaa Menakem

We often tell organizations that becoming a racial equity-centered organization invites open conflict.  

They will be confronted with real examples of current and past activities that counter racial equity.  They will have to reconcile and make amends. They will have to apologize. They will have to hold themselves accountable.  

We prepare organizations by providing experiential learning opportunities, tools, and resources. We provide protocols for reflection, developing community practices, and engaging in crucial conversations.  But, there is resistance.  

Racial equity is a creative problem-solving process that has never existed in America. Attention to space and pace is required.  It is important for organizations to discover what moving toward racial equity looks and feels like for themselves so that they will commit to the journey.  Copying a framework does not make racial equity stick.  Culture does.

Holding space is one of the key ingredients to shifting the culture toward racial equity. Holding space is the process of witnessing and validating someone else’s emotional state while simultaneously being present with your own. Holding space requires the intention to provide space for reflection, noticing, accountability, and curiosity.

What could the practice of holding space look like?

1. Define What Is Present

Take a moment to open and close conversations by asking, “What is present?”  This invites participants to share their feelings, questions, and/or thoughts. While this is not a moment to fix, it provides an opportunity for everyone to witness and hold what is being shared.

2. Feelings Check

At CBV, we begin our sessions with Brave Space Building™, a space structured to allow participants to share their most authentic selves and lean deeply into conversations that are centered around racial equity. We start this process by asking, “How are you feeling?”.  We leave space for each participant to share by utilizing the feelings wheel developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox.  An individual’s emotional state must be recognized and valued constantly to foster racial equity. This awareness allows a person to cope with and understand their emotions and what is causing them. 

What are other ways that may be helpful in practicing holding space?

Please share your thoughts.

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