Grounded – I had become aware of the strong foundation that lay beneath me and of the solid weight of my own body.
Centered – I had followed the flow of my breath as it danced between the spaces without and within, into and out of my core.
Connected – I had learned to use the heartlink to open myself to the inexhaustible stream of divine blessings, sending my love and gratitude in return.
Protected – I had envisioned the cave in my mind’s eye and felt its promise of safety right down in my womb.
Now, it was time to expand that feeling of safety and comfort into my daily life.
The use of the word “safety” in common language almost always refers to protection from some external threat (though there is of course the idea of saving one from oneself). When our safety is compromised, we tend to respond with one of the 5 Fs: fight, flee, fidget, freeze, or faint. In altercations with other people, these can manifest as angry or violent outbursts, “running away” from the situation, a frenzy of nerves, a sense of paralysis, or even “blacking out” as a means of escape. It just so happens that I’ve experienced all of these! And so, learning how to maintain the integrity of my safe space when I venture out in the world, especially during social interactions, was invaluable.
The “womb-to-womb” interactions during our group sessions were relatively easy because all of us were already co-creating a shared safe space. And yet, there were still some challenges and insights to be offered.
We each first set the boundaries of our spaces, extending our hands outward both to feel how far the “me” space actually reached and to clear out whatever didn’t belong. With a better sense of our “sphere of influence,” we then moved into pairs to feel what it was like for our “borders” to simply touch. We recognized the flexibility of those borders, how they can expand or shrink depending on our environment, and discovered unexpected nuances (like asymmetry). It was all very interesting – kind of like having our own personal amoebas! (Okay, so maybe only a science nerd would make that analogy…)
Much like a cell membrane, however, we have the power of selective permeability. We decide who can or cannot enter our space, how close they are allowed to get, and how long they are welcomed to stay. We practiced inviting each other into our spaces as well as announcing when we wished our “guest” to leave. Obviously, this requires a lot of trust and respect. I actually felt a bit strange having such complete control of my space – I guess because I’m so accustomed to letting it be ill-defined and thus allowing others to go through it as they please. I can think of several instances when I’ve been uncomfortable or even repulsed by people who’ve entered my space, but kept silent from fear of hurting or disappointing them! This is something I still need to work on.
Another aspect of our womb-to-womb interactions was learning how to hold safe space for someone else. And just what does it mean to “hold space”? A great article on holding space starts with this quote from Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
It’s really as simple as that – being there, well and truly. And I discovered that I LOVE doing it! But that should have come as no surprise, as I’ve been holding space for years – holding space for friends and relatives every time I listened to their woes and fears. Even people I didn’t know very well (but most of whom eventually became closer friends) found a sort of easy comfort in talking to me about their problems. By holding that space for them, helping them feel safe, being open and aware and compassionate, there’s a certain harmony that facilitates healing and fulfillment for both parties – it’s amazing how that works!
Womb-to-womb interaction is not necessarily just between women, of course. Everyone has a sense of “personal space,” especially when that space is trespassed. “Invasions of privacy.” People standing too close or touching us without permission. New Yorkers know even eye contact on the train is a no-no! But if we set the boundaries of our space, remain aware of that space, and maintain its integrity by consciously choosing who and what we permit access, I’d say the “battle” has already been won!