Sacred Holding

"Perhaps the greatest meaning of compassion for self is that we give ourselves permission to embrace not only our happy feelings but also our difficult ones. The latter have an uncomfortable edge only because we want to keep them separated from us. Difficult feelings, such as anger, pride, and envy, are begging to be acknowledged, embraced, healed, and integrated. All feelings are sacred, says the Qur'an: It is our Creator who grants our laughter and tears (53:43) and who has created for us the faculties of hearing, sight, feeling, and understanding — but 'Little thanks it is ye give!' (23:78). Indeed, we tend to give no thanks at all for our difficult feelings. Instead, we try to ignore them, disown them, or act them out in ways that not only hurt others but also harm and embarrass ourselves.

"The perfect antidote to this unhelpful tendency is a healing practice called Sacred Holding, which involves acknowledging painful feelings and embracing them with tenderness and compassion, thereby transforming them into a valuable source of self-knowledge, empowerment, and blessing. Sacred Holding is a six-step process that is best done close to the time when you have experienced a painful feeling. But to ensure that you have the technique 'at your fingertips' the moment you need it, study these steps and practice them at the earliest opportunity.

"1. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, no matter how difficult or awkward. If possible, ever so gently magnify them, but make sure not to overdo it. Do this little by little, always with compassion for self. Remind yourself that all feelings are sacred.

"2. Ask yourself, 'Where do I hold this feeling in my body?' Feelings have a resting place, and we experience them as sensations in the physical body: the head, the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, the belly — all are likely sites for emotional distress to settle. Patiently direct your consciousness to locating the site of what is called 'physical holding.'

"3. Once you have located the feelings as sensations in your body, acknowledge them with your consciousness, again with mercy for yourself. You can use Sacred Naming to talk to yourself. You might say affectionately, 'Dear Heart, I am sorry for the difficult feelings and sensations you are experiencing. Allow me to support you as you grapple with this difficulty.' Hold your sensations with the tender embrace of the soul. Continuously shine the light of merciful awareness on them and abide with them. If the sensations move to another location, move your attention to that place. At this time there is no need to fix or analyze the sensations; simply be present with the holding as long as you want. Spiritual guides explain that by doing this, you allow for a 'streaming beauty' to flow through you. The Qur'an has a beautiful metaphor for this light of gentle awareness to soften and transmute: It is akin to 'the dawn as it breathes away the darkness' (81:18).

"4. Lovingly direct some questions to the center of sensations in your body. 'Do you have a message for me? Is there a secret you want to share with me?' Simply listen. Be attentive and respectful, even if you hear nothing.

"5. Ask tenderly, 'How may I befriend you? How may I love you and integrate you?' Again, just listen sincerely.

"6. Make an intention to allow your breath to flow through that physical locus of your feelings as you inhale and exhale. Allow the divine Breath to caress that focal point. Little by little, you will experience healing, integration, and transformation of the difficult feelings."