Keeping the Cauldron: What Does it Mean to Hold Safe Space?

The cauldron is a prominent symbol all over the world, especially in Celtic myth. It is a receptacle of death, rebirth and inspiration- A mysterious womb in which transformation takes place.

It is symbolic of the place we go when we are undergoing great change in our lives. It can feel dark and bottomless, as we are no longer who we once were and unsure of what we’re becoming. Yet, once we are reborn anew we realise there was something greater and stronger that held and contained us, and this enforces our own strength. This is the gift and mystery of the cauldron.  

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how necessary the cauldron’s containment and strength is, because it allows the transformation to take place within it. The cauldron represents the containment, boundaries and safe space necessary for us to relax and be vulnerable enough to go into our depths, heal our wounds and grow.

Holding safe space is important to me, because having safe spaces held for me in my healing journey has been truly transformative. I have also experienced spaces in which this wasn’t the case and am aware of the damage it can do. I wanted to share a bit about this topic so prospective clients know that I value and strive to hold safe space.

As healing facilitator and Tarot reader, I must ‘keep the cauldron’ and tend the space with clients or in a group so transformation and healing can occur. Otherwise, the emotional contents can stagnate, spill all over the place, burn or dry up. The proper container is necessary in order to heal. The soft places within us cannot fully express themselves or transform without boundaries keeping them safe.

Safe Space & Boundaries

A lot of us who are empaths, introverts and sensitive souls are aware of the need for boundaries. Boundaries are a way that we create a safe space for ourselves.

 

When we are wide open with our feelers out all the time, we very quickly get bogged down with other people’s stuff, overwhelmed, scattered and drained. We know the necessity of saying ‘no’ to things and creating boundaries on our energy- whether that is time alone in our room, taking control of our schedule or only surrounding ourselves with people who support us- in order for our sensitivity to operate positively.

When holding space for others, setting clear boundaries is an important way to foster safety so that participants can relax and delve into their sensitivity. This may be in the form of clear rules and expectations for participants, closing the room off from outside noise or traffic, beginning and ending at a set time, following through on intentions, and holding a protective, capable, nurturing, trustworthy energy.

Inclusivity

Those who are marginalized can live in chronic anxiety and the feeling that they aren’t safe in this world. This is due to very real discrimination, violence and oppression they experience, because it is inherent to our social structures. Mental health struggles and trauma are more prevalent in marginalised communities and therefore this requires attention.

When marginalized people speak out on what they need to feel safe- whether it is a change in language, recognition, being heard, the need for greater representation, or calling someone in to check their privilege or be accountable- This is an important statement of their boundaries so they can survive and function in the world- and they deserve to be heard and respected.

I have found that it is unfortunately all too common in spiritual communities for there to be a lack of understanding on the importance of inclusivity and its connection to safe space. Spiritual and healing practitioners may have good intentions, but if we don’t make the effort to educate ourselves or do our own inner healing and bias work, we will fail to create the space necessary for healing to occur.

Healing may occur with some of the clients/students- the ones who just happen to feel safe, included, welcomed and understood in that space. If there is no effort to do this for those who have a history of trauma or marginalization, then they may be re-traumatised and marginalized even further. 

I strive to be inclusive and listen to marginalized voices in my work, because I know how necessary it is to feel safe in order to heal the deeper stuff and grow.

Discomfort & Growth

Feeling safe is something that is very unique to each individual and not every space is going to feel 100% safe for all people all the time, and it will not feel 100% comfortable all the time, either.

I think its important here to distinguish between feeling safe and feeling comfortable. It can be a fine line sometimes, but usually those who walk that line, know the difference. The goal of creating safe space isn’t about feeling comfortable all the time.

Some folks assume wanting safe space is the same as wanting comfort. They will say things like ‘stop coddling those fragile snowflakes!’ because ‘it will hold them back in life’, ‘they’re just being big babies’, ‘discomfort is necessary for growth’, etc.

I can agree with the last one- discomfort can yield much personal growth and transformation. However, there is a difference between feeling uncomfortable and unsafe. Those things above are often said out of ignorance of the true depth of impact trauma and mental health issues have on the nervous system.

In order to grow through our pain and trauma, our nervous system requires feeling safe first, or we can’t access the layers beneath the ‘survival mode’ it is in. Requiring safe space is more about survival than it is comfort. Its goal is to help us feel safe enough to be within our window of tolerance-so we can simply ‘be’ without the extra anxiety- so we can actually take in information and interact and participate.

If we are already in our window of tolerance, dwelling happily in it and feel pretty comfy, then some discomfort can help empower us to try new things and overcome fears. However, if we don’t have access to safety first, we can’t get there.

Snowflakes-Each beautiful and unique, thriving in the cold

I think of it this way- feeling pain, discomfort and experiencing trauma in life is guaranteed. Everyone will have opportunities to feel pain. However, safe space in which people feel welcomed, understood and safe enough to drop one’s armor to feel and work through the pain is rare. I want to help create those rare spaces because safety and comfort are never guaranteed.

As someone who has experienced trauma and mental health struggles, who, because of these things rarely knew where my window of tolerance really was or what it felt like- I deeply value the people and places in my life that help create safe space for me. It was in those spaces that I felt I could relax my defenses, cultivate self-acceptance, and was able to heal the parts of me shunned into the shadows. It was only because I felt welcome, seen and heard that I discovered where my centre and inner feeling of safety even was.

Some say you need to find the safe space inside in order to feel safe outside. However, I feel the reverse is also true. Especially in regards to trauma history.

Things like trigger warnings, using the correct pronouns and inclusive language are simple and necessary ways to help create a safer space for individuals who are continuously wounded by the dominant culture, and who don’t often feel safe. Simply listening, being empathetic and open to adapting and changing things can make a difference. Doing these things does not mean you are preventing discomfort or necessary growth- in fact it will likely support it.

My Cauldron-Keeping Goals:

I am a work in progress, but strive to:

  • Stay aware of my own biases, privilege and position in relation to those I serve.
  • Use inclusive language and create an inclusive space in my gatherings and sessions.
  • Keep educating myself on the needs of IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, and those experiencing mental health/trauma. I am always open to hearing feedback and learning from my mistakes.
  • Actively listen to my clients without judgement
  • Continue my own personal healing work- Seeing my own healers and counsellors, continuously working on my own wounds and baggage.
  • Commit to my own spiritual path, connecting with my spirit allies and spiritual teachers, continuously growing and evolving.
  • Acknowledge that I may not be able to create perfectly safe space for everyone all the time, but I will always do my best.
  • See discomfort as a nudge for us to look within ourselves- to tend to the part of us that is asking for attention and healing.
  • See physical and psychological safety as a prerequisite for transformation and healing to occur.

Creating Safe Space for Ourselves

Creating safe space for ourselves is an important aspect of self-healing. Some of the ways we can do this is:

  • Release or heal toxic relationships
  • Set boundaries around our time and energy
  • Be aware of our triggers and communicate our needs to those around us
  • Be aware of the potential triggers of social media and limit our time on it
  • Check-in or ask questions before walking into a space
  • Create a time and space where we feel safe to be vulnerable and explore our feelings
  • Surround ourselves with beauty and inspiration
  • Associate with people who bring out the best in us
  • Spend time with a beloved pet
  • Spend time in nature
  • See a therapist, counsellor or spiritual healer who we feel safe with
  • Cultivate our spiritual practice

I feel this is a really big topic and could be explored in many ways. I hope you have a cauldron of safety somewhere in your life.

What helps you feel safe enough to be vulnerable, explore your depths, heal and grow?

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

Author: The Cauldron Goddess

Toronto-based Hedgewitch, Tarot Reader & Healing Facilitator. Mom, wife & cat-lover.

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