creativity · Mental Health · Shamanism · Spirituality

On holding space – a student’s feedback

I’ve been working with many things and keep changing whom I work with. This is not because I can’t stick to one thing but because I knew that what I had to teach had to reach others and that is how I’m going to know it does work ‘universally’ so to say.

When I begun with abstract events through The Red Door a lot of people were skeptical apart from my few mentors. Five years of implementing those concepts brought me to school and working with adolescents who were taught the same concepts differently. And 2 years later with them the universe gave me another opportunity I was aiming for, to have it run as a credit course in a college/university.

I’m sharing one of my student’s feedback and self-evaluation of the course here, after receiving her consent to do so.

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A Self Evaluation- Shweta Rao

The first time I heard about the Mental Health Elective that was being offered by Ms. Reshma Valliappan, I will admit to being quite dubious as to its applicability in my life here at NALSAR. But, never the less, I signed up out of curiosity, as I had never pandered in the discipline of psychology, and also because I was under the assumption that this would be an easy academic credit to gain.  I would later find out how wrong I was.  

The very first question we were asked in class, on alter egos and ‘imaginary friends’ was jarring to my logic oriented sensibilities, and most of the other students in the room reflecting that sentiment, as answers came hesitantly, questioningly and incredulously.  As that first class continued, and Ms. Valliappan narrated different incidents of her life and how she viewed those incidents, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. As someone who has spent the past two years in Law School, certain notions and viewpoints are embedded within us, like how rape is a punishable criminal offense under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, and that is how one must view it, from the actions of the perpetrator. Ms. Valliappan on the other hand chose to look at it from the point of view of the consequences for the victim, and even referred to her own experience as a “sexual awakening”. This, along with her views on the concept of suicide and the exercise of free will in that concept, shook most of our embedded beliefs to the core.

But still, at the end of our second session, I was still skeptical as to its usage in my day to day life. It was only after a private chat with Ms. Valliappan did I see as to how to apply all the abstract ideas that were discussed in class, out of which, one concept stood out to me the most, the concept of “holding space”. In a high stress environment such as NALSAR, the feeling of inadequacy is commonplace, and this is often followed by period’s dejection, and mostly one turns to ones friends in order to disperse this emotion. I had always found it hard to find a way to comfort friends who felt this way, and also found it hard to explain to my friends what I needed from them when I was in low spirits. What “holding space” taught me is that during times like this, or in even bigger emotional crisis’s the best possible way to help out is to just exist with the individual and ensure that you are with them every step of the way, regardless of the choices they make.

This notion, of simply being there and ensuring ones presence is something that hit home to me, and was definitely one of  my biggest takeaways from the course. It was only after my personal session that I allowed myself to open my mind to letting in other perspectives, and freed myself from preconceived biases accumulated throughout my years. This helped me assimilate to the environment of pure acceptance Ms. Valliappan was creating in the classroom by making us confront our animal counterparts and to connect with it to achieve simplicity, a trait most of us dismiss, but is essential to assure mental balance. But the very act of just getting on all fours and losing all of one’s inhibitions to act like one’s inner gorilla, snake or even hamster, was a herculean task.

To me, the essence of the course was me, myself and I. It taught me to help and be kind, but to also put myself first. It taught me how to better open my heart to others so that they could hear me and I could hear them, but to always ensure that my heart was protected. The course taught me that in the end, I am enough. Though I will never compromise my dedication to Science and my pursuit of The Truth through logic and reasoning, I will carry with me the evidence that physiology and chakras can coexist in harmony.

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