I can trace the roots of my extreme stress around public speaking–which I didn’t solve until I was nearly 50–to growing up in a family that did not provide a safe space to be myself out loud. This started early when my parents followed child rearing advice at the time that a baby crying for no apparent reason must be ignored so as not to “spoil” him.

25 years facilitating Speaking Circles has brought into my life thousands of worthy people whose expression in childhood was stifled, sometimes mocked. Many of them over the years, me included, got relief through psycho-spiritual guidance that helped us find the semblance of a safe space within

Psychotherapy and practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are all about accessing inner peace. Hypnotherapist Dr. Charles Skillas speaks for most helping professionals when he writes that his aim is to provide for clients “a safe place within themselves that they can take themselves to whenever the stresses of life begin to plague them. In this safe place, once created, my client can experience a feeling of profound safety, peace, tranquility.”

Is not quality of life dependent on one’s ability to drop into that inner place where all is okay no matter what the circumstances? Imagine a billionaire whose mind is a dangerous neighborhood of unrelenting judgment. Then imagine someone of limited means who has a peaceful refuge within. Who would you say has a higher quality of life?

Bringing the safe place within to public speaking

Bringing this tender evolving safety into groups is the ultimate challenge since the family dynamic it recreates can so easily retraumatize. Speaking Circles treats this challenge by facilitating the safest possible group listening field for the individual to relax into with the support needed to express from the inner safety they have been cultivating.

I’ve been talking about this “safe place within” with John Kinyon, who worked closely for several years with Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication. John brought the natural state of self-compassion cultivated by NVC into Speaking Circles so he could amplify that vibration in his leadership speaking. (You can read about John’s programs and books at www.johnkinyon.com.)

How do Speaking Circle turns bring self-compassion into public speaking? John told me, “The expansive group listening welcomes and amplifies the experience of safety within us. We can then give that same listening to ourselves and to others. Doing this generates peace and clarity in the world around us.”

Even if we’re not aware of it, could it be that we already have that safe inner place to access at any time? John says, “This aspect, this dimension of me, of any of us, is never not safe. I often lose touch with it but it’s always something I have the potential to come back to over and over again.

“Peace and joy is already in this space, and the experience of love and beauty. I can find these qualities within that aren’t dependent on external conditions being a certain way. From there I can engage with the world in a way that brings more satisfaction, meaning and purpose.”

So why, if this safe space of self-acceptance is already within us, do many of us go for long periods of time not experiencing it? Says John, “It takes practice. If I don’t practice connecting with this space it’s like a muscle that’s weak and I get too easily overpowered by the other parts of me that don’t feel safe, that get hurt–all these emotions and thoughts that can so easily dominate.

“When I can consciously breathe and feel into that place where I already know I’m safe in the present moment, I can create empathic connection within me, and with others.”

Cultivating the safe place within in daily life

For several months John and I have been meeting on the phone three mornings a week to luxuriate in five minutes each of being fully heard. In light of our recent conversations about the safe space within we now commit ourselves to bring awareness to the deep underlying unshakeable stillness from which every breath, every word, arises.

What a way to start the day! Is there someone in your life with whom you can systematically share this  “5-and-5” experience, on the phone or in person?

And if you have 15 seconds right now to join me in a full breath…..

Get to the bottom of a breath, having breathed out what’s in you…..

Breathe in gently and easily through your nose, letting your belly fill and then your rib cage……

Hold the breath for a couple of seconds, then gently breath out through your mouth as you notice a space of deep stillness and safety within…..

Repeat as often as you please.


© Copyright 2016. Lee Glickstein. All rights reserved.