Growing up, Satya Gopalan had access to the basics: food, shelter, and education. But she felt a lack of connection, specifically of having someone who could just sit and listen. Over the years, she realised this was a collective experience in a society where love and expression of feelings are often suppressed or erased entirely.
Today, Gopalan, 31, based near Tirtan Valley, Himachal Pradesh, works as an inner work facilitator and is focused on addressing such gaps in emotional intimacy and connections. Earlier this month, she launched a unique course, “Mastery of Holding Space—Nurturing the Nurturers”, to help people learn the art of “holding space”.
Holding space, Gopalan explains, is about creating a safe place for people to be vulnerable. It’s about listening to inner dialogues and unsettling emotions, and making space for nurturing someone. When holding space, the aim is to learn to look at ourselves and others through the lens of acceptance and clarity. Inner work facilitators are equipped with experience and learnings to help people navigate emotions and experiences that might feel too heavy.
The new course designed by Gopalan, “Mastery of Holding Space”, is born from Gopalan’s experience as an inner work facilitator. It is an immersive 8-week programme followed by two months of community support, or guidance from experienced inner work facilitators, which started earlier this month. The online programme is designed for aspiring, beginner and intermediate facilitators to learn the art of holding space for others and themselves.
In a world that has set templates for everything—from how to behave to what to express—people often learn to dismiss or bury their feelings, especially when unacceptance is the common response. This can make them feel disconnected, from not only the world but also themselves.
“Many people are looking for connections, for ways to express their feelings, and most of all, having someone be present during their healing journey," Gopalan explains. "As an inner work facilitator, I use my experiences in the field to do just that: support people in their inner journeys, guide them when necessary and be a nurturer.”
Around 2010, while doing her BA in Architecture at Sushant School of Architecture in Gurugram, Gopalan felt increasingly unsettled by the capitalistic path that her education was preparing her for. She wanted to work with people and understand the world through a more human-focused lens. It was during this time, she started volunteering with various NGOs such as The Hope Project in Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi, which works to provide opportunities and resources to vulnerable communities. While working as a teacher there, she would sit and listen to the children and women, and try and create a safe place for them in the little time she had with them. It was during this time that she realised this was something she wanted to take forward.
She enrolled for the Teach for India fellowship where she received training about how to work with children, women, and vulnerable communities. Gopalan has done several leadership programmes conducted by global organisations Teach for All and Stillwater. “I have also done a course offered by LA-based empowerment coach Nicole Brennen on how to hold, be there for someone in a non-judgement manner and practice non-violent communication,” she explains.
Geared with all the knowledge, theoretical and practical, Gopalan started the platform Taking Up Space with a small team to provide mindful inner work experiences for people. People can either choose an individual session or go for a group retreat. “Everyone has a story to tell but often there is no one to listen to it. In the group sessions, people come to my place Godh, in a small village in Tirtan Valley and experience a more mindful way of living. We focus on enquiry through conversations, grounding exercises, mindful meditations, sharing stories, and importantly, a lot of reflections,” Gopalan explains.
She also conducts individual sessions which are mostly conducted online. She usually does six to eight sessions with a person, delving into their lives and stories as they reflect on their journeys and uncomfortable feelings. “In these sessions, I work more as a guide to create a safe environment for people to express, feel, and sit with their feelings,” Gopalan says.
Gopalan has also built a network of psychotherapists along with inner work facilitators whom she can refer to, if needed, for guidance.
The immersive course is a venture by Taking Up Space and is split into four modules focused on building awareness about what it means to hold space and how to design and run workshops focused on inner work. “We will also bring in facilitators with experience who will guide the participants through their learning journeys,” Gopalan adds. Most importantly, she says, the course is “a gift for those who are looking to deepen their connections with themselves.”
The art of holding space lies in approaching conversations with compassion and empathy, Gopalan says. It's about finding and building structures of support based on the principles of restoration, reconciliation, empathy, and resilience.