There are some people who are light holders.
They hold our light when we can not see it.
They ignite the light where it has gone out.
They initiate light where there was none.
The give us back our light when we are ready to receive it.
They help us make our light brighter.
They encourage us to shine our light more widely.
They are our light.
They light our path and show us the way ahead.
They are radiant themselves, they have their own inner light.
- Do you know who your light holders are?
Let me explain.
Light holders see our potential. They might be mentors, employers or friends. Alan Cooper was one such light holder for me. He employed me, then mentored me through my PhD, encouraged me with Together Against Domestic Abuse and when I started to write, he never for a moment doubted that I could, or would.
It wasn’t that he was a soft touch – oh no. Trying to negotiate a research subject which suited him as well as me was tough. He would often challenge me, even recently, in my Playing Big blog..he challenged me about how I was holding myself back. Light holders challenge us with love and compassion because they want our light to shine brighter.
- Think back to the people who have seen and nurtured your potential
- How do you nurture potential in other people?
Perhaps bizarrely, Simon Cowell is a light holder, he makes a living from it. For those of you who have kids of X Factor age you might have noticed a couple of occasions, perhaps most notably with Bupsi, where the contestant started to sing and Cowell brusquely interrupted and told them to sing their second song. He saw something in them that they weren’t showing yet. Sheryl Cole described it as being ‘Cowelled’ and acknowledged that what made his so successful was his ability to see talent where others couldn’t and to nurture it.
- Who could you Cowell?
Mandela was a light holder for a nation. When they could only see a way forward through violence and oppression, he held on to his peaceful vision of how it could be, without revenge, without retribution. He held the light for the nation until they could see it for themselves.
- Who are the light holders in the groups or organisations you come into contact with?
- Are you ever in that role?
My friend Teresa holds my light for me. When I am feeling down, when I don’t know how to manage a situation, when I feel like I’m not a good enough parent, or lover or writer, or teacher she shines the light into my dark feelings and reminds me that I’m just human, and that I don’t need to be perfect. She often shines the light backwards so I can see how far I have come..and she shines the light inwards so I can see that I have the resources to go on.
Andrew Akehurst ignited my writer/researcher light. He inspired me as a a teacher with his love of literature, his sharp wit and his independent, refusal to intellectually conform. When I got my degree from a very mediocre polytechnic, he had the audacity to believe that not only would I love doing a PhD, but that I could.
He held that light for me for years, but never failed to shine the possibility of it when we met until the day came where I thought ‘why not’. As I walked towards my first meeting with Prof Lynn Davies (leader of the faculty, many times published, internationally known for her work on conflict and education) I was waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder to say ‘who do you think you are? People like you don’t do PhDs’. No one didt. So Lynn and Andrew held the light for me until I could hold it for myself, which was at least a year or so after I had graduated.
- Who are the people who have inspired you?
- What difference did they make to your life?
- Have you thanked them for their light holding?
Some light holders don’t know that they are. Sue L is one of my light holders as I started a relationship with someone who was not the kids’ dad, she had walked that path before and I’ve often turned to her for moments of laughter or tears about the complexity of blending our lives. Anne C loved dance and and her pupils and she lit the lives of many, many young people.
- Think of the times when people have thanked you and been grateful for what you have given them. Did you take time to acknowledge your role as their light holder?
Light holding isn’t always seen and valued for what it is. Light holding can not be measured or tracked or quantified and so can go unrecognized. Dark people and organisations can’t see the light in themselves or others and so of course they can’t see light holders.
Or maybe it is that they see light holders but don’t like the light, because light holders light up our shadows, they light up the bits of ourselves we don’t like to see, and not everyone wants that.
I think we are all capable of being light holders for each other.
I was at a conference recently and the day did not start well, I was feeling like a failure, l was tearful and wobbly so couldn’t shine or hold a light for anyone. So I did what I always do, I phoned a friend who could hold the light for me, and Janet was able to light me up enough for me to stand steady. Janet’s light holding for me meant that I could then shine a light for someone else.
If Kim hadn’t held the light and believed I could coach, if Suzannah and Trudi hadn’t taken a punt on a novice they could see light in and let me run my first workshop years ago, if my mum hadn’t listened and loved and lit up my heart, and if dad hadn’t educated and challenged and lit up my head, I wouldn’t have been able to pass on the light.
I like the idea of us all being connected by a web of light, where we are part of a pulse, so that when our light is out or low, we can tap into the light web via the light conductors or directly through meditation, or walking or singing or whatever it is that we do to light ourselves up.
Let’s connect to this web of light and pass it on to those who need it.