Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A holding environment of love

Winnicott’s notion of the holding environment is such a precious metaphor for how we can make contact with and warmly touch our own and another person’s experience. We are all called to be held – and to hold another, to be a vast loving space in which self-experience can naturally be metabolized. We can allow ourselves to care so deeply about subjective experience, to resist the temptation to stand back as the “witness” or to otherwise “transcend it,” to dismiss it as “just your story” and all of the rest of the ways we have found to avoid the terrifying fires of intimacy. Come closer, and even closer, and yet even closer.

It’s very risky to go into our embodied experience – and that of another – in such an intimate way; we know this but we can’t help ourselves: we’re wired to connect, we really do care, we want to hold and be held. We long to know how the other is making sense of their experience, how they’re organizing their lives, what meaning they are making about what happens to them; about the hopes, fears, and dreams that move them. We will take the risk to find out, and to touch them, and to hold them. Whether they “have a self,” are “lost in a story,” or otherwise not as radically special or “awakened” as us becomes meaningless, for love has no interest in these things. It just wants you closer.

In my experience, open awareness itself is the ultimate holding environment – a naturally luminous field out of which pours the primordial qualities of contact and space; for these are the essential ground of any true ecosystem of holding. We watch in awe: Whatever arises in immediate embodied experience is of the same nature as awareness itself, crafted out of that same substance, designed of those same particles. No matter how hard we look, we’re unable to find any difference between form and emptiness, between what arises in consciousness and the ground of consciousness itself. How could there be a contact more intimate than this? Whatever appears in consciousness is in essence none other than that alive, untamed, infinite space in which all experience appears, dances for a short time, and then dissolves back into infinity. In this space, whatever arises – no matter how disturbing, confusing, terrifying, or joyous – is self-liberated into radically creative particles of awareness.

And then we stand back in awe at the whole thing, the whole show, the preciousness and the fragility of it all: we come to see that these particles are none other than love itself, appearing so vividly as the ever-colorful display of your life.