Many are familiar with the term “holding environment” as elucidated by Winnicott, a warm and poetic description of a relational configuration rooted in empathic attunement, resonance, warmth, and presence.
It is from such a matrix of experience that we can explore ourselves and the world around us, resting and playing in unstructured states of being. From this ground of safety, we are able to take a risk, lead with our vulnerability, and stay embodied to the full range of human feeling.
Any effective holding environment is weaved of qualities of adequate contact and space – where we feel felt, seen, validated, and understood – while at the same time not engulfed by the other, where our unique psychic landscape is honored, and not impinged upon.
An effective holding environment is the soil from which a little baby’s brain and heart and nervous system can grow. What a miracle. Real magic.
While honoring the interpersonal aspect of holding, there is a transpersonal dimension as well. From this perspective, open awareness itself is the ultimate holding environment. Training ourselves to access, become familiar with, and relax into our true nature reveals the deeper dimensions of contact and space.
While as an infant we depended upon another to provide this environment for us, in which we could explore primordial beingness, it is actually here at all times. Every thought, feeling, emotion, image, and sense perception are made of space – pure, luminous, warm, and undifferentiated from awareness itself. They are held in the womb of Now, overflowing with the qualities of warmth, transparency, compassion, and light.
From this perspective, our true nature is the quintessential holding environment, weaved of the essence and substances of space, contact, and warmth. Those substances which cause a little nervous system to develop are the same that keep the stars from falling out of the sky.
My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available
My next event is a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. As of today, we're about 60% sold out.