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 and right-brain to right-brain resonance.As the matrix of secure attachment, it provides the rich, creative terrain from which we can explore reality, resting and playing in unstructured states of being. From this ground of safety and creativity, we journey out of the familiar, experiment with our vulnerability, and stay embodied to the full range of human feeling.
Any effective holding environment is weaved of qualities of contact and space, dancing in the holy middle where there is intimacy without fusion, closeness without engulfing, tenderness without impinging. This is the soil from a little baby’s brain and heart and nervous system 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, where we come to the embodied realization that we are always, already being held, by something infinite and vast.
While as an infant we depended upon another to provide this environment for us, it is wired into the human heart. Every inner experience is made of this space, luminous, and undifferentiated from awareness itself. From this perspective, what we are is the quintessential holding environment. Those substances which cause a little nervous system to grow, unfold, and differentiate are the same that keep the stars from falling out of the sky.
While it is unlikely we will ever resolve the mysteries of self and other, intrapsychic and intersubjective, personal and transpersonal, or sun and moon, we can apprehend the miracle together with awe, remembering that we will always be beginners on the path of love and humble messengers of its outrageous, relentless activity.