"Holding Environment" for Ourselves

The "physician as the therapeutic agent" and "excellent bedside manner" may sound old-fashioneed, despite their pivotal importance to healing. Fortunately mental-health professionals are paying renewed attention to the "common therapeutic factors" of empathy, warmth, congruence, and the therapeutic alliance. These are “helpful to extremely helpful with virtually all clients” and "may, in fact, be at the core of therapeutic change. Many researchers and critics of counselor education suggest that training programs do not do enough to develop the person of the counselor or the requisite cognitive skills for establishing a strong working alliance. Together, this suggests that new training approaches may be needed. Mindfulness meditation practice may fill this gap." Bentley Greason P, Welfare LE. "The Impact of Mindfulness and Meditation Practice on Client Perceptions of Common Therapeutic Factors." Journal of Humanistic Counseling 2013; 52: 235-53.

Bill Morgan, an experienced meditator and psychotherapist, has just written a book in which he persuasively advocates cultivating "common therapeutic factors" in order to create a "holding environment" for ourselves so that we may more reliably & efficiently establishing a regular, long-term meditation practice.

“Needless to say, a holding environment includes none of this mind-over-matter mode of practicing. The notion of bootstrapping ourselves with willpower in meditation will always backfire. If we are not comfortable in meditation, if there is no sense of ease in the atmosphere of our practice, if it is not refreshing, it is not likely to last. As the Buddha discovered, the pursuit of truth in a climate of denial or tension won’t bear much fruit.

We humans – wired to be vigilant, scanning for threats, anticipating catastrophe, engaging in fight and flight – habitually push and pull and steer and orchestrate our experience. This leads to mental and physical tightening, a psychological clenching. Further straining is not helpful whatsoever to address this predicament. Yet this is what so many of us do in meditation. We just keep pushing and pulling. Have you ever played with a Chinese finger trap? It is only through relaxing that you can remove your fingers. So it is with meditation.

Relaxing the body is therefore neither indulgent nor peripheral, but the starting point in developing a nurturing holding environment for meditation.”

Bill Morgan. "The Meditator's Dilemma: An Innovative Approach to Overcoming Obstacles and Revitalizing Your Practice." Shambhala, 2016.

It's fascinating to see how intricately interwoven is the study of a clinician's own mind-heart in meditation with treating her patients - ideally she holds BOTH in meditative equipoise: http://healthyhealers.blogspot.ca/2013/11/therapeutic-presence.html

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