The Mystery of Holding

July 21, 2015

There is an ancient longing wired in us as infants to be seen, to be felt, and to have our surging, somatic-emotional world validated by another. When our subjective experience is empathically held, contained, and allowed, we come to a natural place of rest. What is love, really, other than fully allowing the other to be who they are, for their experience to be what it is, and to offer the gift of presence to their unique subjectivity? In this sense, I love you = I allow you.

The late Donald Winnicott, a brilliant psychoanalyst from Britain, used the term ‘holding environment’ to describe the ideal mandala in which growth and development could occur, weaved of the qualities of contact and space. Through making attuned, present-time, somatically-engaged contact with another as they are – and by providing an open, warm sanctuary in which their experience can unfold and illuminate – we become vehicles of love in action.

Simultaneously, by offering the gift of space, we do not interfere with the unfolding of their heart and majestic inner process. We do not pathologize their experience or demand that they be different, change, transform, shift, or ‘heal’ in order for us to love them. If sadness is there, or fear, or despair, or shame, or depression, or profound grief, we will infuse their inner mandala with validation and presence. We will be there for them, but only if they need us. We will not engulf them with the projections of our own unlived life, nor will we unload upon them our own requirements and agendas, arising out of our own undigested psyches and bodies. Instead, we will seed the intersubjective container with tender space.

While not talked about as much, we can provide this same contact and space to ourselves and come to discover that our nature as awareness itself is in fact the ultimate holding environment. You are always, already resting in the majesty of presence and are always, already held – by the beloved – who is none other than your own miracle nervous system, heart, and somatic brilliance. While we may not always understand our experience – and while it may never fit into our ideas, hopes, dreams, and fantasies about the life we were ‘meant to live’ – we can come to trust that it is unfolding according to a unique blueprint which is emerging out of the unseen hand of love. We are invited to practice a radical intimacy with our experience, staying close to our ripe bodies and tender hearts, but not so close that we fuse or overly identify with it. Rest in the very middle and stay astonished at what is being birthed out of the unknown in every moment.

For so many I speak with, there is an undercurrent of aggression towards themselves, a subtle movement of self-loathing, unexamined shame and embarrassment, and a very alive (if not conscious) belief that they are flawed and have failed. Each time we exit our present, embodied experience into thinking, interpretation, blame, resentment, and complaint, we turn from the preciousness and the majesty of what we are. In this movement of rejection, we keep alive the archaic belief that our immediate experience is not valid, that it is not workable, that it is not forming the actual particles of the path of healing, exactly as it is. From one perspective, this may be seen as the ultimate act of self abandonment.

Let us all take a pause on this new day, and from a place of love visualize a holding environment for ourselves, where we grant unconditional permission to make intimate and direct contact with all of our vulnerabilities, with our tender bodies and with our raw hearts, with our unprocessed challenges from the past, and with our less-than-awakened thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Let us make the most radical commitment to no longer abandon ourselves, exiting into our conditioned stories and unkind judgments, and inquire with love into the habitual belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. As we open our eyes and our hearts to the always, already present holding environment which is our true nature, we behold the drop of grace which pours through the eyes of everyone we meet, including that unknown precious one that we see when we look in the mirror. And then all that could possibly remain is an unshakeable faith in love’s perfection.

Author Info for Sounds True Coming Soon

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2. The Healing Code of Nature – Clemens G. Arvay

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3. Book of Beasties – Sarah Seidelman

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Get it here:





5. Yoga Friends – Mariam Gates & Rolf Gates 

Summer Super Sale - Yoga FriendsFrom the creators of Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga comes a beautifully illustrated city adventure that introduces children to the delights and benefits of partner yoga.

Perfect for teaming up with a friend, sibling, parent, or caregiver, each easy practice shows how cooperation helps us to imagine, move, and have fun in a whole new way.

Includes a back-page guide for parents and caregivers, showing how to do each pose and how to connect them into an easy-to-follow flow.

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6. Happier Now – Nataly Kogan

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Have other books you’ve read by the poolside or under a shade tree ended up changing the way you see the world? Tell us about those summer reads that ended up being more than you expected!


Singing Bowl Meditation Sounds True Spotify Playlist

Sounds True is on Spotify!

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November New Releases and Giveaway




The Integrity Advantage by Kelly Kosow

Are you ready to open up to new levels of self-trust and self-love, to get where you want to go?

You vowed to speak up at work, and then sat silent in the meeting yet again.

You told yourself “this time the diet is going to stick,” only to watch the scale inching up.

You felt that something just wasn’t right about someone that—until you learned the hard way that your instincts were right.

“Every time you bite your tongue,” teaches Kelley Kosow, “you swallow your integrity.”

Before Kelley Kosow was a renowned life coach and CEO, she constantly second-guessed herself, let her “to-do” lists and others steer her dreams and passions, and played it “small and safe.”

Inspired by the groundbreaking principles of her renowned mentor Debbie Ford, who hand-picked Kelley to be her successor, The Integrity Advantage is Kelley’s step-by-step guide for facing the fear, shame, and false beliefs that cause us to lose our way.

Through life-changing insights, true stories, and proven strategies, this book will show you how to live on your own terms—according to you—from the inside out.


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As modern women, we’re taught that we can do it all, have it all, and be it all. While this freedom is beautiful, it’s also exhausting. Being a “worn-out woman” is now so common that we think feeling tired all the time is normal. According to Karen Brody, feeling this exhausted is not normal—and it’s holding us back. In Daring to Rest, Brody comes to the rescue with a 40-day program to help you reclaim rest and access your most powerful, authentic self through yoga nidra, a meditative practice that guides you into one of the deepest states of relaxation imaginable.

It’s time to lie down and begin the journey to waking up





Breathe and Be by Anna Emilia Laitinen and Kate Coombs

Teaching mindfulness helps kids learn to stay calm, regulate their emotions, and appreciate the world around them. With Breathe and Be, author Kate Coombs and illustrator Anna Emilia Laitinen team up to present a book of poetry and art for young readers to make mindfulness easy, natural, and beautiful. Here is a book sure to delight parents and kids alike, blending lovingly illustrated nature imagery with elegant verse about living with awareness and inner peace.





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A Teaching Memoir That Crosses the Barriers Between Worlds

A shaman is one who has learned to move between two worlds: our physical reality and the realm of spirits. For John Lockley, shamanic training also meant learning to cross the immense divide of race and culture in South Africa.

As a medic drafted into the South African military in 1990, John Lockley had a powerful dream. “Even though I am a white man of Irish and English descent, I knew in my bones that I had received my calling to become a sangoma, a traditional South African shaman,” John writes. “I felt blessed by the ancient spirit of Africa, and I knew that I had started on a journey filled with magic and danger.” His path took him from the hills of South Korea, where he trained as a student under Zen Master Su Bong, to the rural African landscape of the Eastern Cape and the world of the sangoma mystic healers, where he found his teacher in the medicine woman called MaMngwev



Things That Join the Sea and the Sky by Mark Nepo

A Reader for Navigating the Depths of Our Lives

The Universe holds us and tosses us about, only to hold us again. With Things That Join the Sea and the Sky, Mark Nepo brings us a compelling treasury of short prose reflections to turn to when struggling to keep our heads above water, and to breathe into all of our sorrows and joys.

Inspired by his own journal writing across 15 years, this book shares with us some of Mark’s most personal work. Many passages arise from accounts of his own life events—moments of “sinking and being lifted”—and the insights they yielded. Through these passages, we’re encouraged to navigate our own currents of sea and sky, and to discover something fundamental yet elusive: How, simply, to be here.

To be enjoyed in many ways—individually, by topic, or as an unfolding sequence—Things That Join the Sea and the Sky presents 145 contemplations gathered into 17 themes, each intended to illuminate specific situations.



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WIN OUR NEW RELEASE BUNDLE:The Integrity Advantage, Daring to Rest, Breathe and Be, Leopard Warrior, and Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

TO ENTER: Simply reply in the comments with why you’d like to win!

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  • andreia says:

    Hello! thanks for the text! Who is the author? thanks! 🙂

  • Vicki Albin says:

    Baby Massage has a technique called containment. When the parents see the simplicity and magic of it, their eyes open wide. But when baby offers an opportunity for them, it moves them to a new depth of understanding that is palpable in the room. Beautifully written article. Thank you.

  • Tina says:

    Just found this… beautifully written, poignant, moving and just the right time for it to land in my awareness. Thank you, Matt.

  • Lina Cuartas says:

    I have felt this specific current of thought and emotion since the month started, as i massaged and held a beloved child of miine afflicted with self- doubt and sadness, as i watched my better half struggle with duties and self-loathing, as i see the world debate hatred and love; inclusion and rejection; and i dreamed about the christmas offering i have to make this year. i am behind, my revered tradition of making a nativity instead of buying stuff is usually done by the end of november. But, this year has been like a riptide.
    i saw what i have always known and voiced in a uniquely beautiful, simple treasure: within its dainty cap of tousled fibers, an acorn, in which, an embryo, still enfolded with the amniotic sac of life, can be clearly seen; tiny, perfect palms and soles discernible, faces in different, subtle, innocent positions and gestures, to remind us all; we are all born and return to the ocean of existence in the same way; seeds of possibility,power and promise, and we are all linked together by invisible but unbreakable threads of causality; We are One.
    Today is the day I will make the first babies, playing Creator, and These reminders of Oneness i will not confine to this season of Rebirth; i will continue creating them, sharing them, giving them away to voice their message from Beyond,; the Wise Waters we come from and return to, unavoidably.

  • Rebecca says:


  • This is absolutely the best article I have EVER read on the love an care of a baby or the baby in us…or anyone, actually!!

  • 00margot says:

    This is a beautiful description of love.

  • Serafina Perez says:

    Another validation,” Angels On Earth.”

  • Saras Naidoo says:


  • Rhona says:

    Love this…thank you

  • Heather Mac says:

    Tears of gratitude for this amazing insight. It is perfect, as is everything. Thank you, love you <3

  • Samantha says:

    Beautiful reflection, thank you.

  • madlyn says:

    so beautiful

  • Rifka Hirsch says:

    Beautiful. Thank you so much for this sharing. It enters my heart … in this perfect moment.

  • I’m a therapist. I read a lot. I talk to a lot of people. I study. But it’s been a very long time since I’ve read an article so poetically and potently worded, which speaks of the MOST important topic I can imagine: the ACT of love. As you say, Love is allowing. Love is allowing our self to be as we are. Love is allowing others to be exactly as they are. I appreciate how you outlined some of the pathological (insane) things we do to ourselves and each other. That made the difference between LOVE and NOT-LOVE crystal clear. Thank you with all my heart. <3 Paige

  • Eric Monroe says:

    Amazing, thank you so very much. This truly spoke to me and I will share it in the hopes that it will speak to others as well. May we all heal ourselves and help one another to heal as well. Blessed Be!

  • bcornell says:

    Thank you! So well spoken…many need to hear and experience this.

  • BiancaD says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you ^_^

  • Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Heather says:

    THANK YOU <3 so much.

  • Lovely, lovely, lovely.

  • Rita Bridenstine says:

    Amen. The essence of peace on earth.

  • Bhimi says:

    So eloquent and sensitively said, I could feel each word as it slide from my brain to my heart. Everyone should read that at least 1x everyday.

  • beautiful. thank you.

  • Awesome. Just as I knew and know it is. And receiving physical ‘holding’ can remind us of this somatic, universal loving embrace that our Being holds us in.

  • beautiful words which resonate deeply

  • Annie Brook says:

    yes, Matt! Returning to love with that ancient longing satisfied and whole! I have spent a lifetime going back and doing integrative discovery and body-mind work to recover interrupted bonding due to being born early and placed in the NICU without any touch allowed from my mother for 17 days. It is inside out work to reclaim a challenged nervous system and primoridal beliefs that babies set up about whether they are loveable.

    The good news is that we really can return to wholeness. I just returned from presenting at to therapists and caregivers. I shared how birth imprints show up in child and adult behaviors, and tools to help individuals, children, or couples. All of this is gathered in my recent book, Birth’s Hidden Legacy. I wrote this to help others have the tools to get to the root of distress that was imprinted so long ago. It has case studies, body-mind theories, and interventions you can use to help yourself or others.

    With accessible tools, returning to an internal feeling of love and safety opens the door for the true path of soul into body. You can get Birth’s Hidden Legacy, on Amazon or directly on my web site, Last summer I was fortunate to train teachers at the Montesorri Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, CO, on on how to work with the infants and children they see, and will present at their national conference in Chicago this coming March. Let’s keep spreading the word and opening the heart.
    Joy and love to you…Annie Brook

  • Joe Costigan says:

    Arthur Janov Phd, The creator of Primal Therapy has written a number of books relating to this and through his therapy resolve or at least lessen much of the repressed emotional pain related to being untouched and unloved.

  • Aurora Brown says:

    Thank you! Very appropriate at this time with all the tragedies that are happening globally. This touches my heart and it is so true. Holding environment, unconditional love, room to grow and allowing one to be the best person one can be. Patience, nurturing, global connection to every one.

  • Beautifully said. Thank you.

  • As a therapist who specializes in Shiatsu/Watsu/Breema I’ve had the honor to hold space for the unfolding in my life and practice. If you have an opportunity seek a therapist near you who provides somatics it will be worth your energy and time. Blessings to all

  • Denise Germaine Levinson says:

    Beautiful ,thank you for sharing!!!!

  • Tamara says:

    My Group Therapy in Paris, France, benefited that our psycholgist had BBSOL training, and our group felt this containment each session we had together.

  • Laura says:

    This is so beautifully written. No matter what happened or didn’t happen to us as infants/children/adults, we can all heal in this way. I do believe there is some divine interface as well, but this holding and be-ing happens in our bodies. Thanks for putting clear words to my holding experience. And let us hold each other in this way too. Peace…

  • Anahata Giri says:

    Astonishingly beautiful words. So deeply true. I will read this again and again. Thank you.

  • I am a psychotherapist, and work helping people to express themselves through words ‘wild words’. This is a beautifully written article, on such an important subject. Thank you

  • Annemcx says:

    Thank you, from my heart.

  • Jenny Ridley says:

    This says it all and so beautifully. Now we need to LIVE our lives holding onto these precepts.

  • Sue James says:

    There is tendency in this age of the material to think that close bonding with babies and the rest of our species should not be encouraged. Even as adults touch, holding, granting being is one of the most generous and beautiful gifts we can give to each other. We all need each other, Rolando Toro the maverick from Chile used to say that the very best medicine for human beings, is simply “human beings”. When we embrace each other with affection, tenderness, empathy and love, when we allow each other to be who they are without attempting to fix them or mend and to always see the greatness that is present in everyone, Love is what is left in the space. Beautifully written. Thank you

  • Ted says:

    One of the best definitions of “Love” I’ve come across. The message resonates with me in such a subjective manner that I often want to come back and feel it again. Well done Matt.

  • So good to finally read of you and your work. The article on love is true, beautiful and good.

  • Grethe Lund says:

    Thank you ! This is beautifully written and just what I needed to read now…… I´m sharing…..

  • Sharman says:

    Its amazing isnt it thst all we need is really at our fingertips! Grace. Thankyou.

  • Lilli says:

    Reading this article one year after the first time, is like falling in love all over again…with Life.

  • David White-Miller says:

    I read this and cried with joy, sadness and regret at the wasted times filled with anger and remorse

  • Harmony Gates says:

    I shared this on FB when it first came out…This is also what I’ve discovered and practiced in my life and work. I cannot say it better. I’ve also shared your Blog with many many friends and clients. Thanks Matt

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