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Creating Optimal Wellness Environments

© 1987 by Bobbie Burdett

What Is an Optimal Wellness Environment?

There are many ways to define an Optimal Wellness Environment (OWE). A prime ingredient is a safe space, a supportive environment, or a non-threatening atmosphere. In fact there well may be as many definitions as there are people defining it. The primary reason is that an OWE is a constantly unfolding organic process which is directly dependent on the ongoing creativity of those participating within it. It is a living and ever-changing organism with many possibilities.

For me, an OWE is a stimulating social environment with primarily cozy feelings, easy laughter and trust—the trust that everyone will be respected and allowed to be both who they are and who they are not, recognizing we all are both. There is an atmosphere of receptivity to change and encouragement to be everything we want to be. It is the most delicious and fun intimacy that empowers us all to bloom where we are planted. When conflict arises, and it does eventually, there is a trust we will somehow learn from it, and we will understand ourselves and each other better because of it. It comes from testing the waters and finding that even our darkest places are grist for the mill in mutual learning. The more skilled we are with the tests, the more we learn, and the more safety exists for a deeper and more committed learning.


An old Zen story says that there are two ways to get a bird out of a cage. One way is to break in the door, and perhaps imperil the bird’s life. The other way is to feed the bird while still in the cage until she is strong enough to open the door herself. This story is an accurate allegory for the two approaches to learning that characterize those of the paradigms of disconnection and connection. The paradigm of disconnection says that we are not enough as we are, that we must improve on the design of our natural curiosity by breaking down supposed resistances to learning. Often, as we can see in the educational and psychological systems of developed nations, there is a lot of damage done and we are faced with immense social problems.

The connection approach says we’ve got it all already and it’s simply an ongoing process of bringing it forth. In fact the Latin root of education is “educere,” which means to lead forth. It does not mean to add on, but instead to creatively bring out what is immanent. It’s a system that empowers each person to open her/his own door. (continues)

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