Visiting the Well of Release
A Meditation to Process Pain
by Melanie Fire Salamander
Okay, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but the first part of the year, New Year’s through Valentine’s, way too often finds me breaking up with someone. I hate it! You’d think I’d have figured out how to avoid it by now. But the pain of leaving, or worse of being left, never seems to get easier. All I seem to be able to hope for is a few more tools for dealing with it.
Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid this pitfall, pain is all around us. Life, as the Buddha said, is suffering. This is a bad time of year for family pain, our having just gone through the holidays. The earth lies fallow, exposing her wounds: building sites like open sores, old mines and dumps, places whose ruin makes you weep. And it’s a dark time of year, when during long nights and short dreary days all the specific, personal drek we’ve avoided in summer and fall can rise and engulf us.
Don’t let that happen! You can process pain. Not shove it, to find it later, having grown runners to other, older pains, but truly process it — be in it, feel it deeply, then let it go. It’s not a hasty process. Expect to do this work over and over again. But each time you do, I promise you, you can and will let go a little pain. It’s hard work, because to release the pain, I find, you have to feel it again and know its roots, its causes, which usually go back to sufferings of early life or even before. But if you’re willing to do the work, you can heal.
Following is a meditation to help that process happen. In honor of the season and of the goddess Brigid, I’ve built into the meditation an image of a sacred, healing well, an image of this goddess, whose holy day Imbolc or Candlemas is. To use this meditation, either record it on tape and play it back or ask someone to read it to you. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
Before starting, find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed; take the phone off the hook and if necessary shut out your pets. If you’re prone to falling asleep, try sitting up as you meditate, preferably on a chair or against a surface that helps keep your back straight; alternatively, you can sit cross-legged or in lotus position. If you have problems relaxing, stretch out on a bed, couch or the floor.
Close your eyes, and begin to relax. Take a few deep breaths: in, out; in, out. Feel your body, wriggle your fingers and toes, your nose, your hips and arms; roll your head. Feel where your body ends and what’s around you begins. Feel the air around you, the surface underneath you. Be here now, present in your body, in the present moment. Feel yourself begin to relax.
Continue to breathe deeply, and begin to release the cares of your day and week with your breath. Be completely here in the present moment.
Throughout this meditation, you will have a complete, deep experience, and you will remember everything you sense and learn. If you need to return, you can always recall yourself to the physical world by moving your fingers and toes. You will feel utterly safe and protected throughout.
Relax more fully still, and breathe deeply. Feel in the center of your body, behind and below your belly button, a spark of life, your life, your eternal fire. Feel that flame pulse with life. Let that flaming center send a spark of energy downward, a liquid trail like molten fire, down through your groin into your base and down into the earth. Feel this energy flow downward, through the foundation of the building, down into the deep, wet, cold earth, the soil, through hidden underground streams, cool water slick on rocks, and below that into the solid rock of the earth’s mantle. Feel the personal flame from your body push down through rock into the deep core of the earth, the earth’s molten center, where all is fire as it is fire inside you. Feel your own personal fire connect with the energy of the earth, deep and red, the red glowing heart of the earth.
At the same time, feel a spark of energy flare upward from the center of your body, up through your torso, through your neck, through your head, through the top of your head into the air. Let this energy flow upward through the air of the room, through the ceiling, through the roof of the building into the cold air. Let the energy fountain up, up, up, through the cold damp air, past clouds of rain and ice, up into the clear sky above all clouds. Feel your personal fire energy connect with the fires of the sky, the energy of sun and stars and moon, fiery, swirling sky energy.
Feel your deep energetic connections to both earth and sky, tap into those connections and deeply feel them. Let sky energy begin to flow downward into you, and at the same time let earth energy flow upward into you. Feel the two energies combine in your center, swirling together gently and cleanly, into one combined healing energy. Let this energy flow outward from your center, filling your torso, filling your lungs and throat, filling your head, filling your groin and pelvis, your legs and arms, touching and washing away remaining tension, cleansing and healing. Let all negative energy you can let go of flow with this wave out through your grounding. Let negative energy, tension and pain and anger and everything you want to let go of flow sweetly and cleanly down your grounding, into the earth, which can reuse the energy for other things.
Now let a wave of sky energy come through you again, combine with earth energy, and fill you, cleansing you, and wash away another layer of negativity down your grounding. Release everything you need to release. Keep any information you require, but release pain, tension, fear and error with the cleansing, healing energy down your grounding.
And again, let another wave of sky energy come into you, combine with the energy of earth, fill you and cleanse you, washing trouble and pain away down your grounding into the earth. Feel your deep connection to earth, and let trouble and pain wash into the earth. Keep any information you require, but let all the pain you can go into the earth.
Feel yourself cleansed and sparkling, full of earth and sky energy, and deeply connected to both earth and sky. Ground out any energy you
don’t need into the earth.
Now imagine yourself at a stone boundary marker, standing beside a gravel road. It is dusk, wintertime, and you are in farm country. The landscape is wintry, with a light dusting of snow, the tree branches bare of leaves, but you don’t feel the cold. Smoke rises from chimneys of houses here and there, some far away on bare hills of cropped brown. The air smells cold and of woodsmoke.
You turn and walk a while down this road. To either side are fields full of stubble, tan. As you pass, crows rise cawing. Far across a field, you see a lone scarecrow standing.
The road slopes gently down a hill, and you come into a small wood. Tree limbs rise gnarled and black around you, shadowing the road. A rabbit raises its head, brown against white shadowed snow, looks at you a moment and bounds away.
You come out of the wood into a flat landscape, cropped fields to either side behind board fences. You walk awhile, the scenery barely changing, all in colors of brown and grey. The smell of the air changes, and you realize you must be coming to a body of fresh water. Walking forward, you crest a shallow hill and see before you stands of rushes around a large lake.
You continue forward on the road. The gravel stops, and you keep going on an earthen path. Tall rushes stand at either side, the air brushing through them, whispering. You push down the path through the rushes and find yourself at a dock where a small rowboat is tied up, oars lying in its bottom.
From here, at the lake’s edge, you have a clear view across. A band of gold haze lies along the horizon, between long bands of grey-purple cloud. The water is steel-grey, and in the center of the lake lies a small island, crowned by a grove of birch trees. The island attracts you strongly, and you decide to row out to it.
Knowing this is the custom of the place, you get into the boat, untie it, and fitting the oars to the oarlocks begin to row. The island is not far away, but it takes longer to get there than you think it will. The boat moves slowly and dreamily through the twilit water. The twilight stays constant; the sky does not get darker. This seems strange, but you feel perfectly safe and protected, and you accept that twilight stays in this place.
You come to the island shore, step out onto gravel and pull the boat up so it won’t float away, setting the oars in its bottom. The grey water, tinged lavender in the light, laps the gravel shore. You walk toward the grove of birch, and again though the trees don’t seem far away, it takes you longer to get to them than you thought it would. Things move slowly in this place. All around you lies dusk-purple light. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this place.
You edge between two birch trees and come to the center of the island. Here sits a stone well. Over the well hangs a weeping willow. The long arms of the willow move gently in the air, rustling.
You see among the willow branches, sitting on the edge of the well, a woman clad in sage-green. Her hair is long, falling almost to the ground, and a very fair blonde, or colorless, or grey — it’s hard to tell in the light. She greets you and tells you that this is the Well of Release, and she is its keeper.
You greet her with reverence. You know she is no ordinary person but a goddess. (Pause briefly.)
She asks you what you would release, and you tell her. (Pause briefly.)
She asks you to sit on the edge of the well, sit comfortably. When you are seated, she asks you go deeply into the problem you would release, saying she will protect you as you do.
You agree to her suggestion and begin to go into the problem in your mind. See the problem in your mind. See pictures of scenes around this issue, the people involved, the places. Take some time and bring the problem you want to release fully into your consciousness and emotions. (Pause for some time.)
Feel the emotions around the problem. Name these emotions. Be in them. Avoid resisting them, but let them be present and flow through you. Feel them fully. (Pause for some time.)
The keeper of the well watches you, understanding fully and protecting you as you do this work. When you have fully gone into, recognized and felt the emotions around this problem, she nods deeply and says she will give you something to hold this issue, a symbol or object to contain this pain. She holds out her hands, and between them is this symbol or object. (Pause briefly.)
You take it into your own hands. This symbol is a container and is meant for your use, to protect you. You feel perfectly safe and protected.
She instructs you now to put the problem you want to release into the symbol, to let flow into the symbol everything you need to let go. You do so gently and fully, letting your emotions and memories and thoughts flow into the symbol, keeping only that information you need and letting go all pain into the symbol. (Pause for some time.)
Once you have put what you need to into the symbol, the keeper of the well cranks the well-handle and draws up the bucket. She instructs you to put your symbol into the bucket, and you do. It goes easily, no matter how big or amorphous it is, as if that’s where it belongs. It disappears into the bucket.
Then the well-keeper lets the bucket back down into the well. The Well of Release, she tells you, lets into an underground stream, a stream that is able to change and break up pain and trouble and old blockages and let energy go where it belongs. You look down into the well, and you see the bucket hit the water, the dark water with just a ripple of light, see the bucket go into the water, disappear into the water. As it does, you feel released of your pain, you feel it gone. (Pause briefly.)
Now the keeper of the well brings out a crystal decanter full of water, and she motions you to stand in a silver-edged basin whose drain feeds into the source of the well. “This is the cleansing Water of Release,” she tells you. You see the water in the decanter sparkle with its own inner light. She pours the water over your head; it cascades down over you, and you feel not wet but as if cleansing, healing energy were going through you, washing away the last vestiges of pain and trouble, releasing the last blocks and letting them pour downward into the underground stream and into the earth. (Pause for some time.)
The well-keeper smiles at you and says, “Now you are cleansed and healed, and in token I give you a gift.” In her two hands she holds out this gift, and you take it. You examine it, and she tells you what you need to know to understand it. (Pause briefly.)
Know that you will keep the memory of this gift as you need to, and all else that you need to retain.
Now you say your good-byes to the keeper of the well and thank her. (Pause briefly.)
Leaving her, you pass out between the birch trees, and on the gravel shore find the boat. You draw it toward the water and get in, push off with your oar and slowly row back to the lake shore.
At the lake’s edge, you tie the boat to the dock, replace the oars in the boat bottom and, turning, walk back through the rustling reeds along the path. You pass through the reeds to the long flat land, the road with brown fields on either side, and into the dark wood. You notice that it has begun to get dark. But it is a reassuring darkness, a warm and protective darkness, a blanket drawn over the land that lets it sleep.
You pass under the black, gnarled branches and out of the dark wood, and you walk up the slope of the hill, looking at the cropped fields on either side. You greet the scarecrow and the crows that rise from the fields to caw at you. You continue along the gravel road, the landscape getting darker around you, and you find yourself back at the boundary marker from which you started.
You settle down beside this marker. All around you darkness falls, comfortable, comforting and calm. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this meditation. You will keep everything you need to keep.
You begin once more to feel your body. You are coming up from trance, feeling warm and relaxed yet energetic. Feel your body; wiggle your fingers and toes. Feel the surface below you and the air above. Retain in your mind everything you want to remember from this meditation.
Feel yourself present in your body, present in the here and now. Notice your breath; feel yourself draw breath deep into your lungs and let it go. You feel present and calm yet full of warm energy.
Breathe deeply once more, and open your eyes.