Image for The Gathering Pod A Martha Beck Podcast Episode #132 Filling the Well
About this episode

"Have you been feeling depleted? So many of us are tired, so much of the time. To find out what we can do about it, join Martha for this episode of The Gathering Pod: Filling the Well. Martha points out that there are many situations in human life that are analogous to drought— times when our energy feels like it’s drying up. The good news is that there are sources of energetic replenishment always available to us.

Filling the Well

Martha Beck:

Welcome to the Gathering Pod, the audio version of my weekly Gathering Room broadcast. I’m Martha Beck.

Today I thought about all kinds of different topics, some were very intense and some were very scientific, some were very thought-provoking, and they all made me tired. I’m tired. Are you tired? So many of us are tired so much of the time because tired is how we’re supposed to feel once a day. I remember once I had somebody at work accuse me, he said, “You look tired. It doesn’t look like you can do your job.” We were working 20-hour days, and I was like, “Yes, once a day at least I get tired.” And that’s if I start out not tired. Otherwise, it’s kind of tired all the time. So many people are telling me they’re tired and burned out. And frankly, I don’t want a lot of value added stuff going into my brain box on a day when I’m tired out. And I’m pretty sure that a certain number of you are going to be tired as well.

So I thought let’s talk about not productivity or how to be better in any way. Excuse me, I’ve got a hair in my eye. But how to fill the well of our own energy. And yes, part of that is sleep. Go rest. Go sleep. Get enough sleep. They all say get enough sleep. Don’t tell you how to do it. Eat right. Yeah, eat kale. Nothing wrong with kale. It’ll help you. Get sufficient exercise. Even those of you who are too exhausted to exercise, if you could get sufficient exercise, it really does help. You have to get past that weird little problem where you’re so exhausted that if you work out, you actually hurt yourself and then you get in a cycle of injury. Been there, done that. Did that through my whole teens and 20s.

So, how does one fill the well of one’s life aside from those simple things? Get enough rest, eat right, exercise, eat your vegetables. It’s what everybody says. I was thinking about it and I thought, “What about literal wells?” I used to think as a kid, I had no idea that rivers could come and go. I thought if there’s a river, it’s a river. It’s a body of water, it flows, it’s there. It’s always there. Then I realized, to my horror later on, that rivers completely depend on water sources upstream.

Now when I was a teenager, I used to jog along the Charles River in Cambridge and it was huge. It was my friend Charles, I just called it my friend Charles. I would always go to the Charles and go running with Charles. It never occurred to me that that river could dry up. It’s not dried up. It hasn’t dried up. Now, I live near the Delaware. It hasn’t dried up, but I’m touching wood as I say this because as I speak, and this may be dated, but those of you in the future can look back on this time, there are places in drought that I never thought I’d see in drought like Maui. God bless all you people in Maui where there’s been an underlying drought and there is fire and there is death. And this is the opposite of filling the well because it’s very sad.

When I lived in California, there was a stream that went through our property and they said, “It’ll rain all of December. Plan. Get some rain boots and get your rain gear on because it’s going to rain from December to March all the way through.” It didn’t rain for two years, nobody had ever seen it. All the rivers, all the streams, dead dry. And I became very acutely aware of water dynamics.

And as I’m thinking about this metaphorically, how do we fill the well of our own energy, I’m thinking, “All right, there is real literal wells, they dry up too.” If the river dries up, the water table’s going down for the whole geographical area and the water that’s underneath the soil starts to retreat, and our well dropped 700 feet when I was in California during the drought. It was a significant loss of water. And we kept waiting for the rain. And I think rain is like… That’s the stuff they tell you. “Get lots of sleep, make sure you have happy relationships. Eat your vegetables.” These are normal things that come into your life and you use them to fill the well. It rains enough. It just rains enough. You just count on it to rain enough.

But then you get into periods of stress where you’re using a lot of energy and you’re really, really going through your resources and it’s not raining. You might be raising small children and lose your income. You might have a loving family that is disrupted by natural disaster or disease or something. There are a lot of situations in human life that are analogous to drought. Bad things happen and there’s not enough good stuff happening to balance it out and we start to dry up. Our energy starts to dry up. So what are the other sources? Well, there’s always water in the ocean, but it needs to be purified, so we can’t drink it. But if ocean water goes down, say, through limestone and filters down for a long period of time, then by the time it gets under the rocks, it’s pure and we can drink it again. But that means we have to go deep.

So there is a source of water, the ocean that won’t run dry for us as long as… I mean someday it will, but that is billions of years in the future. So, that means allowing the water that is always there to be purified and to go deep, deep, deep. And then to dive deep, dig deep, drill deep to find it in ourselves. So there are sources of emotional, energetic replenishment. They’re always there, but we can’t always get to them on the surface. So if it’s not raining enough, one thing we need to do is drill down deep. I’m still obsessing over Lisa Miller’s book, the Science of… Ah, I can’t even remember, the Science of Spirits. Oh, The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for a Meaningful Life, or something very close to that. Lisa Miller, The Awakened Brain.

So Lisa Miller is a brilliant scientist who has looked at the physiology and neurology of spiritual experience. And what she says is there’s always spirituality in our brains. We are literally biologically wired for spirituality. It is our way of diving deep folks, that when you pull away the rain, “Oh, I have plenty of money. I have plenty of love, I have plenty of food, I have plenty of energy, everything’s great. The rain just comes on time. Terrific.” But if you come to a time of drought, you have to be able to go deep, and that is not really developed in our culture. There is not a real pattern of saying, “Yeah, when you feel dried up, go away from the people and speak to the great spirit or go talk to your ancestors.” Light the incense, do the ritual. A lot of us here in the Gathering Room I think are kind of tuned to spirituality so we do that.

In fact, I wanted to say it’s interesting, the research on this shows that that spiritual inclination is in all of us, but it varies from person to person. So for example, it’s like athletic or musical talent, right? Some people have a lot of it, some people have less of it, but everybody has access to it in some way. And when there’s drought, we need to go there. Those of us who are sort of geared to be more spiritual go there quicker, I think, and those of us who are conditioned to do it. So I was raised in a religion that I don’t believe in anymore, never really did. I just accepted it because everybody said it was so, but it never kind of grokked with me. But I was given the gift through that of being told to go deep, to go spiritual when there’s drought. I like to say Mormonism locked me in a dungeon and then threw in the key. And the dungeon was organized religion, and the key was go deep into your spirit and you will find the water of life.

If you can dig deep, you can also… Another form of water that comes into ecosystems is mist. There are entire ecosystems like in Namibia and even I think in the cloud forests of Central America where some of the ecosystems, it doesn’t rain, there’s just an ambient mist. And if the animals go out in the desert regions, if they go out early in the morning when the dew point gets just right, they can get drops of water literally out of the air. And I think some of us, if you do a lot of spiritual practice, you actually get to the point where you can feel the dew point of the spirit filling you up with this water that never fails, the water of life.

I’m going to do our wonderful fun meditation. We have our own private meditation here on the Gathering Room. And if you’ve just come here for the first time, I hope you enjoy it. We’re going to do it in a minute. And it is an analogous to being able to pull water from the very air.

There’s also snowpack. This is what I grew up with in Utah. If it hadn’t snowed, we wouldn’t have any water later in the summer. But if it had snowed, and it almost always did, the water would keep melting and coming down for a long time. That to me is what we’ve gotten from our past and what we’ve stored away. So I have read a zillion spiritual books, some of which I love, some of which did not float my boat. I have spent many, many thousands of hours in spiritual practice like meditation or walking in nature. And all of that is like snowpack. It lives inside me. And when I’m busy doing other things, I don’t really pay attention to it. But when there’s drought, I need to rely on what I’ve stored. And so I go back to it in my memory, I go back to it in the books that I keep right by my bed. And it just takes a moment to tap me into that source and then I can feel the water of life starting to flow in me again.

And then I wanted to talk about the final source, this was my fun part of this whole thing. Do you know the amount of water there is on earth is constant? It doesn’t leave the system and it doesn’t come in. There is the same amount of water on earth now that there was in the time of the dinosaurs. Some of the water that you are drinking was once running through the streams that flowed past the dinosaurs and from which the dinosaurs drank their water. It’s just one cache of water.

The whole planet only has so much water, except how did the water get here in the first place? It was just a rock planet. And then millions, billions of years of time went by, and asteroids landed on the earth. Some of these asteroids were ice. They were frozen H2O. The water that is on earth now came from space as asteroids. And I thought if you’ve gotten really down to the driest drought and with climate change and everything happening, it sort of feels like we’re doing this collectively, you can still access new water by allowing yourself to open up to something completely radical, like going into a place of such stillness and silence. In our meditation, it talks about space. We are going to space. And you’ll see what that means in a minute if you’ve never done it before. But as we go to space, know that that’s ultimately where all the water came from, and there’s more out there. There is probably more water out there than we could even imagine in our wildest calculations.

There is, for our purposes, infinite water available if we can go to space as well as to the rain and the mist and the snowpack. So let’s do that now. Let’s fill the well of our health, of our energy, of our joy, of our spiritual wellbeing by going to space in our usual meditation. So everyone join with me now. Put your feet, uncross your legs or your ankles so that you’ve got your feet are in two straight lines. Uncross your hands and arms. Get comfortable wherever you are sitting, lying or standing, and start to breathe regularly and deeply. We begin with that weird trigger from Les Femme of Princeton.

Can I imagine the distance between my eyes? Just repeat these to yourself silently. Is it possible for me to imagine the space between my eyes and the back of my head? Is it possible for me to imagine the space inside the atoms that make up my entire head? So there are particles of matter, but they are so much smaller than the space inside the atom. 99.13 more nines are made up of empty space. Focus on the space in the atoms of your own head. And now drop your attention down. Focus on the space inside the atoms inside your chest. Is it possible to imagine the emptiness in the space of your chest cavity?

Can you imagine the emptiness in the space between the top of your head and the bottoms of your feet? Can you imagine the stillness in which the activity of the material world is occurring? Is it possible to imagine the silence beneath all the sounds that I am hearing? Is it possible to feel the space, the stillness, and the silence that exists within my body and extends to all the objects around me? Is it possible for me to imagine the space between me and the objects in the room with me? Is it possible for me to imagine all the matter in my body existing in an immense stretch of space and stillness and silence that extends hundreds of millions of light years to the edges of the known universe and beyond?

Out here in the space, is it possible for me to imagine the water of life turning its attention toward me and flying into my consciousness to provide the water that never fails? Is it possible for me to imagine the well of my life filling with the sweetness and the nurture of the space and the stillness and the silence in which all of us exist?

Now, if you can take those asteroids metaphorically, just pack them in. Make them snow melt, make them rain, make them mist. Pull the water in, the love, the peace, the confidence, clarity, the kindness of the consciousness of space. If you can fill the well this way, no one can ever take it from you.

So now I’ll go to some questions. Cheryl says, “During drought, we try to find ways to conserve the water that comes to us such as rain or using less. Are there ways to conserve our vitality or more wisely use it?” Absolutely. I almost called this episode of The Gathering Room When it Doesn’t Help to Help because I’ve just been noticing with all my friends lately that we’re all trying to help people in ways that they’re not interested in receiving help. It’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a great book for you. Just read this book.” They’re not in a place where they want to read. I’m not making judgements on them. If you try too hard to give something to someone, if you try too hard to shift their wellbeing, their happiness, even their financial situation, if you try to help in a way that isn’t… It’s like watering the plants with a fire hose and then being surprised that it all runs off.

It’s better to use something in Africa. They originated this kind of watering where they take a string and they put it along like a row of corn, and they’ll put one end of the string in a bucket of water. And this is in Botswana where they have frequent drought. And so the capillary action in the string will pull water up. And then they put a little piece of string above each little ear of corn, each little corn stalk, and the water comes and it drips down each of the strings. And it gets exactly as much water as it has to each and every plant.

I’d really like to see us all knowing that we really just need to take care of our own snowpack and our own rain. And then we need to give it in such a way that people can absorb it and the world can absorb it. Because right now, especially, I’m writing about anxiety, anxious people can’t take in positive information. They can’t take in sophisticated instructions or even unsophisticated instructions. All they can do is be afraid and all we can create is a container. And how do we create that? By building our own snowpack, by getting more asteroids in us so that we are sitting in a place where there’s something to give. And then when they can absorb it, immediately the physics of spiritual freedom flow immediately from a person who has it to a person who wants it.

There’s never any lack of supply. It’s an infinite thing, but it has to follow the physics of supply and demand. The demand has to be there for the supply to matter. And I have found I’ve spent a lifetime trying too hard to help too many people and not helping others in the ways that I probably should. And I’m just noticing where it’s not helping. Helping doesn’t always help. And then when I don’t try to help when it’s not wanted, I have more to give. So yes, we do need to really conserve this spiritual energy because the world needs it. People’s brains are designed to be spiritual and there’s no language or practice for it in many people’s modern day lives. So yeah, we need to keep our wells filled so that we have water for people who are thirsty.

Okay, Truck13 says, “Any tips for those moments where your mental chatter fights against that need to step away and go deep? I find my brain and cultural conditioning flaring up when I’m not being productive.” Yeah, this is a hard one. You have to really hold the culture at bay when you need to fill the well. I mean, I’ve been doing this forever, and I still, I’m pushing, I’m pushing, I’m pushing to get something done, a book written, a class prepared that doesn’t want to happen. I’m trying to bring rain where there’s no rain, and I’ve learned that the only way you make rain is to go into space, go deep into the soul, go for the bedrock, go for the asteroid. But I still have to remember, stop working. The factory actually does have to stop. We’re not factories, but we think we’re supposed to be like factories.

And in fact, our productivity on all fronts goes like this. And if we try to fight the waves, we just end up crashing and burning and exhausting ourselves more. So follow the pattern of your own energy into the deep places, into the still places. And if anybody is arguing with you, shut them out for a while. There’s a story in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way about somebody who wanted to… I think it was a painter. He put up a sign outside his studio that says, “Go away. I’m painting. This really does mean you. Yes, even you.” It’s like, “Seriously, I need to replenish.” And we need to be that fierce sometimes about protecting our own boundaries because that’s the way we get the water of life. And without the water of life, drought is a bad way to go, folks. Let’s not do that. Let’s just not do that.

Okay. Laura says, “What do you mean about going deeper?” When I’ve felt in crisis and without outer resources, people and options, I’ve gone within and basically asked for help. Is that what you mean?” Yes, that is one thing. And that’s pretty well… We have a cultural model for, “Please help me.” We have not-for-profit profit agencies. We have charitable giving. That stuff’s in our mindset. What isn’t in our mindset is, “I am in crisis and I’m going to go within and I’m going to ask for help, but then I’m going to keep going.” I’m not going to stop investigating inside my own consciousness until I hit water, until the well starts coming up through the bedrock. It often means being by yourself physically for a while, even if that’s in the middle of the night. That’s often when it happens to people. And it means you go to your desperate need for help, and then you go deeper to the one who is desperate for help. And then you go deeper to the one who is watching, the one who is desperate for help.

And then if you can go into that, you find that it is holding the one that is desperate for help. And if you keep going, it ultimately begins to vaporize. This could be just moving to the right hemisphere of your brain or it’s a spiritual phenomenon. I think it’s both. The edges of things disappear, sense of self disappears, the need to control disappears, and there is nothing but consciousness in love with itself. That’s the mist. That’s where you can pull energy straight from consciousness without even having a conduit. It doesn’t have to be another person. It doesn’t have to be an event. It doesn’t even have to be a thought. It is the ability to dissolve into the mist of consciousness and find that it’s infinite and you have plenty of access to all of it as long as you have no concrete sense of a limited, small, scared self. So, go deep and then go deeper.

Purple Apple Art says, “How do you recapture the feeling of fun, play and joy?” I think it’s hard to have fun when you’re exhausted. I think trying to make it fun when you’re exhausted is what leads people to things like cocaine, crystal meth, even Red Bull. God bless, its hard. I ended up in the hospital once because I relied too much on Red Bull for a while. So we’re trying to get fun when we’re exhausted because our culture does not think it’s fun to just go into a coma and be inert going within yourself and feeling the space of the universe.

But here’s the interesting thing, I don’t mean literal coma of course. I mean, what looks like a coma to the outside world. If you can go that deep, like during the meditation we just did, I felt kind of a wave. It went up for a while, then it receded, then it went slightly up again, and I could feel how much energy was being generated at least for my receptors. Now, when that energy rises, I have many times had the experience of being with people who were exhausted, out of options, angry at each other because we just had nothing more to give, panicked, not a good situation. And then something happened that allowed someone to let go. And what it usually is, is a joke.

Remember, we’ve talked about how the right hemisphere of the brain only does language when it comes to jokes, songs, and poems. That’s a really good source of snowpack by the way. If you want to go to your favorite songs, jokes and poems, they’re very, very nourishing. They’re full of the water of life. And it leads you into the other aspects of the right hemisphere, like the sense of mystery and the sense of self dissolving.

So what I would say is get enough sleep, eat your vegetables, exercise and moderation, all that stuff, and you’ll have more fun. But if you are really desperate and you still want to get to fun before you’ve really filled the energy well, check the snowpack of songs, jokes, and poems. They’ll really pick you up. They will really pick you up.

All right. NianDX10 says, “Can I use this technique to relieve my financial drought?” It’s interesting. I think that we can. One thing I’ve really learned is that money is energy, and when I grasp for it, it eludes me. When I do not grasp for it, but I am in my joy as a spirit, it comes to me. And this is why coaching is a thing. And I never, ever, ever meant to create a coaching system or become a life coach, but I love working with people. And for me, it’s about the uncovering of the passages toward enlightenment that each of us is carrying around. So when people do that and they take that approach… Again, that’s my approach. It’s not everybody’s, but mine. I happen to be from a long line of people who were very spiritual in their nature. Maybe I inherited more than most people. But what I’ve found is that when I do things for my soul’s joy, money comes. When I do things that I think, “This has to work,” it never works. It never works.

I’ve been trying so many years and the only thing that works is when I let go and allow myself to be pulled forward into… I let the river of the water of life carry me. And then if I can take my sticky hands off the controls, money can come from many directions. I know it’s responsive to my energy. I just haven’t quite figured out how. But I’ve told you what I know and I hope it helps.

Okay. Finally, ConstellationsInHerPhone says, “Is there a way to hold space without helping?” Absolutely. You can use Tibetan Tonglen meditation, which is simply to be with someone and get really calm yourself. That is the absolute key. You cannot give spiritually and energetically from a place of anxiety. It will not work to try desperately to make someone feel better. Trust me, I spent decades trying. And the only thing that ever works is to go inside your own space, stillness and silence. Gather spiritual sustenance from the snowpack, from the rivers, from the rain, from the mist, from the asteroids. Know that you have your supply. Relax into that. And then say to the person or people in front of you, “If you’re troubled, then stay with me, for I am not.” That’s what people need most. That helps them go find their own asteroids. There was a place that looked absolutely devoid of the water of life. Suddenly, there’s a new fresh supply that comes from we know not where.

Thank you so much for joining me on The Gathering Room today. I hope it filled the well a little bit for you. I hope you spend the rest of the day and the week and your life filling that well. Great work if you can get it. And I love to do it along with my best friends on the Gathering Room. I’ll see you later. Bye.

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