Filling The Well

by | Jul 15, 2013 | Anxiety, Relationships | 23 comments

IMG_2719There is a pervasive emptiness that afflicts a great many people in the modern world. On the heels of last week’s post and in response to the number of my clients who share that they feel like they’re living with a hole or numbness inside, I’d like to offer my prescription for filling your inner well when it has become dry. For nobody is born with a dry well; it’s our birthright to experience life in all of its richness, to open our hearts to the sadness, joy, and awe that are our constant companions on this planet, and to feel wholly alive. It’s only in response to pain and without skilled caregivers who can guide us on how to keep our hearts open through the pain that we shut down and go numb. It requires real commitment to learn to fill your well, to unravel the walls around your heart that began like soft gauze and, over time, hardened into plaster.

Before I offer my prescription, it’s essential to understand that any of the following actions can be approached with a mindset of avoiding and protecting or of learning and softening. For example, you can approach meditation with an intention to avoid and transcend the pain and messiness of life or you can approach it with an intention to learn how to accept and breathe into what is. The same is true for connecting with others: You can seek social stimulation as a way to quiet your restlessness or you can socialize as a way to genuinely share time, experiences, and your inner world with others. As life cannot be split into black or white terms, it’s likely that your intention may be a blend of both sides of the coin. And as intention can shift from moment to moment, setting your intention isn’t a one-time choice but a moment-by-moment examination of what’s motivating your actions.

If you feel empty or restless and have a sense that you’ve been using people or substances to fill you up, it’s likely that you’re operating from a self-abandoned place, meaning that you’re hoping that something else will fill you up and rescue you from your pain. No matter what happened or didn’t happen as a child – no matter how present or absent your parents were – the path of true healing requires that you let go of wishing that someone else would take the pain away and recognize that, as an adult, the only person that can truly show up for you is you. Living life from a self-abandoned state where you’re handing your inner self/pain/soul over to others creates emptiness.

So before you engage in any of the activities below as way to fill your well, you must first establish a connection inside, find the courage and willingness to feel your pain (and I’m using pain as an umbrella term for any uncomfortable feeling, including disappointment, frustration, loneliness, helplessness over others and outcomes, vulnerability, loss, fear, anxiety, etc), and orient your mindset in the direction of learning, growing, and softening.

How do you fill the inner well? There are many paths, and what works for someone else may not work for you. But deep inside you have a sense of what floats your boat, what makes you tick, what sends a quiet or raucous quiver of YES reverberating through your being. As you read through the following list, notice that sense of yes inside of you. And then take the actions that call your name.

1. Being in Nature

And I really mean being in nature, meaning that you can approach nature with an attitude of accomplishment or even conquering or you can allow nature to be the medicine that fills you up from the soles of your feet to the tip of your brain. There was a day last week when I felt so disconnected that before I even had time to think my legs were leading me down to the creek where I sat down, fully clothed, in the rushing water. This natural body of water is my medicine. I needed to sit fully in it – not near or by or next to but in, submerged, like being on fire and allowing the coolness to douse the flames. Inhaling and exhaling I could feel my soul incrementally relax, my brow unfurl, my body soften. Nature is the Great Mother and when we allow ourselves to surrender into Her arms, she catches us like a soft pillow.

2. Music and Dance

Like nature, music and dance offer free, easily accessible remedies for the restless soul. I don’t know many people who, deep down, don’t respond positively to music and dance. Music opens the heart via the channel at the top of your crown and dance opens you through the infinitely wise and naturally free vehicle of your body. If you let yourself, you can dance your way to freedom and serenity.

3. Creativity

I’m always inspired and amazed when I ask my clients what they enjoyed doing as a child. Occasionally someone will say, “I don’t know” or “Not much, really,” but the vast majority will say, “Oh, I was so creative as a child. I loved writing stories and putting on plays. I painted and worked with clay. I was always engaged in something creative.” Where did that go? Does natural creativity die with age? Absolutely not. There’s an ember inside of you that’s waiting for you to fan it into fire. Everyone is creative. If you dream, you’re creative. And if you’re anxious, you’re evidencing creativity gone awry (the endless “what if” scenarios you create in your mind are actually creative!). You may not have accessed your positive creativity in many years – or ever – but I assure you that there’s creative expression inside of you waiting to be known. And when you touch into it and allow it to blossom, you’ll experience an aliveness unparalleled on this earth. Creativity unleashed is the elixir that calms the misguided longing for romantic love. When you’re tapping into your creativity, the need for a partner to fill your hole falls away.

4. Spirituality

A dear friend of mine once said that spirituality is very comforting for the anxious mind. I would widen that statement to say that spirituality is very comforting for any mind. By spirituality I don’t mean religion, although religion can certainly include spirituality. By spirituality I mean cultivating a direct, meaningful, personal relationship to Spirit (God, Nature, wisdom, love, light; whatever word works for you). Every single person on the planet has direct access to the wisdom and comfort that is Spirit. You don’t need a church or synagogue or priest or any person or place to connect to this wisdom. It’s around you just as much as the air you breathe. It’s riding on your breath. In fact, close your eyes right now. Put one hand on your heart and another on your belly – “the two most loving hands in the world’, as my yoga teacher says – and take one mindful breath. And now take another breath and imagine that love is all around you. For one moment, let yourself experience the divine light that is always surrounding you. Allow yourself to derive comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

5. Meaningful Work

Like creativity and spirituality, we are all born with innate gifts, ways that we’re meant to serve the planet. For some people, these gifts may manifest as work that generates income; for others it may be creating a beautiful and nourishing home for a family, tending a garden, or devotion to a meditation practice. When you’re connected to your purpose for being here, you naturally feel the waters of your well rising.

6. Acts of Service Studies now show that people who regularly volunteer or serve are happier than those who don’t. We think we need to fill up by taking in some way, but it’s actually through giving that we’re offered one of the greatest sources of satisfaction.It’s important to remember here the importance of intention, as it’s certainly possible to give with the hope of filling up, which is actually giving with an agenda or giving to get instead of purely giving to give. By the way, not only are these some ways that you fill the inner well, but they’re also antidotes to anxiety.

Breaking free from anxiety requires a three prong approach where you’re attending to your mind, body, and spirit via daily practices like journaling, mindfulness, prayer, meditation, dance, yoga, eating healthy food, and unleashing your creativity. Sound hard? Well, yes, it’s not the easiest work in the world and asks a lot more of you than spending your time on Facebook. But if you’re looking to quiet your mind, open your heart, still the restlessness, and experience the fullness of your being that is your birthright, there’s no other way.



  1. Sheryl, another wonderful and well timed article. Thanks so much for your work, and reminders on our power and responsibility to fill our own well, and take that burden off our partners, or seek to be their well before we have filled ours.

  2. Sheryl, I woke up this morning feeling depressed and overwhelmed – like I was not worth the effort it would take to get up, study and update my resume. But here I am, up and dressed, and reading your reminder to fill my well. Thank you.

    I came upon your site a few months ago when my dearly beloved partner broke up with me after 8 years together. I had known for a long time that he had(has) a problem with depression and anxiety, and I was looking for resources for him to use so he would see that our relationship was worth keeping. Maybe it’s because he is male – maybe it’s because you can’t change other people – I didn’t get through to him, and efforts since then have gone unanswered (you REALLY can’t change an ex-boyfriend!!) But I continue to get your newsletter and to click through to your wonderful articles, because they help me to heal and to grow.

    Your work is a real gift – I wish you tons of love and positive energy, and your own full well. Blessings…

    • Thank you, Catherine. Your words touched me deeply.

  3. Sheryl,

    WOW, this article was just what I needed today. I woke up feeling like my well was dry…or that I was at the bottom of a dark well.

    I love your story about the creek…It got me wishing I had one in my backyard that I could walk over to on days like this and do as you did. I am realizing nature may be my healing place too, the place where I feel the weights of anxiety lift off my shoulders.

    My fiance proposed on a winter hike just the two of us were on. I think he knew what I am just begining to understand, nature is a true healer.

    Thank you, Sheryl.

  4. Yes this so inspired and resonated with me. Thankyou for this!!! This week i found myself drawn like you described to nature as if my lungs depended on it for air. I find it fascinating how needy I feel for nature, scents from certain plants remind me of childhood and freedom, and dirt on my hands makes me feel GOOD! 🙂 This week I felt a great desire to re-pot my poor mint plant who was being strangled in her small pot. When I re-potted her I could literally breathe better knowing the roots weren’t tangled up.

    • Beautiful, Tanya. Our connection to nature is so deep that it makes perfect sense that you could breathe better knowing that her roots were untangled. We are nature and She is us… : )

  5. “For nobody is born with a dry well; it’s our birthright to experience life in all of its richness, to open our hearts to the sadness, joy, and awe that are our constant companions on this planet, and to feel wholly alive. It’s only in response to pain and without skilled caregivers who can guide us on how to keep our hearts open through the pain that we shut down and go numb.” Thank you for this post and others, Sheryl. With two very young children now, they have put me on the spiritual path of learning to heal, let go, and love in a profound way I have never known until now. I am also hoping to teach them to stay open so they won’t have to undo walls around their hearts when they are my age. It is so clear to me observing them now how perfect and open they are and how full their wells are and that it is through protective responses to pain that we learn to close. What can we do to help our children? How do we become skilled at guiding children to keep their hearts open? Especially when we ourselves are working on healing and filling our wells?

    • Wonderful question, Erin, and just the fact that you’re asking it indicates that you’ll teach your kids exactly what they need to learn. Nobody’s perfect; we’re all in a process of healing and growing. If you’re working to keep your heart open and you model that to your kids, they will learn that as well. This article may help:

  6. Hi Sheryl,

    Loved this post today. One bit that i struggle with in-particular is the meaningful work bit. I just don’t know what i want to do. I know that i’m really creative and have a lot of energy to put into something, i’m just struggling to channel that into a career.

    How do you find out what your purpose is?

    • You spend time listening to your yeses, that quiet whisper inside that is drawn to what you love. And sometimes your purpose isn’t necessarily your work, meaning that you can channel your creative energy in one direction and find work that serves you practically somewhere else. When the two intersect that’s wonderful, but it’s not necessary to a fulfilling life.

  7. here I am full of anxiety and a restlessness inside of me, i just wish it would evapourate away, I blame my partner but really i know its me.
    I love him, im unhappy within myself is the truth, i am not content and have so much anxiety within me about life, my child will he be okay even though he is perfectly healthy etc. Its really about my severely dysfunctional relationship with my own family yet I am here today searching the internet that I am not satisfied in my sex life when really i have no major complaints its more about talking with my partner about what works for us and taking some responsibilty myself, i just am putting my own lack of personal responsibiliy for everything in my life onto my husband as I have never really taken responsibility for myself in life ever someone else always takes care of me because i felt i needed them too feeling inadaquate that i could manage it myself.
    its about time i grew up and dealt with my own pain and perhaps buy a sketch pad lol I loved drawing as a child and never thought to do it, thanks for your insight.

    • Starting with a sketch pad would be wonderful, but you’ll also need to be willing to face your stored pain from your past and learn to fill yourself every day through connecting inside. This is where any process that helps you turn and face yourself comes in: yoga, meditation, mindfulness, journaling.

  8. Thats true Sheryl, I know that myself sometimes it just feels like i am never going to change I am who I am, its my personality to stress out I never really ever saw myself being in a relationship longterm and sometimes its just stressful because i dont know myself and I do not yet love myself it feels confusing to have such strong love from my husband and yet these feeling within myself. Thanks so much for your reply.

  9. Sheryl, I guess my question is how do you hear the loving side when your fear mind is so loud. Here lately the anxiety has spiked up a lot worse an the fear an doubt is all I hear,every now an then it’s like my inner child tells me that I do still love my partner. Is that what the inner child/core is your true feelings and how you really feel?

  10. Thanks for the true, conforting reminder. Love

  11. Does anyone else feel like trying things won’t help? Ill start to get excited over something and it’s like that will even make me feel empty for my boyfriend it is weird. I’m going to see my favorite band next month and thought I’d be excited, but I’m dreading their sad songs. Yesterday I was watching their concert and I started jammin, I was feeling good about my boyfriend and I, but when I started getting into the music I just felt this emptiness come over me for my boyfriend. I use to be happy about my boyfriend and my favorite band. Now I can’t be happy about the band when I’m feeling this way over y relationship. Does this make any sense!

  12. Sheryl, its been 2 months since i broke my anxiety barrier. I was feeling much better and loving than before. But a couple of days back, i started to remember those days when my anxiety was at peak and i was in thick swamp of fear. These old thoughts have suddenly made me anxious again and i am feeling scared that what should i do? How do i deal with this situation? Please help.

    • Sam I was just wondering how were you able to break your anxiety?

      • Through continuous loving actions towards myself and my partner. My fear did not gone but i had courage to face it.

        • I don’t know how to face my fear. I don’t even know how I feel anymore. I feel so empty and how can I feel that way to the man I love? And the day before the anxiety I felt all that and knew how much I love him. A stupid thought caused this and I don’t know how to get back. I’m so empty and emotionless. I don’t know what to do anymore.

  13. I feel worse now than ever. I feel like nothing is going to take this pain away. Am I really going to lose my dream come true over this?! I can’t take this empt feeling.

  14. beautiful 🙂 simply amazing like all your articles 🙂


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