Talk Series: Meeting at the Well
By Sharon Grussendorff
At the well.jpg

The story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well is a powerful story, and I find that it carries a number of beautiful themes for the inner journey. So I want to use this as a theme for the next few reflections and meditations that I send out. My hope is for this to be an experiential series, so I invite you to work deeply with this theme in your own times of refection and quiet prayer.

The outline of talks for this series is:

  • Introduction: Introductory video with a reading of the theme passage (The introduction is about 5 minutes in length and includes a reading of the theme text with background music).

  • Talk 1: “Belonging" (This talk is about 15 minutes in length, and includes a short prayerful reflection at the end).

  • Talk 2: "The Inner Well" (This talk is 27 minutes in length).

  • Talk 3: “The Hidden Inner Work" (This talk is 27 minutes in length).

 

INTRODUCTION

The following is a guided quietening prayer:

Become gathered in receptivityGuided quietening prayer
00:00 / 03:52

Length: 5 minutes

Spend some time reflecting on the text that will be the theme of this series:

John 4:4-30, 39-41

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

...

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became his followers.

The promiseSecret Garden
00:00 / 03:21
 

Talk 1: “Belonging"

Length: 15 minutes

Music

The following song is a beautiful expression of the heart of God revealed by Jesus in this story:

The Heart of GodAlana Levandoski
00:00 / 03:25

Lyrics

The heart of God has been revealed

The heart of God has been revealed

To bring love, not hate

Pour out, not dominate

The heart of God has been revealed

 

The heart of God has been revealed

The heart of God has been revealed

To forgive, not blame

To make whole, not shame

The heart of God has been revealed

Hallelujah

Questions for reflection:

Tara Brach wrote:

"We yearn for an unquestioned experience of belonging, to feel at home with ourselves and others, at ease and fully accepted. But the trance of unworthiness keeps the sweetness of belonging out of reach."

  • Can you identify how the "trance of unworthiness" shows up for you? It may require some time in reflection to recognise this, as our social conditioning and the messages of shame and non-belonging that we have internalised can be very subtle.

  • One of our tendencies is to grasp for a sense of belonging, trying to manufacture an experience of connection and community. Recognise the ways in which you may be doing this.

  • Now take some time to get in touch with your longing for belonging. This longing itself is a "holy longing", carrying within it harmonics of God's longing for our homecoming. As you experience this longing in your body and emotions, surrender yourself to God, to this vast silent and tender embrace in your inner being.

"The ocean pours through a jar, 

and you might say it swims inside the fish! 

This mystery gives peace to your longing

and makes the road home

home."

-- Rumi

Home Is the HeartJanis Ian
00:00 / 03:58

Lyrics

There's a home for every heart
Like a diamond in the dark
When you least expect a spark, it shines
Some may move in right away
Some may build it day by day
Some may find they're too afraid to try

Home is the heart made real
Home is the heart we feel, made real

Sometimes there's a hiding place
You won't find a single trace
Of the love that used to grace these walls

Sometimes there's an open door
Where there wasn't one before
And the less you speak, the more it calls

Chorus

Mansions may grow cold
And one room shacks stay warm
New love may grow old
And not remember being born
But I believe the heart recalls
What lips forget, and time makes small
It lives on in these four walls

Spend some time reading the following poem slowly and reflectively:

I know that no matter how far we travel, 

how much we accomplish, 

how deeply we suffer, 

or how joyfully we dance, 

God is always with us in all of those things 

for the whole of our life’s journey.

 

That dark, silent, and mysterious place stays with us, 

housing the holy.

...

There are no extra props. 

There is just the darkness and the emptiness and, 

at the very heart of all that the Divine Presence, 

the Holy One whom we seek, 

breathing, hidden within us, eternally loving and waiting.

 

~Edwina Gateley

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk and some additional quotes for you to reflect on further:

Richard Rohr:

“This is the way that God seduces us all into the economy of grace—by loving us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot, or will not, or dare not love ourselves. God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change.”

Henri Nouwen:

Often I am tempted to think that I am loved only as I remain partially unknown. I fear that the love I receive is conditional and then say to myself, ‘If they really knew me, they would not love me.’ … What a joy to be fully known and fully loved at the same time! It is the joy of belonging through Jesus to God and being fully safe and fully free.

John O’Donohue:

Prayer is the bridge from longing to belonging

 

Henri Nouwen:

Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. ...

it is precisely that experience of abandonment that called you back to your true identity as a child of God. Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. But the danger remains that you will let other people run away with your sacred center, thus throwing you into anguish. It might take a great deal of time and discipline to fully reconnect your deep, hidden self and your public self, which is known, loved, and accepted but also criticized by the world. Gradually, though, you will begin feeling more connected and become more fully who you truly are —a child of God. There lies your real freedom.

 

John O’Donohue:

One of the qualities that you can develop, particularly in your older years, is a sense of great compassion for yourself. When you visit the wounds within the temple of memory, you should not blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you greatly regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. They have brought you to a place that you would otherwise have always avoided. You should bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Endeavor to inhabit the rhythm you were in at that time. If you visit this configuration of your soul with forgiveness in your heart, it will fall into place itself. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the exile of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.


Ending prayer:

 

May the gentleness and healing strength of the Holy One

The delight and vulnerability of the Way of Christ

And the graceful mystery of the life-giving Spirit of Truth

Be with you now and always.

Amen

Find Me in the RiverDelirious
00:00 / 05:09

Lyrics

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I've walked against the water
Now I'm waiting if you please
We've longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And bought our pretty crowns
But never paid the price

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the river
I'm waiting here

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I've walked against the water
Now I'm waiting if you please
We didn't count on suffering
We didn't count on pain
But if there are blessings in the valley
Then in the river I will wait

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the River
I'm waiting here

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the river
I'm waiting here for you

Come find me here

Find me in the river
Find me here for you

Oh wash over me

Find me here

 

Talk 2: “The Inner Well"

Well image.jpg

Listen to the following as an opening song:

Oh God, You Are My GodFernando Ortega
00:00 / 02:14

 

Lyrics:

Oh God, you are my God
Earnestly I seek you;
My Soul thirsts for you,
My flesh yearns for you;
In a dry and weary land
Where there is no water

I remember you at night
Through the watches of the night

In the shadow of your wings
I sing because you helped me
My soul clings to you
And your hand upholds me
You alone

Talk:

If you would like to follow the quotes used in this talk, they are pasted lower down on this website, under the heading "For further reflection":

Guided Prayer

The following is a 15 minute guided prayer practice on the theme of the inner well

Guided Prayer - Inner Well
00:00 / 14:58

Music

End the prayer time with listening to this song, based on a poem by St John of the Cross:

I know a wellJohn Michael Talbot
00:00 / 05:31

Lyrics

I know a well that flows and runs

Yet remains hidden.

Eternal spring, a hidden well,

Yet I know where it rises.

I do not know where it begins,

For it is eternal.

Every beginning and every end flow from this well.

 

I know nothing else so full of beauty

In the heavens and the Earth

For all beauty and all life

Drink from the water of her light.

I know this well will run eternal

Ever deep and ever wide.

And no one man can ever cross her

Without the faith from on high.

 

I know a well running clear with the light never darkened

I know this well does overflow to give light to mankind

This spring is hidden within the Living Bread,

Flowing from the Bread of Life.

And no one man can ever taste it without the faith from on high.

 

I know a well that flows and runs...

The Sacred Gaze:

Focus on the painting of the well in front of you. Let it engage you – affect you.

  • What do you see? Let your eyes travel over the whole of the image – and then rest where your attention draws you most.

  • Where do you feel invited to stop?

  • What happens to you as you contemplate the painting?

  • Breathe gently and rest with the image, opening yourself to receive whatever comes to you as you practice this sacred gaze.

  • Allow yourself to respond in prayer.

  • Now sit quietly with God, at rest in the presence of the One who loves you. Do not worry that you may appear to be doing ‘nothing’. Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the depths of your spirit, deepening your faith. Let the image and its message move from your head to your heart to dwell there in peace-full silence.

[Extracted from “surrender at midday”, http://www.unforcedrhythms.org/]

Inner well pic 1.jpg
Chant - You Shall Be Like a GardenJ Philip Newell
00:00 / 07:51

Lyrics

You shall be like a garden

Like a deep spring

   where waters never fail.

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk for you to reflect on further:

Meister Eckhart:

“I am sure, as a fact of my very life, that nothing is so close to me as God is close to me. God is closer to me than I am even to my own self. My very existence and being depends upon the fact that God is with me and is present. … human beings can know God and know that God is nigh.”

Etty Hillesum: 

“There is really a deep well inside me.  And in it dwells God.  Sometimes I am there too.  But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath.  Then He must be dug out again.”

 

Cynthia Bourgeault:

"The divine indwelling is the cornerstone of contemplative prayer, ... for it reveals the Source of our own being – the explosion of divine love into form which first gave rise to our personal life. It also reveals the direction in which our hearts must travel for a constantly renewed intimacy with this Source. As we enter contemplative prayer, we draw near the wellspring from which our being flows."

Gospel of Thomas Logion 74

Jesus said: “There are many who stand around the well, but no one to go down into it.” {repeat}

 

Jean Yves-Leloup:

“...Indeed, many people hang about, staring into the well, speaking of its springs, imagining how its waters taste. But words do nothing for their thirst! There are very few who are prepared to descend or to dig. Yet, as Meister Eckhart often reminds us, “the Spring is always there.” In order to drink from it, we must forget all our talk about it from the time when we were bystanders and be prepared to descend into the depths of our earth and clear away the excess dirt so that it can gush forth and fill the well.”

Etty Hillesum:

"I listen to myself, allow myself to be led, not by anything on the outside, but by what wells up from within."

St. Teresa of Avila wrote that those who are able to practice the “prayer of recollection” will receive “the water of the fountain”. “It is called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with its God. It’s Divine Master comes more speedily to teach it, and grant it the Prayer of Quiet."

Jacob Boehme:

“May my soul remain in resigned humility, as a fountain relies on its Source.”

Martin Laird:

"Silence lays bare this wound that seems to be with us for life and brings us face to face, "eye to eye" with what feels like nothing at all. In this spaciousness we wash in "the lovers' well" and discover that what may strike the senses as nothing at all, is paradoxically an overflowing fullness, … "an emptiness ever thronging". Silence alone will lead us to this discovery."

John O'Donohue:

"Each one of us is alone in the world. It takes great courage to meet the full force of your aloneness. Most of the activity in society is subconsciously designed to quell the voice crying in the wilderness within you. … Until you learn to inhabit your aloneness, the lonely distraction and noise of society will seduce you into false belonging, with which you will only become empty and weary. When you face your aloneness, something begins to happen. Gradually, the sense of bleakness changes into a sense of true belonging. This is a slow and open-ended transition but it is utterly vital in order to come into rhythm with your own individuality. In a sense this is the endless task of finding your true home within your life. It is not narcissistic, for as soon as you rest in the house of your own heart, doors and windows begin to open outwards to the world. No longer on the run from your aloneness, your connections with others become real and creative. You no longer need to covertly scrape affirmation from others or from projects outside yourself. This is slow work; it takes years to bring your mind home."

 

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the following after spending 17 days on her own on the West Coast of India: "How little I understood back then what a furnace of creativity aloneness can be—and what quiet delights a woman can discover when she is left to explore her own company. I also didn’t know back then that we are never really alone. There is Spirit—which never feels closer to me than when I’m in solitude. ... I did not very often feel “alone” out here. Instead, I have felt held, met, recognized. ... The older I get, the more greedy I become for my own stillness. So that is what I really want to say: It’s OK to be greedy for your own stillness. In that stillness, if you listen carefully, you just might hear the work that is longing to be created through you."

 

Isaiah 43:19

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

Ending prayer:

 

With you is the Source of Life, O God,

You are the beginning of all that is

From your life the fire of the rising sun streams forth

You are the life flow of creation’s rivers

The sap of blood in our veins

Earth’s fecundity, the fruiting of trees,

Creatures birthing, the conception of new thought,

Desire’s origin.

All these are of You, O God,

And I am of You.

You are the new day’s freshness,

The Source of Living Water welling up to eternal life.

We praise and thank you, our Beloved,

Amen.

[Based on a prayer by J. Philip Newell]

 

Talk 3: The Hidden Inner Work

Listen to the following as an opening song:

Christ in UsTwila Paris
00:00 / 02:58

 

Lyrics:

Christ in us, Christ in us
Christ in us, the hope of glory
Christ in us
There is just one confession
Christ in us

God with us, God with us
Who could ever be against us
God with us
There is just one confession
God with us

Christ in us, Christ in us
Christ in us, the hope of glory
Christ in us
There is just one confession
Christ in us

There is just one confession
Christ in us

Centering Prayer / Meditation

You can choose between a 10 minute timer and a 20 minute timer below, which each have a gong at the beginning and three gongs at the end. 

Ten minute silence timerSilence
00:00 / 10:25
Twenty minute meditationSilence
00:00 / 20:28

Music

End the prayer time with listening to this beautiful song:

Be still my loveDavid Kauffman
00:00 / 05:05

Lyrics

Be still my love, know that I am God
Be still my love, know that I am God

The mountains shake, the waters roar
The valleys tremble with fear
And yet our strength, our refuge sure
Whispers in our ear

Be still my love, know that I am God
Be still my love, know that I am God

Though nations fight, though kingdoms fall
Though spiteful hearts will harm
Your mercy holds us, we hear You call
We linger in Your resting arms as You say

Be still my love, know that I am God
Be still my love, know that I am God

Behold the works our Lord has done
To change our hearts of stone
God breaks our arrows, God breaks our bows
God calls us chosen, calls us God's own

Be still my love, know that I am God

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk, and some additional quotes, for you to reflect on further:

Matthew 6:5,6:

[Jesus said] “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Atisha:

“Words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us, therefore blow them away as you would blow your nose." 

Eckhart Tolle:

“Deriving my identity from my successes or reputation is a cheap substitute for who I really am”.

Henri Nouwen:

"Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain …, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. ... The temptation [is] to disconnect from that deep place in you where God dwells and to let yourself be drowned in the praise or blame of the world. ... Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. There lies your true freedom." (From The Inner Voice of Love)

  

Pema Chodron:

“When we cling to thoughts and memories, we are clinging to what cannot be grasped. When we touch these phantoms and let them go, we may discover a space, a break in the chatter, a glimpse of open sky. This is our birthright—the wisdom with which we were born, the vast unfolding display of primordial richness, primordial openness, primordial wisdom itself. All that is necessary then is to rest undistractedly in the immediate present, in this very instant in time. And if we become drawn away by thoughts, by longings, by hopes and fears, again and again we can return to this present moment.”

 

Thomas Keating:

“Centering prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them.  It is the opening of mind and heart, body and emotions–our whole being–to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions–beyond, in other words, the psychological content of the present moment.  In centering prayer we do not deny or repress what is in our (conscious thinking process).  We simply accept the fact of whatever is there and go beyond it, not by effort, but by letting go of whatever is there.”

 

Eckhart Tolle:

“Your life’s journey has an outer purpose and an inner purpose. … The outer purpose belongs to the horizontal dimension of space and time; the inner purpose concerns a deepening of your Being in the vertical dimension of the timeless Now. Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now. As you become more deeply aware of this one step, you realize that it already contains within itself all the other steps as well as the destination. This one step then becomes transformed into an expression of perfection, an act of great beauty and quality. It will have taken you into Being, and the light of Being will shine through it. This is both the purpose and the fulfillment of your inner journey. ”

Clearing, by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there

patiently,

until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself to this world

so worthy of rescue.

Ending blessing:

(from St Teresa of Avila)

Today may there be peace within you.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities

that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received,

and overflow with the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones,

and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance,

praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Amen.

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