Can we look to the origins of what it means to be well as a response to the current situation? Is it enough to be resilient, or is there more?

The Lancet recently described the current pandemic as a “crisis about life itself” (Lancet, 2020), suggesting that we need to look further than the biological effects of COVID-19. Perhaps a more sustainable response is to connect to the underlying roots of our health as a means for empowered wellbeing for ourselves, for our community, and for the planet?

A well is a place where humans interact with a source of water. In ancient Irish tradition wells were sacred, and still are in many places. Whether from the stories of Brigit’s holy wells or the Dinsenchas, Irish mythology indicates there is a deeper source of knowledge found in the earth’s water.

This knowledge flows along its waterways—the river Shannon from Connla’s well and the river Boyne from Nechtan’s well (ref Green, 1992). Streams of life-giving water arise from the well source deep in the earth. Not limited to Ireland, there are very many traditions in which wells and waterways symbolise the purity and source of life.

The archetypal symbol of the well seems to suggest that we might be advised to connect more deeply as a way to bring forth knowledge, health and wellness.

Using the symbol of the well, we at The Elmfield Institute, have coined the term Wellean Wisdom to describe an innate wisdom that we all carry and although it may be hidden, especially in times of crisis, we can find our way back to that wisdom.

We believe each of us holds a deep knowing of self and collective healing. Embedded in this wisdom is the idea that there are multiple definitions of and approaches to what it means to be well. Thus, there are many streams or paths to the well, each stream presenting a different choice on a different day.

At Elmfield, we have named seven streams flowing to and from the well—listening, relating, adapting, flowing, empowering, immersing and tending—a process that will evolve and flow as more engage and feedback.

For us, the key is that the streams flow into and out of the well. Thus, there is a reciprocity at the heart of Wellean Wisdom—a giving and receiving.

We come to the well when we need nourishment or support, and that which we receive from the well we share with others to sustain our community.

Wellean Wisdom is an evolving practice based upon qualities from diverse fields including depth psychology, trauma-informed neurobiology, empathetic presence, business leadership and creative practices. It goes much further than a biological wellness.

What does this mean?

It means deep listening to each other, having conscious relationships, and collective resilience through adapting. It means experiencing a flow state, embodying an empowered wholeness and a having felt experience of interconnection through a deep immersion. And it means allowing creative intelligence to emerge naturally through a tending to our intuitive knowing.

But what does that mean for me in my actual life in this time of a pandemic?

For me it means not having to do what I think others want, instead I listen to my inner knowing for guidance. I do this by listening to the wisdom of my body—I consciously and unconsciously scan my body for cues.

It means my nervous system supports me to be less fearful and more creative. It means that I have more choice how to act in each situation.

I have tools to help me ground and orient to the present moment. It means that I am more adaptable to change and to challenging circumstances. It means I have more awareness in relationships, personal and professional. It means that my body is under less stress so it can function more effectively. It means I can have more compassion towards myself and towards others. It means I have a closer relationship with nature. It means that I can be more self-compassionate and take one small step at a time.

And most importantly, it means I feel OK-enough as I am.

I can return to the well of collective wisdom whenever I need to draw from it, and I can offer these gifts to others when I feel well-enough to do so.

Some Wellean Wisdom practices for the pandemic coming up next…