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The Pit

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(Note: When I was in my first Practitioner training back in 1997-1998, a friend of mine called me with a rather distressing problem. I did some work with her over the phone, and it was so effective I decided to write it down. It ended up in the form of this fairy tale. Many people have read it since then, and most of them report having had it affect them deeply. The images are quite powerful. Enjoy it.)

A long time ago I heard a story of a young woman. She was friendly and fair, and many people took advantage of her nature and mistreated her. This made her very unhappy, as it would, and she somehow came to believe that she deserved this.

One day, after yet another example of mistreatment, she went for a walk and got lost in her own thoughts when she found a large pit in the ground. Carefully she peered over the edge and into the blackness. “It has no bottom,” she thought to herself. “It goes on and on forever.” Deeper and deeper, her thoughts drifted… and the darkness of the pit seemed to call to her, call her name, invite her to lose herself in the pit. And she found that she felt nothing as she allowed her mind to drift into the dark of the pit, and that was better than the hurt. Before she knew it, dusk had fallen, and she wandered home.

She didn’t, at first, visit this pit every day… just now and then, she’d find herself there, staring into it, feeling nothing, numb. Soon enough, she learned to make her way there daily, then twice a day or more… until eventually she’d wake up in the morning and go directly to it, going home at the end of the day. It was much better, she thought, than spending the day hurting, and maybe she was right, I don’t know.

One morning she awoke and she was already standing by the pit. She had fallen asleep there the night before, staring into the dark. And she found that seemed to be all right. Because when she wasn’t there, she was thinking about being there.

Nobody else understood why she didn’t want to talk to them or do anything with them anymore… why, she hardly slept and sometimes didn’t even bathe, because she spent all her time somewhere they didn’t know. People tried to get her to stop… even tried making her stop, and then they went away. They just didn’t understand that the pit kept her from them so they couldn’t hurt her anymore. And the world began to pass her by.

Summer came, and she was walking toward her pit (for she had begun to think of it that way, as her pit), when out of the corner of her eye she saw movement, and heard a funny little noise coming from that movement. A small, joyous noise it was. She looked, and saw a butterfly alternately chasing and being chased by a puppy. What a sight! She stood there and watched the game for a bit, and soon heard an odd noise. Looking around, she saw nothing, and watched the game a bit more. She heard that odd noise again, and so did the puppy, because he looked right at her. She realized that the odd noise was her own laughter. And the puppy, inspired by its own ability to entertain, scampered over to her and licked her ankles. And she laughed at that too.

“I’d love to play with you,” she said, “but I have something to do.” And she walked on. The puppy tilted its head quizzically and then followed her. “No, don’t come. I can’t play with you now. Go on! Go home and play,” she said to the friendly little puppy. And she went on to her pit.

The next day, the little puppy was waiting in her path, with a happy grin on its face. So she played a bit of catch with it and again sent it on its way. Her face felt funny from smiling as she continued to her pit. And as she began to stare down into the darkness, visions of her new little friend flashed into her mind, and the darkness began to call to her louder than before. She could understand what it was saying.

The following day, her puppy (for she had begun to think of it that way, as her puppy) wasn’t waiting for her, and she was surprised to feel disappointment. She hoped something hadn’t happened to the sweet little thing. So she went back to town and wandered through the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of her friend and muttering, “if I’d just go to my pit all this would go away. Yes, it’s just like before, the pit is my only friend.”

“Pit?!” she heard a creaking voice behind her ask. She turned, surprised and embarrassed, and saw a woman. Dressed in black, bent with age… but her eyes were those of an infant, wide and clear and warm.

“Yes… it’s mine… no one knows of it but me.” Thinking the woman may have seen the puppy, she asked “Have you by any chance…”

“Seen your pit? No. I’ve seen my own. I can tell by looking at you what kind it is. Dark and without a bottom it is, and it knows you by name, and calls to you it does, does it not.”

“You have one?” the girl asked.

“No more. It served me well for a time, yes it did, and I served it too, fed it for a while. You feed your own. I can smell you from here. You don’t bathe. You don’t sleep and you eat poor, because it calls you. You’re here, now, and not there, and it speaks your name still in your mind. Why be you here?”

“I don’t know. I’m looking for something.” The old one had confused her. How did she know these things? “Are you going to tell me to stop going?”

“Hell, no, child, no. Go all you want. Live there if you so choose. Here, take this too.” From a fold of her old black robe, the old woman produced a small ball of perfectly clear crystal. “Pretty it is, and gets warm at times, so take it with you. Try not to look too deeply into it.”

The girl took her gift. She didn’t know how not to. And she went to her pit. She didn’t know how not to. And the closer she got to it, the more clearly it called to her. And the old woman’s words… what did she mean?

(I served it too, fed it for a while. You feed your own)

Closer still, feeling something warm in her pocket… the funny little ball. “Gets warm at times,” she said… and what else? Looking deeply into it? Pulling it out of her pocket, she looked at it. It was warm, a bit, and she could see herself… distorted reflection, she could still see that she looked not like herself. Her feet continued the familiar path, but her curiosity was caught by the reflection moving in the…

(Try not to look too deeply into it)

She saw the little puppy, grinning from inside the ball… then the two of them playing together the day before, and then the day before as it played tag with the butterfly. She saw other scenes, a dance she attended once… her first kiss, so long ago… the ball gave off a gentle, warmly colored glow as it showed scene after happy scene from her life… things she thought she’d forgotten about. The warm glow bathed her in the light, filled her it seemed, and she drew it closer to her eyes.

And it began to grow in her hands. And the feelings the light created inside grew and grew, filling her and swirling inside, seeming to burst out of her and enter elsewhere until she was bathed in a spinning, swirling, sparkling, brightly colored sphere, filled with joy, happiness, the light, scenes of happiness in her life on every side, inside. The more she felt it, the more powerful it got, and the more she could feel it, until she knew she’d burst with joy.

Throw it in, the old woman’s voice called from somewhere deep inside. Trust. Throw it in.

“Oh, no, I don’t want to! It’s so wonderful! I’ve never felt so wonderful!”


Closing her eyes, she tossed the huge, glowing ball into the pit. For an instant, she saw the darkness engulf the beauty… but before she even had a chance to think, a bright and soundless flash of colored light from the pit caused her to breathe a deep breath… and she looked deep into…

The darkness was gone, swept away. The pit now seemed illuminated from within. She saw it wasn’t bottomless after all; it wasn’t even deep. She saw that climbing out of it would be an easy task. And the quiet… the quiet that one only notices after a sound one has gotten used to suddenly stops… like when the church bell in the center of town finishes ringing.

She felt different, very different. How easy it is, she thought, to walk away from what once held her captive. Now she knew what the old woman meant

(I served it too, fed it for a while. You feed your own)

when she said what she did. She’d fed it long after it deserved feeding. Fed it with her life force. But no more. She still felt the light.

As she ran back home, her puppy was waiting for her in its usual place. “Come home with me, little friend. Come home.” Her little friend scampered after her.

Over the following years, she occasionally wondered where the old woman came from and whatever became of that wound in the ground she used to pay so much attention to. She was far too busy with her life… with her dog who got big but never seemed to grow up, with her new friends, with the handsome men whose eye her smile caught in the marketplace… to concern herself with it too much.

And as she grew old, she could look back on her life, remembering delight in her children and grandchildren, her love, her friends and family. One day she wandered, curious, to where she had spent so much time so long ago. She was interested to notice how small it was. It had all but closed over long ago. And something in the center of the small scar in the earth caught the sunlight. She walked over… recognized… smiled to herself… gingerly bent over as much as her old bones would allow, picked up the shiny crystal, and placed it in her pocket.

She resolved that she’d go to town tomorrow. And she smiled again to herself.

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 28th, 2007 at 7:13 pm

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  1. […] Would be gratefull for any suggestions. A woman with profoundly bad depression and I developed this story while she was in a mild altered state. Her metaphor for her state was a pit that, in her words, […]

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