Earlier today, I received my daily dose of good medicine: poems and photos, courtesy of Joe Riley and his Panhala site.  Today’s gift a fond favourite by William Stafford.

The Way It Is 

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

This poem reminds me of a wonderful book I was invited to read when I visited Sufi friends in Cologne, Germany, four years ago today. Balancing Heaven and Earth is Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson‘s memoir, he the author of several pithy volumes on understanding masculine and feminine psychology and romantic love, He, and She, and We.  In it, Johnson refers to moments of guidance and right action where he followed the “slender threads” of his soul.  Introducing us to the notion in the book’s prologue, he writes:

“It is an audacious notion to put forth in this age of science and willful determination that one’s existence is somehow inspired, guided, and even managed by unseen forces outside our control.  Whether called fate, destiny, or the hand of God, slender threads are at work bringing coherence and continuity to our lives.  Over time they weave a remarkable tapestry.

…Some people seem to exert more free will over their lives.  They make plans, set goals, and proceed with full confidence of being in control.  That has never worked for me, despite my best attempts.

…In my youth I floundered around and followed the slender threads only when I felt like it or when they seemed to be taking me where I already wanted to go.  I often struggled to oppose them.  As the fruit of my old age, however, I have finally come to trust the mystery.  The mystery is this: there is one right thing and only one right thing to do at every moment.  We can either follow or resist the slender threads.”

Across the pages of his life and this book, Johnson illuminates and gives voice to these threads and their impact – sometimes subtle, always significant – on shaping him.

Of late, I haven’t been able to find the thread.  Some days, it’s felt as if I lost or let go of it, when actually it’s simply been hard to see, so fine as to be invisible.  In what I’ll call a ‘consciousness gap’ – like the knowing-doing gap – I am re-remembering how to rely on sensing rather than only seeing.  Discerning signals from my body’s knowing: Does this feel good? Make me smile? Sit lighter on my shoulders, in my heart? Does my face feel “normal” or tingle with residual, bell weather Bells Palsy sensations?

Trusting a deeper knowing that has next to nothing to do with what I think, plan, or control.

Following the ineffable.  Slender threads.

4 - The Web

6 thoughts on “Threads

  1. Lovely, Trusting that when the time is right, the thread will appear. I will look with wonder and gratitude on that thread with you. . .blessings.


  2. I found this poem a little disconcerting when I first read it, but after reading your ‘supporting material’ I think I get it. I especially like the phrase “The mystery is this: there is one right thing and only one right thing to do at every moment. We can either follow or resist the slender threads.”
    It makes me think of all the people who follow the crowd instead of following their inner voice. Taking the time to think and feel before moving forward is almost becoming a lost art. Thanks for bringing it back to the conscious level.


    • Terri, thank you, again, for your thoughtful reply. For me, your life is so illustrative of the thread – from when we knew each other as teens, and your life and marriage now. So I wonder if others might see our threads more apparently that we, ourselves?


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