A Thread to Guide Us

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 6:17 pm

A Thread to Guide Us

Here’s a William Stafford poem about the “thread” that runs through our lives — a thread that can guide us if we hold onto it:

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.

Holding on doesn’t make life any easier, but it can keep us from getting lost in the dark woods that swallow us up every now and then. Knowing we can find our way home with that thread in hand, we’re more likely to explore the darkness and learn what it has to teach us.

Feeding the geese at Kensington Palace in London. (Ian / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

From time to time, I lose track of the thread of my life. I lose it when I succumb to my own fears, or to other people’s expectations, or to the non-stop circus of distractions we call the modern world. So I need to take time to ponder a few questions, which is what I’ve been doing this week:

» As I look back on my life, what’s the thread that has given me a sense of meaning and purpose? How can I name or picture it in a way that will keep me more aware of it?
» Once I’ve reclaimed my lost thread and have it firmly in hand, what darkness do I need to enter and explore? For example, what fears do I need to face into and walk through to keep them from shutting me down?
» In what kinds of situations do I most often let go of the thread? How can I avoid those situations, or go into them better prepared to deal with their risks?

If you find these questions helpful, I’ll be glad. If you have thoughts or questions to share about holding onto the thread that guides your life, I’ll be glad for that, too.

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Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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