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.


              –“The Way It Is” – William Stafford

What follows here was originally going to be a simple little LinkedIn blip. Then it started growing, and I thought maybe it should expand into an article.

And it kept growing.

And I realized I had a blog post that was writing itself, although it’s not the usual stuff behind the stuff. Or, maybe it’s more stuff-like than ever before.

I recently attended the Haden Institute Summer Dream and Spirituality conference in North Carolina. It’s one of the most stimulating and welcoming environments I’ve ever had the privilege to learn in. It’s not easy to describe what I encounter there or learn there (or dream there) to others, but it is intrinsic to who I am, walking around in the world. In Muir’s words, it is where I go to “lose my mind and find my soul.” Sometimes, it’s not even easy to describe to myself, so here I am again, in part, writing what I need to read. Thanks for the indulgence.

One of the keynote speakers, Jungian analyst, author, and lecturer Fanny Brewster, told us we are “required to share what we have learned.” Not encouraged, mind you, but required. She said we can refuse the call of the Hero’s journey, but we ultimately have to return to the place of discomfort and engage.

Not that I’m a hero, but ok. Discomfort and I go way back. Here goes.

My first thought was to share with you a series of quotes and tidbits that stood out to me throughout the weekend. Some of the best are questions, like:

“What desires to enter the world through me?”

Nothing like a little existential brain teaser to get the self-doubt juices flowing right off the bat.

Others are seemingly simple statements:

  • “While I am not you, neither am I other than you.”
  • “Our individual stories matter, but they are too small for the size of our souls.
  • Problems will be solved by a change of heart, not by strategizing. (ooh, that’s a toughie for some of my peeps)

And then, the poem that one keynote speaker readthe one I’ve put at the top of this postwas something my spiritual director (another keynoter) shared with me a few months back. When things repeat, I pay attention. So, let’s explore.

Sometimes when I try to describe my “thread, people get all kinds of uncomfortable. They shut down, and give me a little subliminal talk-to-the-hand sort of reply. “Spirituality?? Nah, I’m good. I’m not really into religion. Or conversely, I get a sideways glance indicating perhaps I’ve wandered away from my roots and gone a little “woo.”

Either response misses the point, as I’ve written before. Willfully so, I suspect. While dogma and certainty are more comfortable and easier to live with on the face of it, they don’t really lead anywhere. Surely we’re starting to learn that truth in this current state of the world? Until more of us begin to do our inner work (as Carl Jung hoped), however we might language or define that work, we will be stuck. And the more we do our inner work, the more we start to realize we know almost nothing about our Selves. How…uncomfortable.

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This thread I follow might not seem connected to the work I do, or am about to do. But clients come to me because they have stuck spots. Students come to learn about coaching because their clients have stuck spots (and they, of course, discover they have them too). And we all learn together that coaching to who we are is so much fuller and trickier than coaching to what we’re hoping to accomplish. We hit those unknown parts. It’s dark, and a little scary – and scary and I go way back, too.

What is: quantifiable, black or white, acceptable, proper, right or wrong, do or do not, and usually, fleeting. There’s not much to question there; no big risks to take. It’s fine as far as it goes, but also, it’s brittle. One little pull on a life-changing Jenga block and the “perfect routine or solution is not so perfect anymore.

Who is: messy, mysterious, fractured, patched-up, brilliant, confused, wise, shades of gray (and aubergine and chartreuse), lonely, and paradoxically constant. It’s other things, too, like pliable. That’s why we can never run out of questions and fully settle on perfect answers. But when we can speak aloud all that messy and mysterious stuff we’re discovering, in a safe setting, we can start to make sense of a few things. Who is a very cool thread to follow.

There’s more to say, but I think we have enough for now. I’ll close with an intermediate takeaway – a quote from the last session of the conference:

“The call is not to be someone, but to be who you already are…if we remember we come from wholeness, we cannot get lost.”

Sheila Petruccelli

Hold on tight, my friends.