Sunday, July 10, 2016

Following the Path

The Way It Is
William Stafford

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 weekend I participated in a retreat with a group of women called "Following the Path" here at the Mount. We used Joan Chittister's book by the same name, and guided by Joan, engaged in conversation about happiness and the pursuit of our passions.

I had participated in this same retreat two years ago, and that was the moment when I knew it was time to start seeking with this Erie Benedictine community. So, I was looking forward to reflecting on the same material at a different point in my journey. When I went back into my journal from July 2014, I found that the big moment on that retreat was the clarification between a job and a life. Our society isn't necessarily good at knowing the difference.

This time a big takeaway for me was another insight into society. First though, I need to mention the fact that we spent a lot of time reinforcing the truth that we have responsibility for our own journeys; no one and nothing hold that responsibility for us. Yes, community will support us on the way, but like Søren Kierkegaard says, "We create ourselves by our choices." The question then becomes: How much of what society says my happiness and passions should be can I shed in order to feel my own happiness and follow my own passions?

The thread about which William Stafford writes, it seems, is the most essential thing. God gives each of us a thread to follow in our lives; that thread is our passion that will guide us on the path to full happiness. The thread will not be God, but it will point us in the direction of the Divine; it will give us a taste of the Divine here on Earth; it will call us into a life lived in union with the Divine.

So, when I follow my path, I have to listen very closely because society often tries to tell me what my thread ought to be. But what my path ought to be is my own, my own unique journey. Yes, it is a challenging, beautiful, growing, evolving, imperfect journey, but it's my mine, and I don't want to let go of it.

Let us walk in the holy presence.