One of the essential tools for the pilgrim as they seek to uncover their journey and determine which step to take next is the practice of following the thread.
The poet William Stafford explains this practice beautifully and hints at how intrinsic this process is to the journey in his poem, “The Way It Is.” “There is a thread you follow,” he writes. “It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change…. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Nothing you can do can stop times unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
This thread Stafford refers to is reminiscent of the thread in the Greek Myth of Ariadne, Thesseus, and the slaying of the Minotaur. In the story, Ariadne gives Thesseus a thread to lay on his way into the center of the labyrinth so that once he defeats the Minotaur he can easily find his way back.
Just like the thread given by Ariadne which guided her suitor to safety through dark, labyrinthine paths on his quest to slay the beast within, there is a Sacred Thread woven throughout our journeys to help us stay close to the Source and guide us along the path. This Sacred Thread can reveal to us the movement and invitations of the Divine in our journeys as we look back as well as help us to discern which steps to take and which direction to follow going forward. This is true for our pilgrimages abroad as well as our journeys in everyday life. I like to think of it as a golden thread that shimmers throughout our journeys with the evidence of Divine Presence.
Do you recognize this Sacred Thread shimmering in your own life? If you trace your journey back to its beginning, you’ll likely find a thread of discovery woven throughout, highlighting the many journeys you’ve taken in life and the direction in which the Sacred Guide has been leading you all along. It could be one main thread that seems prominent in your life or it could be many threads weaving their way through the tapestry of your journey.
Perhaps there is a thread of connection that led you to your current career path, or a series of events that fell into place in order to bring you together with your partner. Quite often it is a common thread that prompts us to make life-changing decisions or go on pilgrimage, and there is no doubt a thread of curiosity and desire that led you to this Path of the Pilgrim.
Once you know how to locate your Sacred Thread, you can use it to guide you forward as well. Similar to Ariadne’s suitor, you, too, can use your thread as a tool to aid in your quest, taking note of its look and feel so you can recognize it, grab hold of it, and continue to follow it closely as your journey unfolds. But how do you locate this Sacred Thread?
In order to find your Sacred Thread, you must follow the clues. The word “clue,” in fact, is a variation of “clew”—a ball of thread or yarn—and derives from the very thread that Ariadne gave to Theseus. The modern meaning of clue, then—”that which points the way”—is intricately connected to the practice of following the thread, guiding us in the direction of the Divine.
Here are five clues to help you locate your Sacred Thread:
What are the common themes in your journey? Oftentimes such recurring themes are like dots or stars in a constellation, the Sacred Thread connecting them to reveal something greater.
What do you long for? Longings are birthed in the deepest part of ourselves—the same place the Divine Presence dwells and the Sacred Thread pierces our souls.
What are your questions? Phil Cousineau, the author of The Art of Pilgrimage, says that “questions tune the soul” and reminds us that it is our questions that lead us to our quest. In the same way, our questions can help us identify our Sacred Thread and clue us in to the stirrings of the Sacred Guide who is always seeking to lead us on a journey of awakening.
Where have you lost opportunities on your journey, and where have new opportunities been found? “When one door closes, another opens,” as the saying goes. Something similar can be said of the Path of the Pilgrim—where one way ends, another begins. Though initially such a shift might seem like a change in direction, the Sacred Thread connects it all, revealing that something much deeper is at work.
When have you experienced a seeming-coincidence to be something more? This is called “synchronicity,” a term coined by Carl Jung describing events that seem related and yet cannot be fully explained. One might say they “shimmer,” leaving us with a sense of the working of the Divine.
Ultimately, the invitation is to align yourself with the Sacred Thread and, like Ariadne’s suitor, follow its lead, trusting that it will guide you closer to your True Self and the Divine, whatever twists and turns the path might take. Whenever you see a thread shimmer, practice curiosity, surrendering any other agenda at hand in order to see where it leads, for if it truly is a Sacred Thread, it will lead you straight toward the Divine.