This meditative sermon is rooted in the poem “The Way It Is” by William Stafford. It takes us into the realms of mystery, memory, practice, and the silence that resides in the heart.

What’s the thread you don’t ever let go of?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  • What’s the thread you don’t ever let go of? 
  • This question has two parts: the thread itself and the action of keeping hold of the thread.
  • Knowing that words always fall short, what words would you use to describe what the “thread” represents for you?
  • What practices support your efforts to keep hold of the thread?

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

I’d like to begin with a poem. It’s one I’ve shared with you before, probably more than once. I keep it hanging on the wall next to my art table and I read it over and over again. I keep reading it because I find it somewhat miraculous. I find it miraculous because Divine Mystery is hard to talk about. Language always falls short. But every so often, I read something that moves immediately past my ever judging mind into the space of my heart, where silence resides.

When this happens, when words drop my attention directly into the space of inner silence, something happens in my body, something shifts in the feeling of the moment. I’m transported somewhere beyond the anxieties and attachments of everyday life. I’m transported into the energy of ease and freedom. 

Of course, the word transported here is entirely wrong. Because the word transport communicates some kind of movement. Something being moved from one place to another. And while our market driven world would like us to believe that the state of ease and freedom is somewhere far off, I know from experience that it’s not. The state of ease and freedom is always present. It’s just that sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we let go of the inner silence that resides in the heart. And so in a state of forgetfulness, it can feel jarring to read something and suddenly remember.

But I’m getting ahead of myself… I wanted to begin with this poem by William Stafford called 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.

When I read this poem, I hear a drumbeat, I hear a repetition. My heart whispers over and over again: Remember, remember, remember.

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.

What’s the thread you don’t ever let go of? 

This question has two parts: the thread itself and the action of keeping hold of the thread.

Life is beautiful and complicated and painful and hard and joyful and amazing. Life is a lot of things. It changes day to day, moment to moment. We’re on this journey between the moment of birth and the moment of death. My teacher calls it the River of Life. Water rises up from the earth in a bubbling spring, then winds its way from stream to river until finally, it empties itself into the ocean.

I’m assuming, since you’re listening to this sermon, that you’re some kind of spiritual seeker. Which means you’ve decided to try and live your life with intention. With a sense of meaning. With a connection to mystery.

Which brings me back to the thread. As you navigate the river of life, as you move through the ever changing moments of existence in this world, what’s the thread you don’t ever let go of? 

In our study of the Bhagavad Gita last week, we talked about the inner war that rages inside each one of us. The war between different sides of ourselves. There’s the ego that understands itself in isolation, that sees itself as separate from everything and everyone. The ego self is that part that says “I am me.” The voice of the inner egothe I maker—can go in 100 different directions. It can bounce back and forth between judging and aggrandizing. Through the lens of ego and separateness, we can feel deeply unworthy one day and utterly special and deserving of praise the next. Our mind can be overrun with selfish desires, notions of all the external things that will bring us a sense of calm and ease, all the external things that we need in order to achieve happiness.

At the Yoga Church Gathering last week, one member asked: “So how do I calm the ego or bring it more into balance when it’s barking like a dog at me on so many levels?” 

This well articulated question brings us right back to the inner war raging inside of us. Because while the ego is loud—it is fighting for survival and separateness—it’s only one part of us. The teachings of yoga point us toward another part. A much quieter part. Unlike the ego barking its list of demands, this part of us speaks in whispers. Its voice is so quiet, that if we’re not listening to the silence within us, we might just miss it.

So let’s take a moment to pause, to get quiet. I invite you to feel your feet on the ground… Remember the Earth… Feel the air on your skin… Remember the sky… Remember the vastness of the universe… Feel the breath moving in and out of the body… Feel the shape of your body change in response to the coming and going of breath… 

If thoughts are present (and of course, they are!) don’t worry. Feel the breath moving in and out of the body… See if you can find the space of pause, it might be less than a second, between one breath and the next. After your next exhale, pay close attention. Can you find the pause, the space of stillness, before the next breath begins? 

Now, see if you can find the space of pause between one thought and the next. Again, it might be less than a second. That’s ok. Pause, listen inward. Don’t pay attention to the content of your thoughts, just watch the movement of thoughts. Pay close attention. Can you find the pause, the space of stillness, between one thought and the next? 

Allow your attention to drop into the space of the heart… Listen inward, what do you hear?… What do you hear when you get underneath the ever yelling ego, underneath all the conditioned ideas of right and wrong, underneath the noise of the external world? What do you hear when you direct your attention deep into the cave in the cave in the cave of the heart. Listen inward, what do you hear? 

What’s the thread you don’t ever let go of? 

There is no right answer here. There’s only your answer. 

The Bhagavad Gita describes an inner battle between different sides of ourselves. For the purpose of this sermon we’ll call them the ever barking ego and the thread. The ego is loud. It’s hard to forget. But the thread is a thread. Imagine holding a tiny thread in your hand. When you drop it, it’s hard to find. 

Keeping hold of the thread is a practice. 

It takes effort and consistency. It takes dedication and devotion. In order to keep hold of the thread, we have to pause. We have to get quiet and pay close attention. We have to find the space of stillness that exists between one thought and the next. Between one breath and the next. Between one feeling and the next. 

Keeping hold of the thread is a practice.

Again and again and again, every time we feel overrun by the ever barking ego and our well conditioned sense of desire and attachment, we have to pause. We have to search out the inner stillness of our heart and listen for the whispers.

What’s the thread you don’t ever let go of?

COMMUNITY COMMENTS

We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?