When I have a solid hold on “the thread,” I feel grounded and clear thinking. I “know” things are going to work out. All roads lead to Rome, as they say. Either work feels productive or I recognize it’s not and know enough to take a break. I feel willing to go with the flow and find value in whatever comes up.
I can be frustrated or sad and still hold the thread. When this is true, I do the work to resolve an issue or I lean into grieving. There’s no time delay between what’s happening around me and my appropriate response.
I’ve heard this described as authenticity, flow, being in the zone. Sometimes it can last a few days, sometimes I’m only there for a few minutes.
Then I lose “the thread.”
When I’ve lost “the thread,” my work stops. I don’t feel motivated. I eat more junk food, stay up later and sleep in. I watch a lot of TV, take a lot of baths, don’t want to answer my phone. The judgey voice in my head shows up and starts reminding me that I’m wasting my time, I’m unhealthy and my life plan is risky at best. I start searching for external validation that I’m safe and I’m going to be OK.
When I can see “the thread”, I can’t see how I could lose it. When I’ve lost “the thread”, I suspect this “thread” is just “magic pixie fairy dust,” a fiction I indulge to feel good. Luckily I’ve been in both states consciously enough times to confirm that both are valid and real for me.
I used to think the goal was to live with a firm grasp on “the thread” at all times. I used to think that other people could do this and I just wasn’t trying hard enough or I wasn’t smart enough. So many stories of people sticking with their dreams in spite of the odds, snatching success from the jaws of failure. So many stories about successful people rising at 4 am to meditate, work out, eat right and live high powered days. Five ways to this, ten steps to that. All these people had it all figured out. How could I still not be getting there?
I now believe we aren’t meant to hold “the thread,” to stay in flow, full time. There’s something about the contrast between being in and out of it that we learn from. Moving between the two states is necessary for growth. And all the documentation of how people got there, how they supposedly stay there and five or ten things you can do to get there too, are all just attempts to chart a path back to “the thread” when we’ve lost it. They are rituals that work for some (when they do) and may or may not work for you or me.
So, I’ll throw my ritual in there too.
When I’ve lost “the thread,” I don’t recognize it right away and I’ll be destructive for a while. First order of business when I realize where I am is to accept the destruction as a necessary part of the process. No need to beat myself up.
Next I indulge myself. Forcing myself to work when I want to watch TV or eat broccoli when I want chocolate has been proven, in my personal experience, to prolong the process. All the different parts of me have been agitated and out of sorts and now they need to feel pampered and safe.
Critically, I trust that if I pamper myself, give myself what I’m asking for, I will emerge, thread in hand, and carry on moving forward on the road.
A caution. Have you had the experience of having a scary dream, thinking you have woken up, then having more scary dream because you’re actually still sleeping? I have been known to tell myself I’m eating that seventh cookie because I need to pamper myself but then I wake up and realize that was me making excuses for destructive behavior before I recognized I had lost the thread. The ever clever voice in my head had used my healthy coping words to trick me into believing I was doing something healthy. As part of accepting destructive behavior as necessary to the process, I will have to accept that I ate those seven cookies. It’s tricky work.
A second caution. The pampering process takes time, inevitably more time than I think it should. That’s just another trick of the voice in my head. It can sometimes shut down the process by insisting I should be “better by now.” But, if I listen to that voice I am trying to force myself, which is the opposite of the experience of flow. Waiting until I’m inspired is always more productive than trying to force myself to when I’m resistant. If there is some kind of deadline looming, I know I will find the “desire” to be productive even if it feels more like survival than inspiration.
I’ve heard that even spiritual masters only hold the thread about 80% of the time. I don’t know if that’s true, but I like the notion. Myself, I’m happy just accepting that losing “the thread” is actually part of “the thread.”