While the recent holiday season brought the chance to spend time with friends, engage in stimulating conversation, and laugh a lot, it also brought many conversations about what is happening in our country. Nearly every person expressed some level of fear, grief, anger, or frustration, and most were also at a loss for how to respond or what to do to make a difference. The sense of powerlessness was palpable in every conversation.

December articles in The New York Times referenced the sharp increase in depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear in the general U.S. population since 2016. The terms “democracy grief” and “climate grief” have been creeping into mainstream media language, describing the sense of mourning and loss that more and more people quietly acknowledge around those topics. The term “humanitarian grief” can’t be far behind. All three of these “griefs” are very much alive inside of me.

To be sure, what is happening in the United States is mirrored in other countries as well. On the surface, some of the stories and issues may be different. Yet down underneath, the emotional sources of fear and discontent are remarkably similar. The Great Breaking Open continues.

The Toll on Our Wellbeing

When politics and/or climate change come up in general conversation, the tone often turns cynical or sarcastic, and soon devolves into us-versus-them banter. However, more vulnerable, deep-seated feelings and emotions often remain unexpressed. Many people don’t feel comfortable or safe giving voice to their fear or anxiety in the company of others.

When feelings and emotions are suppressed, they eat away at our psyche. As that suppression spreads to a systemic level, it breeds tension, fear, and low-grade depression in the mass consciousness. Over time, this systemic tension takes a toll on our personal wellbeing—even for those whose lives are fairly balanced and stable.

My Own Struggle, and How I Am Finding My Way

In the last few months, I admit that I, too, have struggled. I am pretty skilled at being fully present with difficult realities and choosing carefully where to put my focus and energy. I can usually find a path to move forward in a constructive way.

More recently, that has been easier said than done. In the pile-up of all that has been breaking open at the same time, I have felt pretty worn down. For the first time in my life, I have started to understand on a visceral level how people fall into despair.

However, a few weeks ago while lying awake in the night, I remembered William Stafford’s poem, The Way It Is. I quickly looked up the poem and read it over and over. Stafford’s words washed through me like a healing balm. I began to find my way again.

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.

The “thread” is your life purpose or soul mission. That last line of the poem, You don’t ever let go of the thread, was, for me, the key. It reconnected me with the power, and maybe even necessity, of purpose, especially in unsettled times. More specifically, it reconnected me with my own soul mission, I liberate and empower. Suddenly, I felt anchored again.

Your “thread”—your soul mission—is not only a fundamental gift that you give to others; it is a gift that you must first give to yourself. Therefore, it is often your biggest life lesson—the big lesson that keeps coming around throughout your whole life.

A life lesson is not something that you learn just once and then you are done. It’s a lesson that keeps showing up again and again so that you keep learning it on deeper and deeper levels. As you keep learning, you keep growing. And as you keep growing, your gifts to the world around you make greater and greater impact.

Coming Back to Soul Mission Helps Us Find Solid Ground Again

When times are tough—when there is chaos and confusion around us—when we can’t find solid ground to stand on—when we feel like we are losing agency in our own lives—it’s easy to become unmoored. We can lose our grounding, lose touch with who we are at our best, and get lost in the fear and anxiety around us.

Coming back to our own sense of purpose—to soul mission—reminds us why we are here and what our lives are really about. We find solid ground again. We find reason for being and direction again. And we realize that we can make a difference, even in unsettled times.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
. . .
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.
[Just] don’t ever let go of the thread.

In the middle of the night, I got hold of my “thread” again. I found my purpose and direction again. The chaos and confusion in the mass consciousness have not gone away. I’m aware that I could be pulled off course again. Yet I also know now that if I hold on to my “thread,” it’s less likely to happen. And if it does, I know how to find my focus once more.

The same can be true for you. Hold on to your “thread.” The more of us who remember who we are and why we are here, the better chance all of us have of finding our way together.

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If soul mission or life purpose is something you still seek, you might consider joining us in the Netherlands October 1-4 when I lead the Soul Mission * Life Vision 4-day retreat for the last time. Alternatively, you can find other soul mission supports here.

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