Thursday, November 24, 2011

How to Untangle Knots (My mothers yarn)

I am obsessed with fixing broken things. I discovered this talent early on. I would untangle knots and thread needles for my mother. When my baby brother's swan shaped, night light shattered, I spent a week gluing the bumpy milk glass back together. Years later, after wasting an entire day--when my son was in high school--trying to find one lost item, I fessed up to my addiction.

Why do this? Eventually, I realized none of these items were THAT important (part of me knew this all along). I was after something significant. My earliest impressions suggested that something was 'not quite right' with the people and situations around me. Nothing calibrated. A project of inquiry began, fueled by fierce determination to get to the bottom of this problem. This quest has ruled my life.

My inquiry uncovered some basic questions:

What is it that I believe has been lost, broken or hopelessly entangled? Is there anything that isn't lost, broken or hopelessly entangled? Can I get to the unbrokenness by fixing broken things? If not, then what?

My approach was counter-productive (wasting time, draining energy, trying to solve endless 'problems' one by one). It seemed futile to be driven by such blindness. 

I actually just want TO FIND the realm that exists BEYOND problems and dilemmas.

I already knew that such a realm existed because IT's rays had often pierced the cloudy haze of chaotic life to reveal a sparkling, clear, spacious emptiness that enfolds us all. Yet there seemed to be no doorknob on this side of the situation. ENTANGLEMENT turned out to be my guide. The puzzle of 'The Tangled Knot' became my invisible doorknob. It started with my mother and her knitting hobby. 

I would hold a mass of my mothers tangled yarn in my hands and look at it.  Tight. Impossible to see where the snags and snarls had locked up the strands free flow. Space was obviously needed. So I began to loosen the entire ball of yarn by gently pulling at it from all angles in order to enlarge the size of the skein itself. By expanding it outward, more space was created within. I intentionally did NOT try to untangle any of the knots (because it became quite clear, early on, that by doing so they would only become hopelessly locked). 

Instead, by letting space breathe through the tangles, it was easy to see which direction each thread took, and how these threads crisscrossed each other. With such visibility there was room to gently maneuver the threads. It took time, but the entire ball of yarn would eventually become untangled. It was a relaxing endeavor whereby the value of SPACE was being utilized, appreciated and experienced. 

There was a sense of satisfaction each time I succeeded--as if I were 'on the trail'. Others liked it. I liked it. Thus began a life-long habit of following the trail, doing what I could do well. Unfortunately, I could do many things quite well. So it took decades before LIFE finally brought me to my knees in utter helplessness and despair. Once the more effective invisible doorknob of FAILURE began to haunt me--only then--did the real territory began to fully open itself. 

When we fall short of the standards we have subscribed to, it can feel like failure. Or Life, itself, might intervene to knock us off the 'safe & narrow' path we tread. Yet, even as this happens, we can easily miss the fantastic opportunity presenting itself: Hoping to avoid this thing called 'failure', we tend to run as fast and far away from it, as we possibly can. Rather than peer more deeply between the threads of its foreboding fabric, we fortify ourselves against it's insinuations; we seek images and beliefs designed to counter the bad ideas, whispered by our worst fears. 

One day, I finally reached my threshold, got fed up with being afraid, and stood up to FEAR, itself.  I was working in the NICU, when this happened. On my way to attend a high-risk delivery of a premature infant, I felt wearied by the continual sense of inadequacy that had always haunted me in my job. So I asked fear, itself, "What are you?" Thus began the longest walk down the hallway to L&D that I have ever taken before or since. 

I discovered that Truth was the opposite of everything I thought I knew: There is nothing to fear. There is nothing to know. There is no one to be. There is nothing to do. Yet, everything will happen, with and through LOVE if only we get out of the way and allow it.

See Waking Up to What We Are. (by 'swanfether' WHO IS 'ME', on the site where it is posted) if you want to know the 'STORY' of my long walk down the hall. Or better yet--see your own life, which is no doubt full of your own version of such discoveries . . .


  1. The visual of the tangled ball of thread is something I will take with me. I've untangled such masses on several occassions, with patience and a knack for it as well -- gently allowing spaciousness to aid in the untanglement is the key -- and I don't think I'd ever quite put this together in the more general sense -- but now, thanks to you, it makes perfect sense, is a perfect metaphor for the 'spiritual' process. What a wonderful discovery. :D

  2. Cool,Dee! I too love such imagery when it can become a tool to nudge me toward expansiveness, openess, and deeper availability. Your receptivity is always so delightful.


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