Ariadne’s Thread – Retracing our Steps to Center During Difficult Times (with audio)

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How do you find your way when no directions make sense?

We are sharing an uncomfortable time and space in which many of us are disconnected from our friends, our family, and our craft. Many aerialists and other movement artists with special needs like safe rigging and equipment do not have a way to train. For many of us, aerial brings us back to our creative, inspired, happy selves. Without it, what do we do?

The loss of something that makes us happy could actually be a blessing in disguise. It could be the impetus we need to discover something deeper inside ourselves–a place where we find more than the happiness we enjoy on the surface.

In the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus needs a way to retrace his steps out of a labyrinth or else he will get lost and killed in his quest to kill the half-man, half bull.

Ariadne meets and falls in love with Theseus, and offers him a way out if he promises to marry her. He agrees, and she gives him a ball of golden thread to trail behind him as he makes his way through the labyrinth. The thread does indeed lead him safely back out of the labyrinth after he kills the Minotaur, but upon exiting, he abandons Ariadne to continue his escapades.

Enter Dionysus, god of wine, who falls in love with and marries Ariadne. The two end up being the only figures in Greek mythology who are faithful to each other.

Oh, friend. The metaphors are oh so rich.

We can consider the labyrinth as a metaphor of the psyche. Roaming all about it are dangerous creatures. At the center is the soul, and wisdom, but also the most menacing creature of all–the Minotaur. Perhaps we can consider that to be the ego, or fear, or the last obstacle to really sinking into our soul when we begin to get close.

Keep in mind that the labyrinth is not a maze–the entrance is the same as the exit. The journey is to a center, not to an end.

In the puzzlement of the labyrinth, the ego-self might be lost–but there is a potential to discover something more real–to enter a larger ecology. Passage through the labyrinth symbolizes a journey of the self, from conscious/ego-mind to the mind that networks throughout all beings. In one interpretation I read, the center represents the divine feminine, or a state of openness in which one can receive messages from the unconscious, their soul, or the divine. Have you ever found words pouring onto a page, or suddenly known exactly how to move your body, without knowing quite where it all came from?

Outside of the labyrinth we find worldly desires: status, wealth, power. Let’s not consider this outside world strictly bad. Instead, think of it as incomplete without knowledge of the labyrinth. Without the context of the psyche and the soul, we are bound to blunder and misstep in the conscious world we navigate every day.

Theseus enters the labyrinth but evidently fails to open to any of the wisdom at the center. This is seen in his ethical failing in abandoning Ariadne, as well as the retention of his conquest consciousness as he proceeds with his agenda. He entered to kill the Minotaur, but did not linger to absorb what was waiting for them at the center of his soul. We do this often, I think. We get close to the divine, or our soul, but we walk away without having recognized it or knowing what to do with it.

Ariadne represents that which connects us to the divine, our highest self, and to others. He walked away from a commitment to that.

And he walked away from his commitment to his soul journey, opting instead for his journey of power.

Ariadne’s thread helped him to find his way back out. But it must not have occurred to him that it was also meant to help him find his way back in.

Ariadne is ultimately rewarded. She thought she wanted Theseus. After letting go of that fantasy, she got something much better–Dionysus. I love how this detail in the story highlights the fallibility of our desires. What we think we want–what the ego wants–is far inferior to that which the soul can provide. What a beautiful piece of encouragement to let go of what we want in order to make way for what we need.

The story highlights how difficult it can be to integrate the wisdom of the soul with this world that is so focused on everything that is important to the ego. Even if we go to a divine place–even if we return to the soul, we can walk away without a shred of wisdom or any grasp on ethics.

We can’t expect one or even several exposures to “do the trick” and help us become wise, connected, creative in a meaningful way. We need to make the journey through the labyrinth periodically. We need to repeatedly confront the monsters roaming through our minds and rest in that spacious center where we can be released back into our soul.

And then we must learn to incorporate that into our path. Bring it with us on the journey out, however we can, and keep that thread of connection.

What this story made me realize was that although I have many times contacted that luminous, wise presence of life, I have never brought with me a thread that I can follow back, and perhaps that is why I have found myself stuck outside the labyrinth for a good while now. I have had a great deal of luck finding access through people, singing, writing, and being in nature, but I never drew a map, and I never trailed a thread.

This means that when conditions are not favorable, as is very much the case right now in 2020, the random entries into the labyrinth slow down. The soul and the ego (my perceived sense of self, Sara), can’t hear each other. The world gets harder to bear as that contact diminishes.

I think first, we need to identify that which keeps us from entering the labyrinth in the first place. Is it seductions in the ego-world? Fears of the psyche-world? Both?

Then we need to consider how we will intentionally enter this space.

I suspect that our ancestors, and still today, people use ceremony, substance, and extended time in nature or meditation to access the Labyrinth. Many of us don’t have that, or don’t know how to use these portals.

Based on our accidental or lucky entries, do we not have the ability to devise a ritual that will help us enter? It can be simple, something that can be done within our homes, since many of us are facing quarantine restrictions. It will require space and time, and a willingness to leave behind distractions.

I haven’t answered the question yet, of what my golden thread will be.

What will yours be?