Mojo Monday ~ The Invitation

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Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.  ~Kahlil Gibran
Have you ever read something, a book or a poem, that made an immediate impact on you?  In the year 2000 I was first introduced to the writing of Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  Someone I knew handed me a copy of her poem The Invitation.  Back then I heard the false rumors, that still circulate today, which is that this poem had been written by a Native American elder. What I later learned is that Oriah is a woman who was raised in a small community in Northern Ontario.  Her web site shares that Oriah’s family encouraged her to bring her questions and explorations to the Christian tradition they espoused. At home in the wilderness she was drawn to and at home in the ceremonies and earth-based teachings of the First People’s, eventually teaching and sharing what she learned. Her daily practice includes ceremonial prayer, yoga, meditation and writing. A graduate of Ryerson University’s social work program (Toronto) and a student of Philosophy at the University of Toronto she has facilitated groups, offered classes and counselled individuals for over thirty-five years. The mother of two grown sons, Oriah lives in Toronto, Canada.  You can read about how her name came into being on her website here: http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com/
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.
By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved
Years later I read her books What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of the Soul, as well as The Dance: Moving to the Deep Rhythms of Your Life.

Here is an excerpt from What We Ache For:

“I experience the greatest resistance to writing when I am beginning a particular piece, writing a new poem or short story or starting a new book.  As the day and time I have set aside to begin approaches, I feel a strange but familiar dread, a slight tension in my chest, a barely perceptible agitation in my arms and legs. If I sit with this sense of uneasiness, I discover a wide range of not particularly unique or fascinating fears: the fear that I have nothing wrothwhile to say; the fear that this time I will not be able to find the end of the thread  that will take me into an effortless flow of words; the fear that the writing will simply be bad–unclear, uninspired, awkward, tedious.  But beneath all these is the fear that the creative process will affect me in some unpredictable way, requiring changes in my life that will be at best uncomfortable and at worst truly risky.  This latter fear is probably the strongest, and it has a basis in experience.  Creative work, because it cannot be separated from our spirituality, inevitably connects us to that which is larger than us, and experiencing the sacred center of life can create a shift in perspective, can bring new insights and understandings that demand something of us.”

Here is an excerpt from The Dance:

The Dance
I have sent you my invitation,
the note inscribed on the palm of my hand by the fire of living.
Don’t jump up and shout, “Yes, this is what I want! Let’s do it!”
Just stand up quietly and dance with me.
Show me how you follow your deepest desires,
spiraling down into the ache within the ache,
and I will show you how I reach inward and open outward
to feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, every day.
Don’t tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart.
Show me how you turn away from making another wrong without abandoning yourself when you are hurt and afraid of being unloved.
Tell me a story of who you are,
and see who I am in the stories I live.
And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.
Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be . . . some day.
Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
and again in the next and the next and the next. . .
I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring.
Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall,
the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your own will.
What carries you to the other side of that wall, to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?
And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with each other, let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.
Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance,
the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart.
And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.
Show me how you take care of business
without letting business determine who you are.
When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us
shout that soul’s desires have too high a price,
let us remind each other that it is never about the money.
Show me how you offer to your people and the world
the stories and the songs you want our children’s children to remember.
And I will show you how I struggle,
not to change the world, but to love it.
Sit beside me in long moments of shared solitude,
knowing both our absolute aloneness and our undeniable belonging.
Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words,
holding neither against me at the end of the day.
And when the sound of all the declarations of our sincerest
intentions has died away on the wind,
dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale
of the breath that is breathing us all into being,
not filling the emptiness from the outside or from within.
Don’t say, “Yes!”
Just take my hand and dance with me.
© Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Dance, HarperONE, SanFrancisco, 2001

Questions to reflect upon from Oriah in the Prelude to The Dance.
What if it truly doesn’t matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?

How would this change what you choose to do with your life?

What if you could be more present and openhearted with each person you met if you were working as a cashier in a corner stone, or as a parking lot attendant, than you could if you were doing a job you think is more important?

How would this change how you want to spend your precious time on this earth?

What if your contribution to the world and the fulfillment of your own happiness is not dependent upon discovering a better method of prayer or technique of meditation, not dependent upon reading the right book or attending the right seminar, but upon really seeing and deeply appreciating yourself and the world as they are right now?

How would this affect your search for spiritual development?

What if there is no need to change, no need to try to transform yourself into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving or wise?

How would this affect all the places in your life where you are endlessly trying to be better?

What if the task is simple to unfold, to become who you are already are in your essential nature–gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present?

How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?

What if who you essentially are right now is all that you are ever going to be?

How would this affect how you feel about your future?

What if the essence of who you are and always have been is enough?

How would this affect how you see and feel about your past?

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I infrequently want to be the person I really am?

How would this change what you think you have to learn?

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?

How would this shape the choices you make about how to spend today?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?

How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?
“And enjoy this last piece of wisdom from Oriah
I’ve done enough interviews you’d think I would have some snappy, articulate answer prepared, a concise and profound or witty comment ready for the moment. But no matter how many times it comes, I never seem prepared. Maybe it’s because I don’t think of myself as having “A Message.” As Wavy Gravy said, I’m just another bozo on the bus, albeit one that likes to reflect on and write about the journey.

So lately, at the end of interviews, with only moments remaining, this is the response that arises from the request to offer one last essential thing:

Life is messy. Accept this. It’s okay to have a plan, just don’t focus on it. Things aren’t likely to go according to plan. Focus on what you need to do next, right now. Pay attention to what has real value for you at the level of your body-heart-self- the people, places, activities and practices that help you feel truly alive, that support your ability to be present and kind. If there’s something calling to you, turn toward it and start walking. It may not lead where you think it will, but make a place in all of the wonderful chaos of life to listen deeply to the voice at the center of your being and pay attention to what it tells you. Life is short and messy. Don’t postpone living until life gets neater or easier or less frantic or more enlightened. There’s a “catch” to the popular admonishment to “live in the Now.” It’s that the only way to be in the Now is to be Here, in the life and the body you have, and in the world we share, right now (not with the body or the world we hope to someday have or imagine we used to have.) This is it. And it will change. Choose life in all the small ways you can, every day.”

About Michelle Fairchild

Michelle Fairchild is a writer and artist who at heart is a soulful and sensitive intuitive, a courageous creator, a resilient visionary, a self-esteem fluffer, a marvelous music mixer and one who offers up bridges of connections to her fellow travelers. She believes We Are All Meant to Shine! You can read more of her writing at her web site: We Are All Meant to Shine. (https://weareallmeanttoshine.com/) She is happily married to a middle school science teacher and is the adoring mama to identical twin daughters, who are very active 7-year-olds who keep her dancing. She has a small creative business called Red Boa Productions and also works for a non-profit foster-adoption agency in Northern California.

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