Oriah

I wrote the prose poem, The Invitation one night after returning home from a party. I don’t usually attend parties but on this occasion, berating myself for being anti‐social, I made an effort to go and be friendly. I returned home feeling frustrated, dissatisfied with the superficial level of the social interaction at the party. I longed for something else.

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4 Responses to Oriah

  1. shinichi says:

    Oriah
    http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com/

    The Green Bough
    http://www.oriahsinvitation.blogspot.com/

    If I keep a green bough in my heart the singing bird will come.
    – Chinese proverb

    There are lovers content with longing.
    I’m not one of them.
    -Rumi

  2. shinichi says:

    The Invitation

    by Oriah

    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 shrivelled 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.

  3. shinichi says:

    The Invitation

    http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com/pdf/the_invitation.pdf

    I wrote the prose poem, The Invitation one night after returning home from a party. I don’t usually attend parties but on this occasion, berating myself for being anti‐social, I made an effort to go and be friendly. I returned home feeling frustrated, dissatisfied with the superficial level of the social interaction at the party. I longed for something else.

    Years before I had attended a writing workshop where poet David Whyte had given us a writing exercise, based on a poem of his own, where we began alternate lines with the phrases, “It doesn’t interest me. . .” and “What I really want to know is. . .” Using this form I sat down and wrote The Invitation as an expression of all the things I really did want to know about and share with others. Several days later I included the poem in a newsletter I was sending to men and women who had come to do retreats and workshops with me. And from there, the poem took on a life of its own. People copied and shared it with friends and colleagues around the world, posting it on the internet, workplace bulletin boards and kitchen refrigerators. They read it at weddings and funerals, at conferences and gatherings in churches and boardrooms and universities. I began to hear from folks from all over the world‐from Romania, Iceland, South Africa, New Zealand, Russia and from all over the United States and Canada. I couldn’t believe how many people felt touched by the longing for deeper intimacy expressed in the poem.

    As the poem changed hands a few individuals took it upon themselves to add or change some words. “Faithless” was changed by some to “faithful,” “beauty” to “God” and‐as I later found out‐a man in Chicago, sure that I was an aged or deceased Native American man, put “Indian elder” after my name. Where possible I made requests for folks to share the poem as it was written and tried to correct the misrepresentation of myself as an “Indian elder.” Although there are stories of Native American ancestors in my family history (along with stories of German and Scottish descent) I am neither old enough nor wise enough to claim to be an elder of any people.

    In 1998, after being approached by Joe Durepos, a literary agent seeking permission to use the poem in a book by Jean Houston, I began to write the book, The Invitation, using each stanza as a structure to go more deeply into each of the desires expressed in the poem and offering meditations I had used to explore my own longing. As I write in the beginning of the book The Invitation is “. . . a declaration of intent, a map into the longing of the soul, the desire to live passionately, face‐to‐face with ourselves and skin‐to‐skin with the world.” It is the story of a very human woman who longs to live fully awake. It is the story of the human heart’s capacity and longing to live intimately with all of it‐the joy and the sorrow, the hope and the fear.

    The Invitation was published by HarperONE, San Francisco in the spring of 1999. It became a best‐seller and has been translated into over fifteen languages around the world.

  4. shinichi says:

    The Dance

    Shortly after I finished the manuscipt for The Invitation, three things happened in my life: I discovered that the man with whom I had fallen in love and begun a relationship two months earlier was an alcoholic; I had a mild heart attack brought on by exhaustion; and I told my eldest son Brendan that he had to move out of my home. Having just passionately articulated my soul’s longing in The Invitation-the heartfelt desire to love myself, others and the world well-I was stunned and discouraged by how consistently I was failing to live this sincere intent.

    So, in a somewhat desperate attempt to find the wisdom and knowledge to live consistent with my deepest desires, I began to write The Dance (Harper San Francisco, Fall 2001). Ready to face the truth about myself I plunged in, asking as I wrote, “Why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be?” I was willing to change, prepared to live in a different way in order to narrow the gap I feared was an abyss between my deepest intentions and my daily actions. I just wanted to know how.

    The Dance is the story of how we can live soulfully on a daily basis. It is the story of my discovery that the question is not “Why are we so infrequently the people we want to be?” but rather “Why do we so infrequently want to be the people we really are?” It is the story of discovering why our quest for self-improvement does not lead to happiness or better lives or a more peaceful, just world. It is the story of finding who we really are, becoming all we are and knowing it is enough. It is the story of our struggles with those things that make it hard to remember who and what we really are, the places where is easy to become afraid-in our culture, the places where we deal with sex and death and money and power.

    The stories, reflections and meditations in The Dance ask us to go further than we did in The Invitation-beyond the longing to the living, beneath the desire to the deeper ache and the knowledge that guides us in living true to what we are. It is the story of my human struggle to live with the shock of being awake, if only for intermittent moments, guided by the spirit of those wonderful lines by Rumi as translated by Coleman Barks:

    There are lovers content with longing.
    I’m not one of them.

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