THE INVITATIONBy Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(A Native American)
From The Invitation, copyright 1999 Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
IT DOESN'T INTREST ME WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING. I WANT
TO KNOW WHAT YOU ACHE FOR, AND IF YOU DARE TO DREAM
OF MEETING YOUR LIFE'S LONGING.
IT DOESN'T INTREST ME HOW OLD YOU ARE. I WANT TO KNOW IF
YOU WILL RISK LOOKING LIKE A FOOL FOR LOVE, FOR YOUR
DREAMS, FOR THE ADVENTURE OF BEING ALIVE.
IT DOESN'T INTREST ME WHAT PLANETS ARE SQUARING YOUR
MOON. I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE TOUCHED THE CENTER OF
YOUR OWN SORROW, IF YOU HAVE BEEN OPENED BY LIFE'S
BETRAYALS OR HAVE BEEN 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, BE REALISTIC, OR TO REMEMBER THE LIMITATIONS OF
IT DOESN'T INTREST ME IF THE STORY YOU'RE 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.
I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU CAN BE FAITHFUL, AND THEREFORE BE
TRUSTWORTHY. I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU CAN SEE BEAUTY EVEN
WHEN IT'S NOT PRETTY EVERY DAY, AND IF YOU CAN SOURCE YOUR
LIFE FROM GOD'S PRESENCE.
I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU CAN LIVE WITH FAILURE, YOURS OR MINE,
AND STILL STAND ON THE EDGE OF A LAKE AND SHOUT TO THE SILVER
OF THE FULL MOON, "YES!"
IT DOESN'T INTREST 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 GREIF AND DISPAIR, WEARY AND BRUSIED TO THE
BONE, AND DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE FOR THE CHILDREN.
IT DOESN'T INTREST ME WHO YOU ARE, HOW YOU CAME TO BE
HERE. I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU WILL STAND IN THE CENTER OF
THE FIRE WITH ME AND NOT SHRINK BACK.
IT DOESN'T INTREST 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 EMPTY MOMENTS.
Thank you for reading "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer on this
Because of the support from people like you, "The Invitation" has
been able to touch the hearts of thousands all over the world.
Below is a brief message from Oriah about how the poem and then the
book came to be.
If you would like any further information about the book, feel free to
contact the publisher (email@example.com)
**Message from Oriah Mountain Dreamer**
In the spring of 1994. I went to a party - an ordinary party, and I
made an effort, a real effort, to be sociable. I asked and answered the
usual questions: What do you do for a living? How do you know the host?
Where did you study? Where do you live? And I came home with the
familiar hollow feeling of having gone through the motions. So, I sat
down and did what I often do to sort out what is going on. I wrote.
Using the format of a writing exercise that had been given to me by
poet David Whyte, I wrote about the party conversations, what really did
not interest me and what I really did want to know about others, about
I went to the centre of the ache for something more between myself
and the world and the prose-poem, "The Invitation", poured onto the page.
A week later I included the piece in a newsletter I was sending to
eight hundred students who had, over the previous ten years, come to
workshops I had facilitated on spirituality, sexuality and creativity.
I sent it exactly as it had been written that night. I didn't think
much about it. I'd shared many pieces of writing with folks on my
mailing list over the years, often hearing back from those who felt a
particular piece spoke to them.
But this time, something different happened. People started copying
and sharing "The Invitation", and I began hearing from hundreds of
people I didn't know. A woman wrote from New Zealand where the piece
had been read at a large spiritual gathering. A man in the States wrote
of reading the piece at the funeral of a dear friend who had died of
AIDS. Individuals as far away as Romania, Iceland, Greenland and South
Africa wrote that someone had sent them "The Invitation" on e-mail,
handed it out at a wedding, or read it aloud at a workshop or
conference. The piece seemed to have a life of its own.
It was Joe Durepos, a literary agent in Chicago who had contacted me
to ask permission for the piece to be used in Jean Houston's book, "A
Passion for the Possible", who suggested that I consider writing a book
based on "The Invitation." I started writing and Joe sold the first few
chapters to Harper San Francisco.
The prose-poem had touched others with a voice that cut through to
what really matters. I didn't want the book to be a watered-down
version of the original piece or a heady analysis of its heart-felt
sense of urgency. I wanted the book to be as raw and as real as the
prose-poem, to offer the receptive reader a chance to actually go to
the places mapped out by "The Invitation." To fulfill this promise I
had to go to those places myself.
I went to a cabin owned by some friends and started writing, using
each segment of the original piece as a doorway into deeper places-the
longing, the joy, the sorrow, the fear - reflecting with ruthless
honesty on the meaning and struggles of a human life. I wrote what I
need to remember, what I need to hear again and again: that life is
full of beauty and pain; that the world will break your heart and heal
it, over and over, if you let it, and that letting it do both is the
only way to live fully; that we are not alone but deeply connected to
that which create, and sustains all life.
Aided by Harper San Francisco editor Karen Levine I distilled the
stories down to their essence and offered meditations at the
conclusion of each chapter, meditations that had helped me walk through
the doorways "The Invitation" had opened.
Life is hard. And life is wonderful. "The Invitation" is about
finding what we need-the inspiration, the intimacy, the courage and the
commitment to live fully, every day.
-- Oriah Mountain Dreamer
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