Tuesday, November 19, 2019


Dear Friends, well, you may have noticed I am here even less than usual. There is a reason. My eyesight is impaired. I have always worked predominantly with one eye (my other eye has about 10% vision- optic nerve problem) and right now my "good" eye is not doing well. Not looking for advice- have doctors and healthcare practioners and we are on it. Aside from the pain (think ice pic in eye) I have to give the eye a rest- which means not looking at a lit screen and no reading. The latter is my lifeblood- always has been (and yes, I know I can listen to audiobooks but it is not the same!)

So, aside from concern about my vision this poses an interesting situation: I cannot read or be on line. My ongoing chronic illness shapes a lot of what else I can do- so I have come to rely on both activities to occupy myself and stay connected with the world.

What I realize is how much I use being online to distract myself- from pain, from the ongoing and relentless sounds of construction on my apartment building, from my own frustrations, foibles and uncomfortable feelings. And now, that distraction is not available. What will happen? I admit, I am a sucker for learning so, as much as I want my sight and the internet back, in my better moments I am more curious than frustrated.

And, I will (I think) be back when my eye is feeling better. In the meantime, I have a whole new apprecation for the visual beauty of the world- and so will share a little of it here in a photo from dear friend Peter Marmorek. ~ Oriah

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Messages from the Misty Morning

This morning is shrouded in mist. Lying in bed I started to make "a plan"- a way to efficiently get lots of things on my to-do list done. But when I pulled back the curtains, the mist-soaked world was still dreaming, and it whispered to me, "Breathe. Soften. Follow the impulse to move slowly and see where and how you go."

Of course, most mornings, many don't have that option- there are children to be dressed and fed; preparations for the work day; the need to plunge into the movement of getting where we need to be at a particular time. Years of this can teach us to value only that which fits a very narrow definition of productivity.

Chronic illness loosened my grip on believing worth was exclusively tied to what the world defined as "work." Even as I write this I feel how hard it is (even when the choice is taken from us by changing abilities) to surrender to slowing down, to take a deep breath, to sort out what really "must" be done immediately and what could be set aside, or done in a way that lets us taste the movement and make room for the unexpected.

I know, I know- this is not how our world works. So, slowing down- even just mentally for the first five minutes of our morning, or for three breaths in middle of the morning- is an act of defiance, an assertion of our commitment to stay connected to life as it is lived in this one small human being. ~Oriah

Photo by Conal Gallagher at https://tinyurl.com/yxacrndw

Monday, September 23, 2019

Holding The Darkness and The Light

It's the Equinox- equal moments of light and darkness today. Harvest time in the northern hemisphere- planting time in the south. I trust the light that does not deny the darkness, and I can rest deeply in the sheltering darkness when I kowing the promise of the returning light.

A short while ago I connected with a woman who knew my mother's family years ago She is kind and committed to focusing on the positive- a light for many in the darkness. Then she shared with me that she'd lost a son years ago, and suddenly- for me- her light held depth and strength as well as brightness.

So let's hold them both today- the dark and the light, the being lost and being found, the pain and the joy. Let's allow the darkness to give depth to the light and feel our way together through the dreaming that guides us when we are no longer afraid of the dark. Blessed Equinox dear friend. ~Oriah

Spectacular photo is by my dear friend Peter Marmorek

Sunday, September 8, 2019

On The Eve of My Birthday

I was born at 9 am on the 9th day of the 9th month. Some numerologists have told me that this means I will be incredibly wealthy in my lifetime- and I am, in a thousand different ways.

I am loved- by two wonderful sons who are magnificent men. Honestly, I feel I can take no credit for this- I have always been in awe of what open-hearted, smart, generous, funny, kind people they have both always been. They taught me how to love just by being.

I am loved by friends- some of whom I have known for more than four decades. We have given each other support through births and deaths (literal and metaphorical,) not always agreeing, but always loving, holding and making each other laugh. It is good to be seen and loved by people who knew me before my hair was white and my recall of most nouns floundered!

I live in a country where being raised in a working class family was not a liability- where the education system is good and healthcare, a right for all. I am grateful that I have been able to contribute to and receive from the collective pot that provides so much for us all.

I have had a chronic inflammatory neurological disease for 36 years, and I think it would be fair to say that it is not improving with ordinary aging. Honestly, I wish I could have said, “Pass” on this experience. And I have received things from it. I have learned to live with the reality of how little we control or know, and that has made me more generous with others as I realize I know very little of what challenges they face daily. It has taught me that kindness is often the only thing that matters. And it has given me great respect for physical reality. To be human is to be, amongst many things, a physical organism, is to be small, brief and highly biodegradable. And this knowledge helps me enjoy the way the sun slowly lights up the sky at 5 am, sitting on my tiny apartment balcony in July; the taste of fresh buttered corn in August; the feel of clean crisp sheets as I crawl into bed.

I live in a time and a place under circumstances where I have enough good food to eat and a comfortable home that is not at risk of being bombed in the foreseeable future. And this home has hot running water, central heat, and electricity. These are not things I take for granted. These are things many do not have.

And I have books! I live in a city with a library that is the most publicly used book lending system in the entire world! Right now I have three of these books in my home, and I am on the wait list for nine others (which will be duly delivered to the library two blocks away when they become available.) And this embarrassment of riches that gives me access to the stories that lift my spirit, educate my mind and bring me sheer delight are all provided by sharing collective resources so that there is no fee-for-service. It would be fair to say that as a child, books saved my life- and all of those books came from the local public library. Great wealth indeed.

I could go on. And I will, in my journaling and my prayers. The numerologists are right- I have been given an abundance of that which supports life lived fully. And I am deeply grateful. Oriah

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

How To Stop "Going At" Life

I was taught to “go at” things. Studying, working, writing, organizing, yard work, house cleaning, sewing, reading, praying, fasting, . . . .You name it, in my childhood anything worth doing was worth doing fast and going at it hard.

The shaman with whom I trained decades ago had been a US Marine. Yeah, that was part of the appeal: twenty-two days of ceremonial fasting and praying alone in the wilderness; combat training in the daytime and nights of ceremony on the Mohave desert; martial arts testing to see if we could stay centred and focused no matter what. One of the student's leg broke during a test. We all heard the bone snap. She went to the hospital and we just kept at it.

I used to apply the “go at it” motto to everything including my spirituality.

Old habits die hard.

The last seven months have been the most sedentary of my life. (ME/CFS/FM flare plus a broken foot bone that took a very long time to heal) I recently decided to exercise to see if I can regain some strength. The problem is, if I “go at” exercise I risk crashing the next day and ending up in bed for a week or two. . . or ten.

But I have no sense of where the line is. How much is too much? I can feel fine in the moment and be unable to get out of bed the next day.

So, I consider something on the lightest side of reasonable (like four sets of twelve reps on the weight machine at the local community centre) and cut that in half. This is harder than it sounds. I can hear my brother telling me I’m a wimp, can feel my mother shaking her head in disgust. And I think- what’s the point? How can it have any impact to work this slowly and effortlessly?

But here’s the thing: yesterday I noticed that I did not even break a sweat doing the twenty minute brisk walk I’d been doing for ten days. I thought I must have the wrong song on my headset, but nope. I had actually improved so much that the speed I was going felt effortless! How is this possible?

And I realized that not only was I taught that I needed to “go at” whatever I was doing in order to earn the right to be here and belong, I was also taught to believe that real gains were made (earned) only when we push ourselves.

And apparently that isn’t true!

I will increase my cardio. A little bit. Just enough to get my heart pumping a little. And I will stay at that new rate until my heart rate no longer increases at all.

What if we don’t have to try so hard?

What if pushing ourselves, pushes us right past the sweet spot of being fully here and present?

What if tenderness is more potent than toughness?

What if it’s not even that slow and steady wins the race, but that there simply is no race unless we create one? What if it’s not a marathon or a sprint. . . . but just a life lived as one small, brief and highly biodegradable human being?

What if what we have to offer is how we do whatever we are doing in this moment? And that is enough. ~Oriah

As always photos like this one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming remind me of how the world creates beauty every day, effortlessly.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Robert Frost wrote: "A poem begins with a lump in the throat.” 

How can I write about all of the things that make it hard to swallow, that make the centre of my chest ache, that fill me with both protest and longing?

I hear about how more and more adults under forty are deciding not to have children because of the anticipated severity of climate change in their lifetime.

A radio report on the bombings in Sri Lanka tells me one woman lost three children. Three children. I pray she has more children who are still alive- not because I think it will take away the agony of loss, but because they might keep her breathing.

A friend tells me she has cancer. The fact of this sinks in. She is refusing chemo, as is her right. This fact sinks in. The thing that people don’t tell you about getting older is that this time of life is filled with losses. Do we ever get “good” at this- whatever “good at” might mean?

I sit still and let it all wash over me. And I notice the tree nearby has buds not yet unfurled but swelling with possibility.

I watch the small children running and squealing in the park next door, One falls and another stops the game to help him up, giving him a quick but enthusiastic hug with short arms, brushing debris off his jacket (although I’m pretty sure the dirt was more rubbed in than brushed off.) It makes me smile.

I listen to the sounds of construction on the building where I live. I watch the men- including those who hold a jackhammer for the better part of a day- wondering what that does to their bodies, knowing they are working to provide for themselves and those they love.

Everywhere, even in the aching places of loss and trepidation, I hear the world around me whisper, "Live!" ~Oriah

Thank you to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this small visual anthem to spring and beauty and life. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Letting Sorrow Open Us

There are moments when a world-weariness, a deep grief for what we human beings do to each other and the earth, threatens to swallow me whole. Sometimes distraction is the only way to keep breathing. But sooner or later I have to come back to the aching heart that both holds me and lives within me.

So, I've started this little practice when I am particularly discouraged: I decide that I will let the tragic event guide me to make ten small acts of kindness. I let someone into rush hour traffic in Toronto!  I pay for someone else's coffee or meal; I help a neighbour carry his groceries from his car to his home; I tell someone how wonderful they look today; I remember to look at the cashier, the librarian, the wait staff and really thank them for their work.

I do not expect this to change the world, and it doesn't replace collective political action where that is needed. But it keeps me going when something in me is tempted to give up on human beings. And, as I dedicate each action to the memory of those killed and the struggle of those wounded and terrorized yesteday in New Zealand, it helps me be with the enormity of the sadness.

What if every bit of heart-breaking news inspired us to be deliberately generous and kind with each other? ~Oriah

This wonderful photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming reminds me that whatever we do, however we are with ourselves and each other, it ripples outward to the world.