Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Fasting Time

Tomorrow, Feb. 18 I begin a fast- a screen-time fast, which means for the next while I will not be on Facebook, or this blog, will not be watching movies or television shows, will not be surfing the net.

I am not entirely sure why, but I am feeling called to do this- to create some empty space and time and quiet, and see what emerges within and around me. I enjoy the connections here and the window into the world offered to me by the internet. But, recognizing that I can (and sometimes do) use screen time to distract myself from. . . well, pretty much anything I find consciously or unconsciously uncomfortable, I’m curious to see what will arise (and how easy or hard it will be not to turn on my computer.)

Lately I’ve been deepening my daily practice of prayer, meditation, contemplation and writing. I want to see where all of these things might take me if I give them more space, if I am more frequently truly still and open.

Years ago I did a series of vision quests- times of praying and fasting alone in the wilderness. The longest of these was twenty-two days and nights. Of course, alone in the bush, there are few distractions. Doing something similar at home will be both easier (no mosquitoes or sitting in the cold rain) and harder (no mosquitoes or cold rain to keep me awake and present.) I never regretted any of those quests- some new awareness and direction came out of each one.

More and more I feel myself drawn to a contemplative life- not instead of participating in the world- but as sustainable way to root myself in my relationship to the sacred and awareness of the Beloved- God, the Great Mystery, Infinite Love, Source- that is both what we are and a wholeness that is greater than the sum of the parts, as I offer what I am able.

Sometimes the divine Lover asks us to try a new dance step, to follow that Presence into the dance without knowing where it will lead.

I will hold you in my heart prayers and reconnect here when the time is right. Many blessings, Oriah

(Deep gratitude to Karen Davis for another beautiful photo fromhttps://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming?ref=br_tf )

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I Remember

I remember wanting to spend time alone. I was eleven.
I lay on the forest floor, far from the others,
pinned to the ground by green light
filtered through summer trees.

I wanted to memorize the moment,
to fix in my body the precise scent of moist shadows,
the rhythm and texture of birdsong,
the pattern of branches laced across the blue sky.

I wanted to remember the forest’s soft sigh
rippling through the tree tops from left to right
like something footed and running.
I wanted the details to etch themselves into my brain,
begged the particulars to press into my skin.

But memories of that moment are fragmented and slippery.
All I can remember clearly is my own fierce trying
and my conviction that if I could hold on to the details,
they would save me.

Oriah House (c) 2015

Photo from Mike K at https://www.flickr.com/photos/singloud12/

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How To Be Here

Those of us who value the inner journey may, at times, forget to orient & ground ourselves in being fully here. Of course, here includes the inner landscape, but it also includes the outer. And sometimes it feels as if the external world is coming at us with too many demands, distractions, and information. But the world around us can also help us open our awareness in a grounded way, particularly when our inner world may be a bit chaotic.

Try this with me now. It doesn't matter if you are feeling sluggish or speedy, this can offer an opening into this moment in a way that does not overwhelm.

Wherever you are, look around and say to yourself (out loud if you are alone) "I see. . . . " naming five things you see. They don't have to be big or small, intriguing or ordinary. They don't have to be anything at all except something you can see. You can do it at any pace you like, but don't rush. Let your gaze be soft and wander, finding what draws the eye in this moment.

Then, name five things you hear, simply completing the phrase, "I hear. . . . ." Then, name five things you feel in a sensory way- the temperature of the room on your skin, the feel of your feet in boots, the support of the chair beneath you. . . .

You could stop there, or you could continue- this time naming four things you see, hear and feel. . . followed by three, and then two, and then one.

I have a deep desire to be here fully, but sometimes I need a little help with how to do this. This small exercise of observation is an effective "how." It lowers any anxiety that may be worming its way into my day, and helps me stay here so I can fully receive the gift of this day, this moment, this life. I'd love to hear what happens for you.

~Oriah (c) 2015 (With thanks to Karen Belfontaine for this lovely restorative pause.)

Another wonderful picture from Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming We often find ourselves most easily present when in a natural setting, and I am always drawn to wild places near water, so this pic seemed like a perfect reminder to be fully present even as I sit in my apartment in downtown Toronto.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Nothing I have ever done or will ever do
can separate me from
or bring me into the heart of the Beloved.

Oh, I can  distract myself from the longing
that whispers day and night for that sacred union,
and some days I am too tired to notice
that what I ache for is and always has been here:
. . . . right here in and at my fingertips,
in the way the breeze lifts my hair,
the way the earth pulls me to her,
the way shared laughter makes my sides ache.

Nothing I have ever done or will ever do
can make me worthy or unworthy
of being touched by the Lover’s hand and heart,
of being the Lover’s hand and heart in the world.

Grace – the way Infinite Love
gives Herself to us in every moment,
the way God unfurls his tender mercy in our hearts-
is a constant invitation to say with the fullness of our being:

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

 Another wonderful photo from Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming?ref=br_tf

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What We Don't Say

Sometimes what we don't say is what deepens the intimacy and allows healing to happen. A dear friend taught me this years ago, He was obese. Friends would arrange times to meet with him and tell him how concerned they were about his weight and the health problems it was & could create. He said to me, "Do they think I don't know that I'm obese, that I'm not experiencing the health problems directly?"

And I got it: sometimes when we express our concerns for a friend or relative- a grown son or daughter, an aging parent- to them, it can unintentionally land as a criticism or a statement of the obvious that suggests they are not capable of seeing it and taking care of themselves. This slides over into becoming an exchange that is more about taking care of our own anxiety than it is about caring for the other.

So, maybe we can just skip the qualifier and tell others how much we love them. Instead of "I'm really concerned about you because. . . . " just, "I love you," or "I care about you and please know you can always call me." If we add anything to this, perhaps it could be our appreciation for them- for their intelligence and insight; their humor or way of seeing things: their generosity and way of loving us.

I am not saying a problem should never be pointed out (and interventions are sometimes invaluable,) but in general, in this department less really is more. Sometimes what we don't say tells the other we respect their right to live their life and have faith in their ability to find their way as we find ours. As someone who often has "insights" about life and others (Ha! :-) ) I congratulate myself when I spend time with a loved one, just loving them- and not sharing my "insights" or concerns about their life.

Sometimes. . . .well, all of the time. . . we all just need to be loved as and for who we are- with all of our messy human foibles. And love changes everything. ~ Oriah

Monday, January 26, 2015

Really Listening

How often do we really listen? Years ago my (now ex) husband and I did Imago couples therapy- a pretty straightforward method of dialogue where one person speaks and the other mirrors back what they heard asking, "Did I get that right?" (to which the speaker can add correction or clarification, or say "yes") and (like we really meant it as an invitation) "Can you tell me more?"

What I discovered was that we cannot accurately and completely mirror what another shares with us (including the feeling behind the words) if we are preparing a response of any kind (even agreement, and certainly not rebuttal) while we are listening.

I know, it sounds obvious- but until I actually tried it I was not aware of how often I was not 100% there, was in fact preparing my response while listening to another, distracted by my own inner chatter. And that meant I was missing a lot of what the other was trying to tell me. When we bring all of our attention to listening the intimacy deepens and that opens up all kinds of new possibilities.

What if we went through our day, really listening, pausing to take in what we are being told, what another- even the stranger we encounter at the store or on the street- is telling us? Yep, it would slow things down I know- maybe that's just one of the many benefits of learning to really listen. ~Oriah

(P.S.- Lest you dismiss this on the basis that the husband is now a wasband, I should add that a few other things besides a willingness to listen fully are needed to deepen the intimacy- like truth-telling. He was unable to do that, and on more than one occasion I faithfully mirrored back to him a lie I thought was true. Sigh. It's okay- one day I got it, and interestingly I wasn't even upset because the clarity was such a relief. I calmly said, "This is never going to stop is it- the lying?" And in an uncharacteristic moment of truth-telling for which I am truly and eternally grateful he replied, "No. I can say it will and I mean it when I say it, but. . . . the lying will continue." Sometimes the truth hurts- and sometimes it just doesn't have very much to do with us.) 

Photo from Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Change Happens

My eldest son, Brendan, works as a manager of a fast food restaurant. And he tells me stories. This is a small story, but it gave me hope for our shared world.

About a month ago, Brendan walked into the restaurant and noticed that two of the young women working on the counter were huddled together whispering and looking upset. When he asked them what was going on, they told him that a male customer had just told them he wanted to pay them to have sex with him. They pointed the man out- he was sitting at a table nearby with his coffee.

Brendan went over to the man and started to chat, asking him how he was doing. The man, no doubt wondering why the manager of the place was talking to him, asked, “What’s going on?”

Brendan replied, “Well it sounds like you said something completely inappropriate to a couple of the staff.”

Instantly, the man got to his feet, walked over to the counter and started asking, “Who said I said something inappropriate? That’s a lie!” glaring at the staff standing behind the counter.

“He was pretty convincing- so indignant,” Brendan told me, “I really started to wonder.”

“Wonder what?” I asked.

“Oh I never doubted that the women were telling the truth- but I wondered if I‘d walked over to the wrong guy. But I didn’t have to wonder long.”

Before any of the women could reply, one of the young men behind the counter stepped forward. “Nope,” he said. “They (meaning the women) don’t need to identify themselves because I witnessed what you did. I heard you tell them you wanted to pay them for sex.”

The man left.

Now the timing of this incident is was what intrigued me. In early December, much of the country had been involved in conversations about the stories of sexual assault involving a popular radio host. Social media sites were buzzing- and in the beginning the most asked question was: If they are telling the truth, why hadn’t these women laid charges? (Charges have now been laid.) That question lead to thousands of women sharing their stories about being raped, about not being believed, about the horrors of going through a trial and dozens of other reasons why (for some of us) it often didn’t even occur to women to report an assault.

And something surprising happened: people who had taken a pretty firm stance, changed their position, got that it was not simple, understood that although there had been some good changes in the law, the culture- the ways in which women who report rape were viewed and treated- had not changed.

I asked my son if he thought the young man’s choice to step forward and speak up with such speed had been influenced by these recent public conversations.

And Brendan said, “Well, it might have. If it did, it would be because the stories we've been hearing tell us how this kind of stuff impacts women. Most guys, unless they were particularly homophobic, would just brush off a comment like the one this guy said to the women. They’d tell him to get lost or just ignore him and figure he was a jerk. But the stories that have been shared- just the sheer volume of them- highlight that our experience (as men) is not the same as women’s, so something like this can have a much bigger impact on a woman than it would have on most of the men I know. If we get that, we- the vast majority of men who never assault a woman- are going to step up fast, like this guy did, in a situation where a man is doing something that is understandably disturbing to a woman."

Listening helps us get how similar and how different we are, helps us "get" that we do not know what it is like for the other who is of a different gender, skin colour, class, culture, sexual orientation etc. 

Because this is the paradoxical truth of our inter-beingness: We are all One, made of the same sacred stuff and participating in a Sacred Wholeness that is both what we are and larger than us all AND each other is wholly other, a mystery to me, someone with a different experience, history, and perspective than my own.

If we know the truth of the first part of this paradox- that we are One- we do not create artificial separations, we extend ourselves, seek connection and welcome each other as another myself.

If we know the truth of the second part of this paradox- that each has his or her own experience that is not identical to our own- we approach the other with an open heart and receptive mind, ready to listen deeply to how it is for them, ready to let what we hear change us and shape our actions. 

That's how we make change- together.

Oriah (c) 2015