Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How To Be Here Today

I am late, stuck in rush hour traffic. I take a deep breath and am suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the roses blooming in front of the brick duplexes and modest homes along the street. There are low bushes and high hedges filled with blossoms- pink and blood red, white and pale yellow- wild and unruly, bowing and swaying on slender stems in the light breeze. I can feel my whole body smiling at their offering, at this abundance so freely given. 

This kind of unexpected inhaling of beauty that lifts me has been happening more frequently as I work on a new book, tentatively titled, "The Choice." 

Writing, for me is an exploration. I write myself into the questions that matter to me. Working on a new book I live into the question, How can I be here fully? And then, one night in a dream I hear a voice whisper words I recognize from the writing of the nineteenth century Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore: “We live in the world when we love it.” The words pull me up out of sleep and I know Tagore is right- we cannot be fully with that which we do not love.

The next morning I get up and open a new book of poetry that someone has sent me. The slender volume, Mary Oliver’s Thirst, sits on my bedside table- a promise of poetry that is as brave as I would like to be. Oliver's first line in the book’s first poem, “Messenger,” declares, “My work is loving the world.”

My throat and my chest suddenly fill with sweet tears. When we hear a truth we need the heart breaks open. I get it: To be fully here, we must each find our way of loving the world.

So, the question shifts, becomes, “How do I love the world?” I ask it when I awaken at four am with a searing migraine, and when I am with my father as he wanders in his Alzheimer’s haze. I hold it close when my mother’s Alzheimer’s advances and she rages against losing her driver’s license and then her home. I ask it when illness flares and lands me in bed for weeks. I keep it with me when I listen to news of war in Syria and wildfires in California.

The question does not provide easy answers, but to my surprise it shifts my attention away from trying to survive what is hard, to opening to the possibility of letting the inquiry itself guide me. It opens my eyes to seeing and receiving the beauty that is in each situation- the sweetness of watching the pre-dawn darkness give way to the light, the kindness of strangers providing care for my parents, the courage and generosity of those providing help in war-torn and weather-beaten areas of the world.

The Grandmothers in my dreams counsel me in how to love the world: “When you open your eyes, your heart opens. When you truly see and receive what is around and within you, you cannot help but love yourself and the world.”

And so it is, more and more each day. Oh, I don't want to imply that I have turned into some all-loving, always-centred, enlightened being. Ha! I still snarl at pain before I relax around it and notice the dawn, still worry about my parents before I surround them with love and prayers in my morning practise, still ache to hear of the suffering of others. But something has changed. I have found a willingness to return again and again to feeling my way into loving the world under all conditions. It may require action or stillness, work or play, speaking up or remaining silent. But always, as the Grandmothers remind me, it asks that I open my eyes and my heart.

And so, I continue to write, exploring how I might make the choice to be here by loving myself, others and the world, deeply grateful to consistently find that what is needed to keep my heart open is provided when I am willing to see and receive.

Oriah (c) 2013 

(This blog is part of the June 2013 newsletter. You can view the complete newsletter . If you would like to go on the mailing list for future newsletters please send your email address to



  1. Reading this message, Oriah, feels like coming home. Yes! Yes! Yes! I travel in many worlds--12-step, Quaker, women's entrepreneurial--and yet when I come home, it is all one world.

    Every day when I start the day I set an intention. For today, I live in the question, "How do I love the world?"

    Thank you!

  2. Being in my summer holidays, I realize how much there is in life to be loved, and that I want more of it in my ordinary life. I take it as a challenge to bring more love and joy into my life, although it's far away from the sea and the rural landscape I'm enjoying just now. I practise how to respect the ordinary and enrich it with little joys and funs.

    1. Nora, the beauty of holidays and a change of scenery is that it gives us fresh eyes- in both new surroundings but also, hopefully, to take home. It also creates room to cultivate fresh habits- like paying attention to things we may have missed in the daily challenge of meeting life's logistics. May you continue to enjoy!

  3. Thank you for this Oriah, I have always loved the simplicity and depth of your writing and "How do I love the world?" as a thought to start the day is so apt.

  4. Dear Oriah, as Mary says in her comment, using the question "How do I love the world?" is a wonderful way to start the day. And because I keep rejecting being here where I find myself, it is a way to take me out of my muddle and focus my will and my heart. To let go of me! me! me! and to concentrate on opening eyes and heart to the world around me. Thank you. Peace.

  5. Thank you for your wonderful writing. This entry in particular reminded me of exactly what I've been working on, very actively, for myself lately.
    Have you ever respected someone a lot and felt like you had so much in common that you don't have to get to know each other b/c it'd just be redundant? I feel that way. I'm glad you're in the world.