Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Being Faithful To What We Love

Contemplating the gifts of 2015 and what 2016 might bring, I consider a post I put up almost a month ago: "Find what you love & let it teach you how to live." Sometimes (often?) it is something (a way of living, a creative aspect of life, an involvement with community, a personal practice. . .) that we could not have imagined. So it might be just as accurate to say that it finds us. For me, writing has been like this.
It is a kind of grace, this being "found." And we have a choice- we can say yes or no to that which finds us- and sometimes there may be reasons to say no (or "not now.") 
When we say yes, we are committing to an unpredictable unfolding. Being faithful to what we love means we need to protect it from distractions, from idealized versions (ie- I can only write if I have months of solitude and silence- ha!) and from well-intentioned pressure to turn what we love into a means to other ends (like making a living.) What we love may bring all kinds of things into our lives, but our task is to simply give ourselves to it faithfully and receive what love is here to teach us. ~Oriah 
With gratitude to Karen Davis for her generous willingness to let me use and share her photos from Open Door Dreaming.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Here’s the good news and the bad news: human beings can be greatly influenced by those around them. It means that when we behave badly (and we all have our moments,) we encourage others to do likewise- and when we have a moment of remembering our shared humanity, that too can ripple out.

Walking down a main street in Toronto during rush hour, I paused to help an elderly woman who was walking toward me, crossing the street. She was vibrant and shining but a little shaky on the uneven pavement. No big deal. To my amazement, the bumper to bumper traffic not only paused to let us cross slowly, but then waited until I returned to the other side of the street to continue on my way.

I hadn't expected that, had turned prepared to wait for cars to go through, but several drivers smiled and waved me across. I waved back in thanks. Honestly, I could have been in the village of twelve hundred close to the rural home where I lived for a decade. But I was in this huge, noisy, busy city where drivers were jockeying for position on crowded roads at the end of a long work day.

It lifted my heart to be reminded that we all have generosity within us and a thousand little opportunities to take turns encouraging each other to behave well every day. I know it was a small thing that did not ask much of anyone in the moment, but It felt like. . . we might just pull this living together thing off after all.

~Oriah (For some reason, starry skies always make me feel hopeful, so this seemed like an appropriate photo by Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming to put with this little story.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

For Eight Year Olds in a Troubled World

Last week, two stories about two different children in the United States popped up on my newsfeed at the same time. I want to warn you- these are hard stories. I’ll state them as simply and as briefly as I can, but there’s no getting around how hard they are. And. . . .there’s a hard piece of my own story mentioned here that I have not publicly shared before. . . which feels surprisingly vulnerable but necessary in pointing to what I hope would be at the centre of our motivation for creating change.

The first story was about an eight year old boy who has been charged with murder in the death of an infant. He’d been left alone with several children younger than himself including the baby, while the mothers of the children went out to party.

The second was about another eight year old boy who was in one of the houses in the neighbourhood where the police had a gun battle with the two suspects from the mass shooting in San Bernardino. When they heard the shots, the boy’s grandmother told him to get into the bathtub where he’d hopefully be safe from stray bullets. He did as he was told. He got into the empty bathtub. Then he laid on his side, curled into a ball, and quietly repeated over and over again, “No, no, no, no, no. . . . . .” as the gunfire continued outside.

I read these stories, and then I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. Tears started to stream down my face as I sat in front of the computer. I wanted to pray, but the only words that came were, “Please, please, please. . . . “

I wish I could tell you that I was horrified by what happened to these children because it stands in stark contrast to my own childhood. But the truth is I was deeply affected because I know what it’s like to be eight years old and terrified. I remember feeling small, but at the same time certain that if I just tried hard enough- kept all the rules, watched for changing moods, was quick and smart and good enough- I could prevent the rage from coming at me again.

So, as I was reading I was there with these two bewildered eight-year-olds, terrified, afraid of the anger and violence of both familiar adults and strangers, trying to outrun nameless dread with frantic movement or a whispered chant. 

When I was eight, every night I prayed to God the Father and Jesus, not to take me out of there, not even to make the bad stuff stop, but to make me better, to help me please my mother and make her happy.

The hardest thing about being eight and terrified is not knowing if an adult who has the power to do something will see what is happening and do something to change it. So please, let’s speak and listen and choose our words and our actions in a way that lets our children- and they are all “our” children- know that we do see what is happening, and that we will do everything in our power to keep their bodies, hearts, minds and spirits whole and safe.

Because if love- not sentimentality, but love that asks us to find the courage of a broken open heart- does not shape our conversations and our choices, the world we create will look a lot like the one we want so much to change.

~Oriah House © 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Learning from What We Love

There is so much more I could say about this- but I am going to keep this short because the writing for the new book is really taking off (Yay! I am so grateful I feel like my heart is overflowing) This is a truth I have learned from being a companion to friends and clients and students as they have gone through challenging times.

The things I love that teach me how to live are multiple: being with my sons; being in the wilderness; running full out on something I enjoy; being very still; solitude; being with friends who love ideas and make me laugh; and always for me, writing, writing, writing.

Sometimes we have to sit still and let what will teach us come to us, the way we would an animal in the wild- patiently, showing we are trustworthy, allowing the time it takes for what we love to show itself to us.  ~Oriah

(And I am so grateful that Karen Davis shares with us one of her loves in photos like this one from Open Door Dreaming​)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

For Paris

Today, may we let ordinary things show us
How to make room for heartache and hope
Baking bread
Letting soup simmer all day
Paying attention to the taste of hot sweet tea
Letting the scent of cinnamon slow us down

Let’s make love to this day
In the way we linger and listen to each other
Finding a way to be still for three breaths
Letting our hands come to rest on the table
Sitting in the centre of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”
Softening to the sadness

There is a way to be with anger and fear and grief
A way to hold them with so much tenderness
That terror cannot take root
Let us make a light of that tenderness
Leaning into each other, feeding each other
Creating together a heart that can hold it all

~Oriah House © November 13, 2015

Debussy’s Claire de Lune: 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Finding The Beloved

It’s not about doing anything
Not about earning or accomplishing
Not about trying harder or moving faster
It’s simply a whole-hearted willingness
To walk to the end of the dock
And let the rising sun
Fill me and ignite
The old forgotten hunger
And every time
Every. Single. Time.
When I let the longing guide me
When I turn my face just a little
The Beloved is there
~Oriah House (c) 2015
The spectacular photo (which inspired this writing) is from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Thank you Karen heart emoticon. For me, "walking to the end of the dock" is about clearing the inner chatter for a moment, breathing in a spaciousness and returning to my willingness and my hunger to meet the Beloved in this moment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning From Yesterday's Story

I’m reading “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, the story of two children during the Second World War- a blind girl in France and an orphaned German boy with a passion and talent for building radios. The book opens in 1944 with the Allied forces bombing German-occupied France. 

Immediately I was gripped by the reality of civilians on the ground in any war. For them the bombs that fall threaten death whether they belong to occupying or liberating forces. 

And I think of the Syrian refugees piling their children into inadequate rafts in the hopes of getting their families out of the place where bombs are falling. 

Yesterday, on a CBC radio call-in show, listeners were asked whether or not we could do what our newly elected government has pledged to do and take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. I held my breath and listened. Over and over men and women called in and said emphatically, “Yes, we can.” There were stories of churches, community organizations, and small collections of friends and acquaintances who are privately sponsoring refugee families or getting ready to support those who are government sponsored.

I was surprised to find my eyes wet with tears. I was moved and lifted up by people's profound willingness to help. 

Each year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month- the anniversary of the moment when the First World War ended- I stand in silence with others, remembering the cost of war and honouring those, past and present, who risk and often give their lives in our armed forces. 

The slogan most often used today is: Lest We Forget. I am so grateful for the privilege of being able to remember. May we listen to and remember and be guided to offer what we can by the stories of war- past and present. May we honour the sacrifices and the suffering by working for peace in all we do. ~Oriah © 2015

(Photo from Paul L at )

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Living Together

Yesterday I side-stepped the to-do list and went to the park. There, beneath an almost impossibly blue sky I soaked up the sun and the people around me. They gave me hope. 

Behind the bench where I sat two young men with dreadlocks and tshirts that sported the Jamaican flag spoke softly, their voices flowing in the musical cadence and rhythm that makes my inner dj play a little reggae.

A group of older Asian men and women played croquet, shouting at each other and erupting into shared laughter when a shot went wide.

Next to me on the bench, two women with different European accents talked about their mothers- how they missed them, how they wished they had lived closer in their mothers' last days.

A small circle of teenagers did yoga on mats laid out on the grass.

A young woman with a stroller entered the park. She was wearing traditional Muslim clothing for women- a long-sleeved garment that skimmed the ground, a head scarf without a face veil. As she moved past the place where I sat, one of the men behind me called out to her, and moved quickly in her direction.

Everyone in the vicinity seemed to notice and stop what they were doing to watch. The man who'd called out ran across the grass toward the woman, barely pausing to scoop up a small jacket on the ground. He held it out in front of him.

“You dropped this,” he said. He stood more than a yard away from the woman. She turned toward him and paused looking startled and pale. They both seemed to hesitate, unsure of what to do next.

Then she stepped forward, took the jacket, nodded and smiled broadly.

And the man with the dreadlocks put the palms of his hands together in front of his heart and bowed to the woman whose smiling face was round and shining beneath her headscarf. 

The noise of the croquet game resumed, the budding yogis changed positions, the women on the bench nearby went back to their conversation.

And I thought, “We can do this.”

Oriah House (c) 2015

Another wonderful pic from Karen Davis at​- this is just how the leaves looked against that blue sky yesterday.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dreaming with the Ancestors

Often I do an Ancestor Speaking ceremony at this time of year- the time when many of the meaning-making stories of some cultures say the veil between the worlds of the living & the dead is the thinnest. I call on the ancestors who love me (always a good qualifier :-) ) to speak to me and guide me, offering gratitude for their lives and for their presence now. This year I am going to focus on the Grandmother I did not know about for most of my life.

Years ago, I sat with and learned from a Midewin elder. The second time we met she looked at me and said, "You are one hand from the full-blood in your family." Honestly I thought maybe she just could not believe that the blonde blue-eyed young woman in front of her was willing to spend so much time alone fasting and praying in the bush. But I was wrong.

A few months later my mother (unprompted) said, "Maybe you do all this weird native stuff because Grandpa was native."

Yep, turned out the racism in the family had buried the story that my mother's grandfather's mother was First Nations.That would make her and I one hand- or five generations- apart. I went back to the elder and told her. She just smiled and nodded.

Lately my thoughts have turned toward this Grandmother, wondering who she was and what she might have to teach me now. So this weekend I will ask to dream with her, to learn from her, to know how to honour this heritage by supporting First Nations people here, now in my own country in their quest for justice and self-determination..

May your weekend be filled with the joy of connection- whether with ancestors who love you or with trick-or-treaters. ~Oriah

(Love this picture from Karen Davis at​ - makes me think of the crack between the worlds where we can meet and dream with those who came before us)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Instead of Discipline

So, I've been thinking about discipline- you know, the thing we think we need to find if we are going to do the things we know are good for us (like eating well, exercise, daily meditation etc.) I can clamp down with my will and pick up those aspirations daily- but at times it just feels like endless work, and sooner or later I run out of steam.

So lately, I've been trying something different. Instead of berating myself and insisting that today (or tomorrow) I will dig deep and find the necessary discipline, I've been thinking about giving myself gifts.

As in- today, I'm giving myself the gift of taking a walk in the autumn leaves, of taking my time in prayer and meditation, of making a wonderful stew for dinner. If I can keep my attitude in the range of doing something kind for myself (as opposed to doing something I think I "should" do) not only is it easier to create good self-care, it becomes about receiving that care with gratitude.

And that's just a more enjoyable way to receive the gift of this day. ~Oriah

(Photo of spectacular fall colours from Paul Bardis.)

Friday, October 23, 2015


On one level, it's been a challenging week. On three different days, plans to meet with friends from far away (and have reunions with local folks I have not seen in years) had to be cancelled- the spirit was willing but the old body was seared with a pain that would brook no opposition. I was disappointed. And, lying in bed, I had lots of time to think about my disappointment- to watch it, feel it shift and change- get lighter and then heavier.

We all know the old maxim about avoiding disappointment by not having ANY expectations. As a human being, I don't find this particularly helpful. If we don't make a plan to meet there will be no disappointment when it does not happen- but then again, we will not get together.

The "trick" seem to be holding our expectations lightly. I was doing well with that at the first cancellation I had to make- these things happen, it's not in my control, deep breaths of releasing. . . .

The second cancellation was harder, in part because it was something I was going to do for someone- and I really really really wanted to do it. (I am sure you can hear my attachment in that "really, really really.")

Having to cancel a third plan. . . .well, let's just say I was beyond disappointment and into gloom and doom. You know, the stories of this will never change, my world is shrinking, I will have no friends left at this rate. . . . . .

Not good. Not helpful. Not necessarily true.

So, my question was- why is my mind so eager to go here? Assuming I am not masochistic (I am not) why would my mind want to race to worse case scenarios?

And I got it- to avoid disappointment. If I expect to be too ill to ever go out and meet friends, I will never be disappointed.

And I suspect this malformed strategy has to do with my dislike of the feeling of disappointment. Why? Disappointment isn't death. It's just disappointment. What if I focus on holding expectations lightly. . . . and holding disappointment with a little tenderness when it arises? This too- like all else- will pass. And if we let it, if we don't get caught in the mind's stories we cannot know are true, disappointment can remind us of what we love and prompt us to fully enjoy the taste of these things when we are able.

And today? Today I am meeting a friend for late lunch!

~Oriah House (c) 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Risky Moves

Walking across a busy street in downtown Toronto, I pass in front of two vehicles stopped at the intersection, side by side. The men in the drivers’ seats are yelling at each other through open windows- angry, swearing, name-calling, accusations of being cut off, of giving the other “the finger.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are, ya, jerk!”

I keep walking. As I get to the other side of the road, I look back. One of the men gets out, runs around the front of his vehicle, and yanks the driver-side door of the other car open. He screams at the man inside to, “Get out and do something about it, big shot!”

Everyone on the sidewalk freezes.

And then, the door to a vehicle behind them opens. A young man gets out and rushes forward. My breath catches. He is young- late twenties or early thirties- the age of my sons. The other two are heavier, older by fifteen years or more. The young man does not hesitate. He throws himself between the two men in front of him. He looks up into the face of the man who is trying to pull the driver of the other car out of his seat. He puts a hand on the bigger man's shoulder.

And all the time he is talking, looking first at one man, then at the other, touching their arms, grasping one of their hands in one of his own. His voice is urgent, fast and confident, but he does not command. He appeals.

"You don’t want to do this. You really don’t. This is not going to work. You don’t really want to hurt someone. You'll regret it if you do. This is not who you want to be. If you take the next step, if you hit each other, it will all get out of control. You don’t want to do this. It won’t work. This is not who you are. This is not what you want. . . "

He never stops talking. The rest of us stand and watch and listen. There is no judgement in his voice, no accusation. There is, beneath his words, some knowledge of regret, an understanding of how good people can behave badly at times, of how things can and sometimes do get wildly out of control and real harm is done. Everyone on the sidewalk is very still. We hear the young man’s words reaching out to the men, asking them to remember who they really are.

The men hear it too. They slow down. They stop. The man who’d gotten out of his car looks around as if slightly baffled about how he got here. He looks at his hands for a moment, and then says, “Okay,” and walks back to his own vehicle.

The light changes. And everyone drives away.

I can hear a collective exhale where I and others stand on the sidewalk. I blink back unexpected tears and whisper, “Wow!”

Beside me, a  middle-aged man in a grey suit carrying a leather briefcase speaks.“You can say that again. That young man is one hell of a human being.”

The traffic flows, pedestrians walk on, the city around us buzzes back to life.

And I say a prayer of gratitude for the young man, with each breath offering back a thousand times the blessings he bestowed on the two men in disagreement, on all of us who were there to witness. Oh I know it could have turned out differently, that he was taking a risk of being hurt himself. But he led with his heart- you could hear it in his voice. That’s always risky, but often a choice worth making.

~Oriah House (c) 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015


Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I am so grateful for your messages of support- am still largely offline, finding strengthening health each day & appreciating the unfolding of autumn. Mulling this morning if I can allow my gratitude to be big enough to hold it all: the pain & the relief when pain eases; the depletion that flattens & the moments of energy & strength; the fulfillment & the letting go of plans. After all, the harvest (the gift of this life I have) is a result of all that comes, all that is wrestled with & accepted, held tenderly &. . . sometimes, not-so-tenderly. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. ~

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


It happens most frequently on ordinary days
Days when I leave dirty dishes in the sink
Ignore the unmade bed
Step over yesterday’s clothes on the floor
Because I cannot stop moving my pen on the page
Can barely keep up
Words spilling out from some secret source

And when I notice the sun headed for the western horizon
I pause and gasp a little, my breath catching in surprise
Sometimes I go down on my knees
Right there on the crumb-covered carpet
Offering my gritty gratitude
Bewildered by the magic
Flooded with awe

I never take it for granted-
Those moments when what I love carries me
I know it for the grace it is
I cannot make it happen
But I can let it take me when it comes
Give myself over without reservation
Let the unbridled heat ignite something raw and real  

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

 (Another spectacular photo from Karen Davis at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Birthday Poem

I’ve been here awhile.

But the sounds of sunrise still lighten my heart
And the summer scent of dusk
The mingling of sun-warmed earth 
                                   and cool starlight
Softens the sharp edges of the inevitable losses
That always seem to surprise us

Disappointment can taste like burnt toast
But regret is a waste of the heat 
                              we need to continue

After all this time
All I can say with absolute certainty
About this world, this work, this life
This trying and giving up
This resisting and giving in
This holding on and letting go

All I can say for sure about this being Here

Is. . . . . .

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

Deep gratitude to Karen Davis for this photo from )

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Befriending Restlessness

I am learning to befriend restlessness
To spend fewer moments sleep walking
Or giving into continuous movement
Disguised as productive activity
Learning not to resist by collapsing
Into endless distraction and dissatisfaction
(So many shiny objects disappoint)

I am learning to ground in the scent of here
The taste of what is
The soft sound of my breathing
The colour and texture
Of landscapes- inner and outer

After all these years of longing
I am learning to be


~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Photo from Karen Davis at

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Moonlit Kindness

Full moon today. Where do I need to focus the reflected light of this silver sister in the night sky? I meditate. . . .find an inner quiet. . . . and what arises is , “On kindness.” I balk: too mushy and non-specific; too obvious and simplistic. But is it? Am I able to discern kindness, beyond platitudes and assumptions? With others it feels more obvious (although may not be,) but what about kindness to the self?
It occurs to me that genuine kindness is never a means to an end- not done to gain favour or even to create harmony. What would it look like to be kind (to ourselves and others) without hoping for any influence, without attachment to outcomes, even much-needed and valuable outcomes like healing and peace?
Oh these may arise in part because of kindness, but what if genuine kindness is without motive? What if we allow ourselves to choose kindness (to self and others) simple because we are following the heart’s impulse to be kind? What if kindness is the direction in which our hearts want to run, just for the joy of it?
For reasons I do not fully understand, this thought makes my throat tighten around unshed tears both happy and sad for kindnesses offered and withheld.
I feel a hardness within myself toward myself begin to soften.
Kindness can do that. ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(Rumi poster from Slim Chandra-Shekar on Facebook- thank you Slim.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Slipping Away

She slips away
Following the path of lunar light
Into the unknown
Because once in a blue moon 
She needs to break routines
Create empty space 
And welcome what comes in the stillness

Wise grandmothers and shining figures of slender light
Come to her in night dreams
Moving along the dark forest floor like mist 
They ask her to step through the door
Into magic and mystery
They tell her to write 
They tell her to trust the story

So she slips away by the light of the full moon

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I will be off line for most of August, turning my attention to writing. Many blessings, Oriah

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Asking Permission

We do not need permission
To live our life guided by that which lives within us.
And yet, too often, some part of our heart
Waits for someone else to give the go-ahead
Before we fully embody our wisdom and our silliness,
Our joy and our sorrow.

This is what it means to give our power away:
To court the approval of others
To silently ask for permission that is not another's to give
To spend our lives waiting
For that which was within us all along.

~Oriah House "Permission" (c) 2015 (Gratitude for the photo from Karen Davis Open Door Dreaming​)

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Burning

I am thinking about burning
About letting a passion for life-
Not my life or your life- but Life itself
Burn away my hesitation to taste this breath
Filled with the sweet greening of summer
This breath, laden with longing and confusion.

I am thinking about burning
About the flame of desire
That insists that how I move through this day
Be more about love-making
Than about the achievement of things
Too thin to nourish my soul.

I am thinking about burning.
I am lighting a match.
I am making of myself
Kindling for the fires
Of living awake to this moment
Of letting Love have its way with me.

~Oriah House (c) 2015

(Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Is there anything sweeter
than that moment when pain stops?
Like a ladle of clear, cold water
soothing the parched throat;
or the moment of infinite spaciousness
when my neighbour's leaf-blower is silenced.

And. . . .this too shall pass.

That thought makes me laugh out loud,
helps me check the impulse
to hold on to the sweetness,
knowing there is nothing
that needs to be grabbed
nothing that can be gripped by wanting,
only that which can be received.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

Deep gratitude to Paul Bardis for this photo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learning To Trust Grief

Tears do not come easily to me. I'd shed very few since my father died two months ago. He was in such anguish for so long and so wanted to go, I think it felt disloyal to grieve his passing. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready.

Last Sunday I went walking with a friend through the tree covered ravines of Toronto. We were both thinking of our fathers- hers had passed ten years ago on Father's Day. We took tobacco to offer to the earth with our prayers.

I want to tell you that magnificently eloquent words uncovering deep spiritual insights and offering solace for all our losses spilled effortlessly from my lips.

But that's not what happened.

As I held some tobacco and sat on the grass by a towering a balsam fir tree (my father taught me the names of different evergreens) the only words that came over and over like a mantra were, "I hate that you're gone."

And I began to weep.

A breeze rippled through the tops of the trees. . . .and I heard a voice within that said, "I’m here."

And through my tears I murmured, "I know. But I still hate that you're gone."

"Hate" is  not a word I use very often,but it's the word that came. I could feel it in my gut, a knot silently insisting, "No, no, no, no. . . ." Denial and anger all wrapped up in each other over the soft core of a long low wail, an ache that anchored me in the beauty and limitations of being human.

Later I spoke with my eldest son, Brendan. Telling him the words that had come, feeling embarrassed, I said, "It feels so. . . young. . . to hate that he's gone. I'm glad he's free from the suffering, and I know that there is no life without death,and I don't fear what comes next . . . but still I hate that he's not here. It makes no sense."

And Brendan said quietly, "It makes sense to me, mom."

And again I started to cry. Brendan's response allowed me to get that grief is just what it is, and all our ideas and beliefs, all our experience of something larger holding us, and all our understanding of the inevitable cycle of death and birth . . . .well, they may give us some comfort, but they do not dull the sharp edge of the pain that comes when we lose someone we love.

I'm learning to trust the grief, to trust it will come at the right time, in the form that will keep me connected to what is true within me. As Anne Lamott once wrote, "The only way through grief is by grieving."

I am so deeply grateful for all of the people who shared their stories of loss on last Friday's Facebook post, all those who sent me cards and gifts (to my surprise) after my father died. The soft hand-knit shawl was like getting a hug in the mail. This is one of the many aspects of what it means to be part of the human family- we all suffer loss, and move through grief in our own way. How grateful I am to feel held on so many levels, to be able to feel the loss, to be able to let the tears come.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015 (Photo from Karen Davis at I love the mix of darkness and light in this one.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Dad's Passing

Have felt a deepening sadness as the week progressed. Today, it dawned on me: this Sunday is Father’s Day. It will be two months since my father died. Perhaps because there was so much relief in his release from suffering (he had advanced Alzheimer’s,) it has taken awhile for grief to visit. Or perhaps it is just the natural process of the time required to take in that someone we have known and loved our entire lives is no longer on the planet.

I want to share a story of my father’s passing that brings me great comfort.

In the shamanic tradition in which I am trained I have been taught to accompany and assist those who are dying to leave this realm and move on to what comes next. Often I ask family members if there are loved ones who have already passed so I can call on their spirits to assist the person who is dying.

Several times, in the container of sacred ceremony, I attempted to do this for my father, but he did not seem comforted by the possibility of seeing or being guided by those I knew he had loved.

Forty-eight hours before my father died, although I’d seen him the week before, I had the overwhelming desire to undertake the five hours of driving to see him again. It was clear when I arrived that he was in the process of leaving, lying in bed and moving in and out of the crack between the worlds. I stroked his face and spoke to him softly. I sat at his bedside and used what I know to leave my body and journey out with him into that inbetween place we call the dream.

What I saw surprised me: there were two dogs waiting for my father. I laughed out loud- it made perfect sense. My father was a deeply embodied, instinctually-guided man. He trusted animals far more than he trusted human beings. Understandable really – his childhood had been brutally violent. Growing up, his closest companion had been a collie, a dog he called Lassie. The only time I ever saw my father cry uncontrollably was when Lassie was killed by a car on the highway in front of my grandmother’s house.

In the waking dream I focused on the collie, told my father that she would help him across. He nodded and eagerly went with the dog. Excited to see this old trusted friend of my father’s, I didn’t pay much attention to the other dog that followed along

Less than forty-eight hours later, my father passed away. I was comforted to think that his journey may have been less fearful with his spirit companion, Lassie.

And then someone told me that not that long before my father died, the dog he had had for the last 18 years, Paddy, had also died. That was, of course, the second dog in the dream. In the early years of Dad's Alzheimer’s Paddy had been my father’s constant companion as he’d lost the ability to converse with other human beings.

I have very few beliefs about death. I step into the shamanic tradition and work with its tools when someone is dying because it seems to offer comfort and ease the passing. I don’t know what happens after we die- and honestly, I’m okay with not knowing. But I do have a strong sense that whatever happens. . . . . it’s okay, truly not something to fear. And I delight in the sense that my father was accompanied by the spirit of two being he deeply trusted and loved, two beings that had given him much comfort in his life.

So on this Father’s Day I smile to think of my Dad walking with his two canine companions to whatever comes next.

I miss you Dad. I love you.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What Ripples Out

What ripples out from us
Is what lives within us.
I stop trying to manipulate my breath
Stop hoping to get it “right”
Letting the breath be natural, gentle
Feeling how it calms the nervous system
Quiets the mind, nourishes the body
Unhooks me from overstimulation
Immobility is not what it’s about
Moving from this centre I am guided to act
Out of love for my small life
And all that is alive
Let’s try it together now:
For just one inhale, one exhale
Let the breath be gentle
Let the nervous system quiet
Allow action to arise from this center of being.
What ripples out from here
Is what feeds the soul of the world
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(Inspired in part by this beautiful photo- another one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


New moon today: A sliver of hope
I want to learn to truly receive.
I was trained for giving.
I want to receive the way the sun-parched earth
Allows itself to be saturated by early morning rain,
The way a summer kiss, slow and deep,
Ignites my body with liquid fire,
Makes my back arch and my blood moan.
Everyday the Beloved offers all that I need.
I want to learn to truly receive.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Photo from Karen Davis Open Door Dreaming)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Grace and Gravity

Every morning
Swimming up out of dreams
I surrender to being here
I let go into gravity
Into the way the sweet earth pulls me to her
Head, hip, arm, leg . . . . with each exhale I drop further
Into cool white sheets, firm mattress, bedframe, 
floor, walls, earth, earth, earth. . . .
It takes practice
To give up habitual holding on, holding in, holding back
Every morning I open myself
And invite grace to have its way with me
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Deep thanks to Karen Davis for her wonderful sunrise photo at Open Door Dreaming)

Thursday, June 11, 2015


She stopped offering excuses, justifications, explanations.
She said yes or no with her whole being,
Letting her heart and gut guide her
Knowing neither were infallible
Claiming her right to change her choice 
When new information- inner or outer- arose.
There were consequences.
There always are.
She let herself learn, flourish,
Blaze like the sun,
And rest in the sweet, cool darkness.
She offered what she could to her people,
She followed the blood red thread of her own life.
(Deep thanks for this photo of the blazing morning sun to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Chance To Begin Again

This morning I sat on my small balcony, in the light of the rising sun to do my practices of meditation,contemplation and prayer. The freshness of the morning reminds me of how I am given the opportunity to begin again and again with my intention to be here fully, to get out of my own way (a real challenge that one, particularly when anxiety arises, and sometimes it does) and experience directly that which fills and holds us with a tenderness beyond comprehension.

The phrase, "self-emptying" arises and I feel how letting go of the need to preserve me, my, mine in every moment (it's really the tightening around this that causes difficulties- emptying is not about neglecting care for this life) can crowd out this awareness. I feel so clear. . .. so spacious and calm. . .

And then a neighbour powers up the electric saw and begins cutting tiles. and I feel my whole being recoil.

I laugh out loud at how easy it is to lose momentary equanimity and get snarly about the other who is, without even knowing it, effecting Me, My quiet, and the awareness I want to be Mine. Ah, a good dose of humility in the morning mix. The laughter dissolves reactivity, and I practice sitting in stillness accompanied by the music of the power saw another is using to create home for himself and his family.

I begin again. ~Oriah

(Another spectacular morning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming​.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A feeling of homecoming,
Of stepping over the threshold, 
Out of the chilled darkness of night
Into a circle of soft warm light.
How long has she been out-of-touch, 
Caught up in doing what it seemed needed to be done?
Too busy to notice
How she longed for her own company.
Surprised and delighted now
She sits in silence, smiling
As the darkness inside and out
Yields to the growing light.
~ Oriah

(Photo from Karen Davis Open Door Dreaming)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Sometime we find ourselves in Life's waiting room.
What was is gone.
What will be is not yet cresting on
Our inner or outer horizon.
If we know in our bones that clarity will come
When the time is right,
The wait can be delicious rest,
A slow motion meander of long slow inhales
Of exhales filled with full-body smiles
And deep-heart-acceptance.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Long Low Wail

I don’t cry easily. Sometimes I wish I did.

Conditioned as a child to be stoic (which can come in handy when things are not going well, and I just need to keep walking and do what needs to be done) my inner resistance to tears means they tend to come all at once or not at all.

I’d like to be someone who cries quietly, someone who could let my eyes brim and spill over without my face getting blotchy and my nose becoming all red and snotty. I’d like to be able to keep breathing gently and deeply as tears slip silently down my cheeks instead of desperately gulping air between sobs.

I’d like to be able to cry without howling.

More often my eyes stay mysteriously dry until the sound of grief rises from my gut without warning.

I am in the shower, casually lathering my hair with shampoo when suddenly a long low wail starts in my belly and rips up through my chest, setting my throat on fire as it is explodes into the small tiled room. It’s the sound of a wounded animal. My knees buckle. I crouch in the tub, my arms wrapped around my body, a deluge of tears coming as fast as the water from the shower head above me. Sometime later it ends as abruptly as it began.

Sometimes the grief is personal- today, as I feel the loss of my father, or when my marriage exploded five years ago. Other times, it is prompted by the heart-breaking violence of our shared world- young women kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram; poisonous chemicals forced into the earth by fracking. . . .

Even as I write this I question my stated desire to cry more quietly. Why? Another part of me wants us to be able to cry out and rend our clothing when grief takes us. Perhaps we need to howl more often and more loudly alone in our bathrooms and together in circles sitting on the earth, or gathered on the steps of our local legislature.

Perhaps sorrow unleashed would clear confusions of the mind and help us act on the wisdom of the soul.

And perhaps as tears of sorrow flow, tears of joy will find us more easily and more often, opening our hearts to the challenge and the gift of being human. 

~Oriah House (c) 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When I'm Really Not "Fine"

It's good to have people in our lives who are not fooled by our habitual defenses.

Two weeks ago today my father died. It was anticipated and, in many ways welcome- he had suffered with Alzheimer's for a decade. I called my sons to let them know. They asked, "Do you want us to come over?"

I replied, "Oh no. I'm fine. I've got some calls to make, and I know you both have work."

Two hours later they were both here in my apartment, talking and just hanging out.

Later, Brendan, my eldest son said, "Yeah, we got off the phone, looked at each other and said simultaneously, 'We need to go over.' You're not exactly trustworthy in the 'I'm fine' category."

He's right of course. I almost always say I'm fine. It's my default setting. Not being "fine," needing something, was dangerous in my early years. Saying "I'm fine," was one way I was taught to look after others. Sometimes I truly think I'm fine when I'm not. And my ability to sound fine no matter what is going on is legendary.

It's good to have people in our lives who see us clearly, without judgement, but with lots of love. On a good day, when I am fully present with myself I can ask for what I need. But I am deeply grateful that my sons and some close friends can hear the truth of my heart on a not-so-good day.


Monday, May 4, 2015

What Is Given

There is nothing you or I could do to earn or become unworthy of the Infinite Love that gives itself away in creating all that is in every moment. Oh, there are more than a few things we can do (self-criticism, self-loathing, resentment, etc.) that can make it difficult for us to receive the direct experience of the Beloved's constant presence within and around us, but that Love remains- forever patient as we do our best to be here. Because here is where that Love finds us. ~Oriah (Another spectacular good morning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming.)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

All Is Well

Attended my father's funeral on Tuesday the 28th, and I am saturated with gratitude. My heart is full. There is such truth in the beauty that unfolds daily amidst the unpredictable challenges of life and chaos of the world. May we be present with what is within and around us. May how we are with ourselves and each other be a love letter that whispers encouragingly, "Live!" ~Oriah (Photo by Kristy Thompson)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Flying Lessons

My father is dying,
his grip still strong on my arm
begging me to help him leave.

Each day after work his coming home was
exuberance entering by the back screen door,
a loud metal lunch pail sliding across the kitchen floor.
me: running on short dimpled leghs, shouting,
“Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy!”
launching myself into the air from the top step
small arms wide, fearless,
knowing he’d catch me.
He was the scent of warm sun, clean sweat,
and creosote from the hydro poles he climbed.
He was strength and
green eyes that lit up when he saw me.
I was a small bird in his arms.

My father is dying,
his grip still strong on my heart
as I look for a way to help him fly.

- Oriah House (c) 2015 (Photo by Karen Dais from )

Friday, April 10, 2015

When The World Overwhelms

I print out poems on hot pink pages
handing them out in the business district,
moving through the dark cool canyons 
between towers of glass and steel.

Sometimes a poem is all you can do.
Like breathing,
or walking with your head tipped back
so you can see the sky.

~Oriah House (c) 2015