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​)