Monday, December 19, 2016

Loving the Real

It's a great time of year to learn how to let go of the ideal, and love the real. The problem with chasing the ideal- whether it is an cherished idea of how we, or others, or our community or our world "should" be- is that is stops us from seeing and loving what is. And yes, what is, is generally messy- with the glorious and the not-so-glorious all mixed together.
        Sometimes we try to love with the semi-conscious agenda of making ourselves, others, or the world "better." But love- the kind we hope will hold us when we are afraid and confused- has no agenda. Consider- how loving does it feel to be loved for who you "could" or "should" be in the eyes of another?
        Yeah. Not so much.
        So perhaps we could start with the one we see in the bathroom mirror each morning- especially this week when we may have expectations or hopes of seeing someone more together, less tentative or outspoken, more generous, less overwhelmed than that woman in the mirror who looks like she just wants to go back to bed.
        Oh, it's not that we can't take actions that might change what is (that coffee and shower can do wonders for the woman in the mirror.) but if we start from a place of loving what is our movement throughout the day becomes less driven and more dancing. ~Oriah

Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming helps us love what is by offering daily photos like this one of the beauty that is our world.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Quiet Cold Night

I am in a strangely content place: quiet but wanting to stay connected. A little world weary, but wanting to stay informed. Smiling at the twinkling lights of the season, but avoiding crowds of shoppers. It is, with wind chill, -15 C. Still, I bundle up late at night and go walking on the deserted streets. The sound of my boots crunching on snow take me back to walking home after choir practice as a teenager, alone in the cold star-lit darkness.

I love the impersonal nature of the cold, the way it needs to be taken into account (if we are to avoid losing fingers or toes) but does not require that we take a position, make a judgement, label it "good" or "bad." It helps me feel my smallness in the vastness of what is. It teaches me not to take things personally, even as I consider what response I can make that is needed and sustainable. It teaches me to be here. ~Oriah I may have shared this photo by Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming before. It conveys that sense of the splendid vastness that I feel out walking in the cold at night.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Receiving is Hard for Some of Us

As a child my brother, Doug- a year, a week and a day younger than myself- was afraid of the dark. I was not. Often, after we’d been put to bed, Doug would tip toe into my room and beg to sleep with me. There was lots of room for two small children in my double bed, but I always said no. Saying yes felt dangerous in the same way that having a teddy bear in my bed for comfort felt dangerous. I needed to be able to sleep alone in what seemed like an enormous bed, in the dark. I threw the stuffed animals on the floor. If I was afraid, I buried the fear. If I felt lonely, I denied the feeling. Anything external to myself that offered comfort could be taken away. By the time I was five and Doug was four I’d learned that needing something that could be taken away was a dangerous way to live in my mother’s house. Of course, most of this was completely unconscious, although I do remember feeling that my brother needed to toughen up or he’d get us both in trouble. When it became clear that I was not going to let him into the bed, Doug would ask to sleep on the small oval rag rug next to my bed. Reluctantly and with some impatience I would acquiesce, and he would curl up on the rug and fall asleep. Sometimes my parents found him there before they went to bed and carried him back to his own room. Occasionally I would find him there sleeping on that rug in his flannel cowboy pajamas in the morning. That I would refuse either of us the comfort we needed at such an early age makes my chest ache. I have become better at receiving, but doing so with unbridled joy is still a bit of an Olympic-level accomplishment for me. That’s okay. I enjoy and appreciate the opportunities to practice. Still, as we approach the holidays with all its giving and receiving I feel my anxiety stir, and I become more meticulous in my daily practice in an effort to remain conscious when old fears that do not belong to today arise. I offer this little story to say: may we be patient with each other over the holidays; may we remember that each person has their own history and experience that may be very different from our own; may we give what we can and receive what we need with joy and gratitude. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

Stopping Overwhelm

Last night, a dear friend left me a phone message. I could barely hear her because the tv was turned up loud in the background. When I called back she was railing about politicians in the news, filled with fear and anger over what is happening in the world. It was 11 pm- so I said, as gently but as firmly as I could- "Turn off the television!".
        Let's take a deep breath together. Regularly. Frequently. Let's find a truly sustainable way to live, to balance the need for information that can help us contribute and participate in the world with how much (in this moment) our hearts can hold.
        Because, if we have to disconnect from our hearts in order to take in more analysis or information, our actions will not be fueled and guided by our very real love for the world.
        I am not talking about putting our heads in the sand, or only listening to uplifting news. I am talking about discovering what really sustains us in keeping our hearts open- and making sure that we do that - whether it is praying or walking on the earth, watching comedies that make us laugh, or reading great poetry, or listening to music that makes us dance.
        Our shared life needs all of us, needs us awake and aware and alert, needs us rested and calm and clear, needs us listening deeply and responding with an open heart. And make no mistake- we can say, "No!" to that which causes suffering and threatens life, without closing our hearts- if we take care of those hearts.
        Sustainability is about how we receive life from and renew resources- including the inner resources that fuel our participation in our world and in our own small lives.
        So let's take another one of those breaths together. . . . and tend ourselves, each other and the world with fierce compassion, crazy hope, and real kindness. ~Oriah

One of the things that sustains me are the spectacular photos, like this one, from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Seeing this egret's wings makes me pause and take a long full inhale.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dreaming in the Dark

Each day now
A little less light
Darkness tip-toeing in
Draining colour from the sky
As we head for home

Waking up in the dark
Light leaking in around the curtains
Later each morning

Moving toward the longest night
We practice letting go. . . and letting go. . . .
We dream for ourselves and our people
We remember the promise of the returning light

`Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this beautiful photo of the light and the dark.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How We See - Or Not

How we frame things, changes what we see. If we frame something as a "disaster" (an illness, an election, lunch with a friend that went badly) we see something that we do not see if we frame it as an "opportunity" or a "challenge" or even a "mystery" that baffles. But some things are more pliable than others, and it's not easy to see when our framing is creating denial of what is. (Although we are often sure we can see this in others- ha!) And, for those who claim or aim to have no framework, I say good luck- the human psyche, in an effort to make sense of ourselves, our lives and our world is always framing things- naming them, colouring them with emotion and beliefs, creating a narrative. Even the idea that we can see without framing is, of course, a filter that changes what is seen. The problem arises when we think our framework is The Truth, when we go unconscious and don't even consider a situation from another's way of seeing, when we claim that we are seeing "objectively" without a particular approach shaped by our history and our current needs and fears. I have long been aware that those who see things very differently than I do give me the gift of becoming conscious of my own frameworks. Because it's only when we are conscious of what our framework might be blocking or dismissing that we can make a choice about expanding what we can see. ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer Many thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this spectacular photo that prompted this mulling for me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

Let's pause. I know, I know this culture's way of dealing with disappointment is often to start regrouping, reorganizing, getting out there and taking action. That's okay but. . maybe we could just take a moment, a day, to sit down, to take a slow walk or a long run, to feel our feet upon the earth, to be with whatever is arising within.
When we try to outrun uncomfortable feelings- grief, loss, fear, anger- they disappear into our unconscious and from there, wreck havoc, shape choices and sometimes cause outbursts that leave us mystified.
So, today, I am going to pause and see what arises, and- to the best of my ability (and yes, some moments are better than others) just be with what comes. Fresh grief can stir heartache for old losses that have not been mourned. Fresh anger can take us to old hurts that need tending. Being with whatever arises reminds us that nothing is static, everything is in constant motion, and nothing- no matter how uncomfortable- can really be outrun.
We can pause. We won't get stuck here. We are not alone here. <3 span=""> Oriah
With gratitude for another spectacular photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Waking Up Again and Again

Love it when my own words come back to haunt and help me. So hard to know when we have gone unconscious, fallen asleep to what and who we are because. . . we're unconscious! and asleep! And THAT would be the life of a human being- going to sleep, waking up, being aware, sinking into unawareness, and becoming aware again.
      The tricky thing is that walking asleep can sometimes feel desirable when things within or around us are hard. But, as this little piece from "The Call"reminds me- there's no safety in walking asleep. We might just walk right into a wall.
      The good news is that when we have woken up to something, we never go back to sleep quite as completely. Even in our unconsciousness we often have a niggling feeling that we are a little "off," and that can be enough to make us sit down and breathe, and use whatever way we know to wake up.
      For me writing often takes me home to remembering what I am. If I just keep letting my fingers move on the keyboard, sooner or later the words I need to hear to go home to the truth of what we are will appear. ~Oriah
And another fantastic pic by Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Thank you Karen!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Love Letters

Everyday the world offers love letters:
Today, a soft blush across the horizon at dawn
Wind-blown leaves hurtling across a bright blue sky
Strangers laughing together, chasing new apples
spilling out of a grocery bag onto the busy sidewalk
Everyday the world offers love letters
If we can pause to receive them
They will sustain our hearts.
If, in our pain or our rushing, we cannot
It is not held against us. No one is keeping score.
Tomorrow new love letters will arrive.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2016
Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming does a wonderful job of passing along the love letters- like this one- offered at dawn and dusk.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Life Changes Us

Life changes us
Heart breaks and soul aches shape us
Mystery and magic colour how we see and know and love
Life changes us 
Don’t fight it; work with what the day brings
Let it teach us how to love, how to let go
Life changes us
Sometimes it brings us to our feet
Sometimes it brings us to our knees
Life changes us
Let it
It’s why we’re here
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2016
Something about this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door's Dreaming prompts me to say yes- to another day, another adventure, to the unknown ways in which today may change me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Magic Is Afoot

An unexpected bit of fun yesterday: I was walking home around dusk. Having emerged from the steamy subway the cool breeze felt great. As I turned the corner onto my street, walking past the old stone church on the corner, the wind picked up and sparked dust devils- small whirlwinds- along the sidewalk. I could see them clearly because they twirled the fallen yellow and red leaves into rising circles. As I stepping into the whirlwinds, they seemed to move with me, the wind tossing my long, unbound, grey hair in all directions around my head.

As the circling leaves continued to move around me, I walked past the parking lot adjacent to the church, where three young men- late teens early twenties- were watching. One of them spoke."Whoa, what are you, some kind of witch?"

I looked at him and smiled "Something like that," I replied without stopping.

They laughed nervously as I kept walking, surrounded by flying leaves. I could hear snippets of their conversation. "That is weird, man. . ." "yeah, she looks like a real witch. . . . " "Ya gotta watch out for those old ladies- ya never know. . . ."

It probably helped that I was dressed in black- more fashion laziness than statement.

And yes, better watch out for the old ladies- you never know what magic we might be up to :-) ~Oriah

Thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this magnificent photo

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Notes For the World Weary

Lately, more frequently than I'd like, I find myself feeling what I have decided to call, "world weary.” It's a kind of tiredness that washes over me like a slow, cold wave. It makes my thinking fuzzy, breeds a restlessness in my limbs, and makes me susceptible to distractions that do not nourish.

I find myself impatient and overwhelmed by the endless analysis of current political, social and environmental realities (even those I think are well done and important) and distrustful of (no doubt mostly sincere and well-meaning) books, workshops and courses promising a Bigger, Better, Thinner, Richer or even Deeper life.

It is possible that I am just becoming a grumpy old woman.

Most of the time, I don’t need more information. I don’t have room for more information. I come away from social media and news sites feeling as if I simultaneously know too much and too little. Half-buried in the dust of disillusionment, I occasionally pick up the faint scent of cynicism- the clever mind’s disguise for hopelessness- and am shocked to find it is coming from me!

I do find glimmerings of what slows the spiral into world weariness: walking outside regardless of the weather; sitting by the lake and staring into the ceaseless blue-green rise and fall of the waves; making food that nourishes body and soul- soup made with root vegetables flavoured with fresh tarragon and rosemary; turning off the computer, putting on my headphones and sinking into the sound of a cello’s long, low lament.

I read this list and realize that any of the things that renew me could be called prayer.There are a thousand ways to pray, to open to that which is larger and revitalize our willingness to meet the world. However we do it, we must each find our own sustainable way of being present with what is within and around us.

Because the world needs us present. Because what we are and what we can offer flowers when we are able to be here fully,

For me that means more walks and less social media, more music and movement, less worry and work.Whatever feeds our soul enables us to be with the world with fresh hearts and minds.

And whatever we are facing, individually or collectively, needs to be soulfully met and tenderly held.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer © 2016

Deep thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for her spectacular photo.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Dark Forest

Sometimes, writing a book is a lot like life. You are entering a forest. At the beginning there seems to be a path, and you strike off with curiosity, optimism and a hoped-for schedule. At some point, it becomes apparent that there is no path, and that you are not going to get out of the seemingly infinite trees before the sun sinks beneath the horizon. You are here for the night, and the forest is filled with strange sounds and mysterious movements. There is no going back. You are lost, and you realize you have not told anyone where you are going so those who love you will not even know where to look. It strikes me that this could be a metaphor for many of the adventures we choose or have foisted upon us: having a child, studying for and entering a new career, any creative project, entering intimate relationship, getting married, getting divorced, living with a chronic illness. . . And there is no single "right" answer for what to do. Sometimes it is wisest to sit down and wait for the dim light of dawn to filter through the trees. Other times it's wiser to edge forward carefully, making progress however slowly. Sometimes we call out for help, and sometimes we wrap ourselves in silence unti courage and clarity find us. Often help comes from completely unexpected places- a friend carrying a light appears, angels come to our aid. And sometimes we are called to stand up and fight if we want to survive the night. I am deep in the forest now, although I do, at times, stumble upon unexpected clearings. In those places I can navigate by the stars if I remember to look up. ~Oriah A spectacular photo by Karen Davis from Open Door Dreaming of a comet traversing the Milky Way.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Being Lied About

How to be with the reality of someone lying about you? To others. Frequently. For years. Even after you have approached them and explained that what they think you did is simply not true.
I admit it- this is a tough one for me. Sort of graduate work in "getting" that what others do most often has nothing to do with me. And yet, we live in a shared world, so what others do can impact us.
This can happen in families, in groups, in communities and- if you have a public profile at all- it can happen publicly. What a challenge- to let it go, not to step into a fight that would shape our short lives in undesirable ways, to send a prayer for the other. . . . Okay, that last bit might be post-graduate work. 
For me, it is less about reputation (although I am not immune to cringing at the idea that others believe something untrue about me) but the way it makes me feel inside- constricted, shaken, a little frantic. . . helpless.
Ah, there it is- the helplessness- the inability to do anything to stop something that affects me.The illusion of and desire for control arises- the inner child-like wail of, "Not faIr!"
lol- yep, not fair. That at least makes me smile. I sit with the feelings, I imagine creating space around the other's action and my reaction. . . . letting it all be held in something larger. And the constriction loosens, and I become still.
And then I write a little here as a way of sorting what just happened and sharing it in the hopes that it might help us all with our shared human struggles. (And if you think you've heard a lie about me please do not post it in the comments or send it to me. Lies do not need repeating and if it's one I have not heard yet well, I don't need to hear it! ) ~Oriah
This spectacular pic mirrors the spaciousness I imagine as the night sky. Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for her magnificent photography.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Our resilience takes my breath away. It stands intimately entwined with our terrible translucent fragility. We are soft and small, brief and biodegradable. And yet, we sometimes flare like a match ignited in darkness Illuminating the moment, revealing the truth we know but cannot explain: How we are sustained By the scent of another’s sun-salted skin, the soft brush of lips on the nape of the neck. . By the blazing dawn- a promise searing the sky, the loon’s lonely wail at the end of the day. . How we are sustained By what we love By that which Loves us. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016 I am often sustained by the beauty of photos like this one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Courting Kindness*

I've been thinking a lot about kindness, watching to see when it is easy and when it is hard for me to respond to another with an open heart and kind words or actions. One of the things I notice is that when I feel connected to my own, deep centre (and so, clear about my own available energy) it is much easier to be kind, because I don't feel at risk of agreeing to something that I really cannot do without serious consequences to my own health.
To be kind, we need to take responsibility for knowing our own limitations of the moment. This doesn't mean that we cannot, at times, stretch- we can- but if we never really consider our own inner and outer resources, we may become unkind in a desperate effort at self-preservation.
And, of course, sometimes we make a mistake- we think we can be available or helpful to another in a way that it becomes clear, we cannot. It can be tempting to blame the other, to communicate that they or their situation are "too much," instead of letting them know that although we want very much to there for them, our inner resources need replenishing right now.
Healthy self-care enables us to be kind. ~Oriah (c) 2016

Arianna Gray came up with the title for this little piece when I posted it on FB. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dancing Anyway

Wounds can be healed
Some leave a scar
Some leave us walking
with a bit of a limp
We can spend years
trying to walk as if
we'd never been hit
Learning to pass as someone
who has never felt the blade
never been burned by the fire
Trying to fade every scar

Or we can accept what is
and move to the music as we are-
a little lopsided
tilting into the wind
coming to a sudden stillness
when a voice or a movement
ignites an old neural pathway
with the remembered scent
of blood and burning

We pause for just a moment
not breathing
Then exhale
and inhale
and move to the the melody once more

Some wounds
even after they're healed
leave us walking with a bit of a limp

But they cannot stop us from dancing

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming

Monday, June 20, 2016

Time Off-line

Blessed Full Moon and Solstice dear friends. Longest time of light here in the northern hemisphere, and longest night down-under. My heart, body and dreams are telling me to take a break from online life, including Facebook and this blog. I am off this week to a lakeside cottage - and then hope to get further up north to the wilderness I love a little later. Mostly I need to unplug, to step out of the stream of constant information, to go (internally and externally) quiet. And so, I will heed this call on this day of the fullness of the Summer Solstice light. I don't know what it will bring. I do know I will miss many of you. Following inner promptings- Oriah
And if you find yourself missing Karen Davis' spectacular photos like this one, please go to her Facebook page Open Door Dreaming

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I've been thinking a lot about kindness, about how it is often not my first (or second, or third. . . ) impulse. At some point I realized just how daunting and life-changing it could be to make my moment by moment intention, kindness toward myself, others- family, friends, strangers- and the world.

Kindness, in any specific instance, leaves no one and nothing out. Sometimes kindness requires that we walk away. Sometimes it asks us to dive in. Most often I find it asks me to pause, to slow down, to feel my way into the moment asking, what would kindness look like here?

In a world shouting that you must live your BIGGEST, BEST life, kindness can seem too tame, too quiet, too ordinary. But I begin to suspect that making room for kindness. . . .could take us beyond where we thought we could go, would unleash the breath-takingly wild and generous stuff of which we are made.

 ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this wonderful photo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Little Things

So here's how the day started: I opened the fridge door to take out a one liter pitcher of homemade iced tea and. . . . dropped it. In the fridge. From the top shelf. Small picturesque waterfalls of brown liquid trickled down onto all the food below. I’d planned to take some tea back to bed and start writing there, in a leisurely way. Which is exactly what I did, leaving the fridge as it was. An hour later I went into the kitchen to embrace the opportunity to clean my refrigerator. (Ha!) As I opened the door and felt the cold tea dribbling onto the floor soak into my socks (happily black, not white) I flipped on a cd by Mary Chapin-Carpenter. She sang, "Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. . " And I started to laugh. Of course, there are many things that are much more serious than kitchen spills. I recently spent time with people who were reeling (and still are) from the sudden and completely unanticipated death of a woman who was wife, mother, sister, friend, colleague and inspiration to many. One of the enormous privileges of living where I do, is that very few days are about life and death. A few are, and- as we would say in the shamanic teachings I’ve learned and shared- when death comes we have a chance to make it an ally. It is the reminder of impermanence. It is that which puts spilled tea and wet socks and most other things into perspective. My fridge and kitchen floor are cleaner than they’ve been in months. The sun is shining, and the children in the park next to my balcony are squealing and laughing as they run around as children do. Life is good. I am grateful. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer " House I love this photo- makes me smile. Like this little guy we are small and beautiful, and although sometimes solitary, always connected.Thank you Karen Davis at .Open Door Dreaming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Try a Little Tenderness

Sometimes, preparing a meal when I am tired and cranky and want to argue with the assertion that popcorn is not an entrée, I catch myself grumbling, and I stop for a minute. I sit down in a chair and take a deep breath. I feel my weariness and I lay my hand on my heart, and wait for a little tenderness to arise.

And then, moving more slowly now, I prepare the meal, noticing the crispness of the red peppers, the scent of the cilantro, the creamy smoothness of the avocado. And, on a good day, if I can let go of rushing, I can allow my desire to nourish myself or others infuse and guide my preparation of the meal.

And I swear you can taste the difference.

Because intent- HOW we do something- shapes and to a large extent determines the impact of our actions. Actions taken solely out of obligation lose the fullness of their ability to touch the other or the self with that which is healing, expanding and renewing. Tenderness becomes elusive, and the effort is exhausting.

This holds for self-care as well as care of others. I have a long list of things that I know are good for me: eating well, going for a walk, doing my morning practice. . . .But if I do them out of obligation (to some ideal or “should”) and without any real tenderness toward myself, I find I am going through the motions somewhat mechanically and the impact- the restoration of balance and energy- is diminished.

And yet, I don’t want to make this quality of caring another “should.” Some days, all we can do is go through the motions- and sometimes that’s enough to make us available to the grace of a larger Mystery that carries us beyond obligation to our true and compassionate nature.

I am learning to catch myself when I move too fast, when I am driven by real or imagined obligations. I am learning, as the song says, to try a little tenderness with myself and others.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House 

In keeping with this theme, as I look at this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming, I think of Stephen Mitchell's translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching: "Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Impossible Decisions

Last weekend was the first real summery weather we’ve had. It was sunny and warm, lilacs exploding with scent, and blossoming trees heavy with flowers. And then, someone I know- a close friend of a heart-sister- had a massive stroke. In the blink of an eye, life as she knew it- filled with loving family and friends, an exciting new business and seemingly boundless energy- changed. She is on life support. There is brain damage. Doctors are waiting to see what happens next. There will probably be some hard decisions for her family to make. A couple of weeks ago I sat with another woman I admire deeply. Some routine medical tests revealed that she has a brain aneurysm. Doctors want to operate. If they don’t and the aneurysm bursts, she will likely die. But surgery will impact the brain in unpredictable ways. And I think to myself, “We don’t have what we need to make these kinds of decisions!” And yet, there is no one else to make them. The truth is, we can never know all the variables that deeply effect our lives and the lives of those we love. Part of me would like to have a chat Whomever-Is-In-Charge, would like to lodge a complaint: We are not equipped for this kind of responsibility! There is so much we don’t control and cannot know. There are real limits to life as a physical being: blood damages the brain. And yet, sometimes people recover when doctors thought it was impossible, and ongoing research is expanding our knowledge of many areas including neuroplasticity. Our impulse to hold on to life and each other is rooted in our very being. And yet, I think of my father before he died of Alzheimer’s. Over and over, in rare moments of lucidity and in the fog of his confusion he begged me to help him die, to help him escape the daily hell that Alzheimer's was for him. The best I could do for him was to ensure he did not get medical treatments that would prolong his life. How are we supposed to make these decisions that so profoundly impact our lives, when we don’t have all the information, don’t know what is truly possible or impossible. . . . when we would give our lives to help someone we love? But that is not what is asked of us. What is asked is something much harder. What is asked is that we do what we can with what we have to work with- incomplete information, few certainties, limited perception and aching hearts. Some of us have spiritual practices that help us feel held by something larger. Some of us do not.

We do the best we can with what we have. 

Often we stumble in confusion and anguish. Sometimes we are alone with our choices. Hopefully, more often we are held in the arms, hearts and prayers of others. I am in awe of how we do what has to be done, how we make impossible choices, how we hold each other in tenderness.
Last weekend- as is true every day on this beautiful planet we share- some people struggled with life and death decisions; some people had the life they knew changed forever; some people faced unexpected heartbreak and hard choices. 
And still the lilacs explode with scent, and blossoming trees are heavy with flowers.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another Day

Over time, if we’re paying attention, if we are given enough days on this beautiful earth. . . . many of the certainties we were taught, much of what we were so sure of when we were young. . . falls away.
I’ll admit it- some days I miss the certainty. I don’t miss the beliefs or ways of seeing that separated me from what was true and sometimes hard within and around me, but some days I feel a little nostalgic for that wonderful confident sense of standing on solid ground, however delusional that might have been.
Or maybe I’m just missing being young enough that my energy feels so infinite I take it for granted.
It can be tempting to stop taking chances when we realize how small and brief and biodegradable we are, when we see how little we control, when we experience how loss and searing pain can bring us to our knees.
But it’s a package deal- this life we are given. No risk, no loss, no sorrow means not being able to feel joy, to love and be loved. And the risks are real. We will fall, and some things (hearts, bones, promises, plans, relationships. . . .) will be broken. And there may be times when we will feel as if even that which seemed unbreakable- spirit, soul, love- has been shattered.
Perhaps nothing of what we think we are is unbreakable.
And yet. . . . everyday life calls to me, saying, “Live!”
The taste of a sun-ripened peach, laughing with my sons as I careen awkwardly around wearing a Virtual Reality headset (a truly comical scene,) the hand that reaches out as we help another or are helped ourselves to get up again and again. . . . these things are as true as any certainty I’ve ever had.
Every morning, my grandfather said with a tone of resigned anticipation, “Another day, another dollar.”
I used to live as if my inner morning salutation was, “Another day, another chance to get it right"- a set-up if ever there was one.
Now, when I open my eyes in morning, I think, “Another day. . . .” and on a good morning, on a morning when I can let the sound of the wind through the leaves of the tree beside my window find me, when I can feel the slight pause at the end of my exhale, before the next inhale breathes me into being, I whisper into the pre-dawn light, "Thank you."
~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016
Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for another spectacular photo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Surrendering isn't about giving up. Nor is it about laying back and going unconscious. It's about paying attention in a deeper way.

I cannot write the book I am working on using the same methods (time commitments, structure, rhythm etc.) that I used with other books. It doesn't work. Nor (apparently) can I quit. When I try to write the way I used to- or when I try to quit- in both cases, I get sick, I get 73 day migraines, I get tachycardia, my back goes into spasm. . .

The body does not lie -although sometimes it's hard to know exactly what is being communicated- but in this case, minimally it is, "This is not working!"

Surrendering is about listening with every cell in our being. It's about watching to see what happens- When do I lose the thread of the story? When does my energy plummet? Where do I get easily distracted? When does the process flow? Where does the energy want to go?

This book is deeply personal. It is a memoir. Some of the stories are hard stories. That's okay, because (spoiler alert) it works out well. I've started to think of the stories as small squares in a quilt. I am gathering squares. I will piece them together later- and the pattern they form will reveal itself then.

I can surrender to finding and making squares. I can surrender to listening deeply to what works- what feeds life and love right now- and what does not.

In surrendering we find the piece of the story that is ours to embody, to carry, to share and bring to life. In surrendering we find our way of weaving or quilt-making- which is to say, our way of participating in the Sacred Wholeness that is what we are.

~Oriah (Gratitude to Karen Davis at for this photo.)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Less Driving, More Dancing

I often sit outside in the morning sun listening, writing and drinking tea. The buds on the trees are beginning to open, their tender green fluorescent against the cloudless sky. Birds are building nests. Shoots are poking their heads up from the dark, moist earth. Everything shouts. “Live! Begin again, grow and blossom!”

Friends in tune with astrological insights tell me there have been a number of planets that appear (from our perspective) to be going backwards (retrograde) telling us that even as spring pulls us forward we are also drawn to looping back, to consider what to leave behind, what to make of what has been: trash, or compost, or something to tuck into our pockets for the journey.

How we do this matters. One foot on the gas and one on the brake will burn us out, but a gentle circling- more dancing than driving- can help us discern what has real value for us and what does not.

But no matter how we move- awkwardly or gracefully- the cherry blossoms will burst open in their own time. ~Oriah

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Just Another Spiritual Adventure With The Mountain Dreamer

People make assumptions. We all do it. I am sometimes surprised at the assumptions some people make about me because they’ve read something I’ve written, or heard my medicine name (and that can go either way: either Enlightened Spiritual Teacher or Flaky High-Woo-Woo Nut- wrong on both counts) or know someone who knew someone who once attended a ceremony I lead or a retreat I facilitated.

Once, a lovely young woman who was interviewing me mentioned something about a television show she’d watched and then apologized, saying, “Oh I know you wouldn’t watch TV – you’re probably meditating in the evening.”

Yeah. Right. That’s me- in a constant state of meditative serenity.

I could not help but think of inflated projections on Saturday night. I’d gone to get groceries after an early dinner. (Yep, life in the fast lane.) When I got home, unpacking included unwrapping a twelve-roll pack of toilet paper and stashing it in the cupboard under the bathroom sink.

Suddenly I noticed a strange smell- an odd chemical scent. I was alarmed.

For those of you who don’t know, I recently came out of a (new record for me) seventy-three day migraine. Like most who suffer from this affliction, my migraines can be triggered by chemical scents, and you can bet that after two and half months of agony I was hyper-alert to anything that might send me down that road again.

I sniffed around cautiously and discovered it was the newly purchased toilet paper. They make scented toilet paper! Who knew? I closed the cupboard door and stepped out onto the balcony to gulp some relatively fresh air. But there was no way around it- I needed to get rid of the offending toilet paper rolls. The trouble is, they were now mixed in with old rolls- all white, with no distinguishing pattern on the paper.

This is how I came to spend my Saturday evening sitting on the bathroom floor, sniffing toilet paper rolls one at time and stuffing the stinky ones into a garbage bag between breathing breaks on the balcony. At some point, as I lightly passed another roll under my nose to detect what the manufacturer called “chamomile fragrance,” I muttered to myself, “Yep, just another exciting and enlightening evening with Mountain Dreamer.”

And I started to laugh.

I was still laughing and shaking my head as I took the garbage bag to the recycling bin outside my building. The good news is I did not get a migraine, and laughing at the whole predicament truly sent me to bed with a smile on my face.

The truth is I don’t know anything about enlightenment- and have never claimed I do. But I do know that not taking myself too seriously makes life easier and more joyful. Laughter makes me glad to be alive, even if it is in a world where resources are used to create something as absurd as scented toilet paper.

Good to laugh, wherever we can, whenever we can.

Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Possibility of Healing After Death

My father died of advanced Alzheimer’s one year ago tomorrow- April 22, 2015. He was eighty-three. My brother died three weeks ago today, of an aortic aneurysm. He was sixty years old.
I’ve been kind of quiet this week, just sitting with my own heart and what arises in the stillness.
Often the death of those close to us reminds us of our own mortality and encourages us to live and love fully and deeply. In the shamanic traditions in which I was trained this is called making Death an Ally.
My father and my brother had not spoken in years. My father wanted nothing to do with my brother because he was an alcoholic, and my brother’s anger with my father for abuses during his childhood meant he did not want contact. I do not judge either’s choice not to be in touch- they did what they felt was right for them- although I was witness to the pain this choice reflected and created.
I cannot help but wonder if their paths will cross now, wherever or whatever continues of these two men I knew and loved. I have no set belief about what happens after we die (and I am fine with that.) I can imagine reincarnation, movement to other realities, or other scenarios, and I have an overwhelming sense that whatever happens it is truly. . . okay.
But, I cannot help but imagine some kind of encounter between my father and my brother. . . . elsewhere.
If this is possible- how might it go? Will death soften their hearts and offer them perspective on how each did the best he could without denying the harm sometimes done by the other’s best to self and others?
I don’t know. But as I sit quietly during these days of remembrance and grief, I find myself hoping for some healing between them. I like to picture them sitting in the small red row boat we had, fishing. I imagine them in companionable silence, enjoying the northern wilderness they both loved, appreciating the quiet together.
And I know that this is my vision. I can't know if something like this is even possible- and I am okay with the not-knowing and the holding of this hope. Envisioning this possibility is my way of holding them both in love right now, a way of remembering what matters and what does not, a way of helping to heal the family spiral. ~Oriah
Deep gratitude to Karen Davis for this beautiful photo found on Open Door Dreaming this morning.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Losing My Brother

I've been off line for awhile, dealing with some health challenges. Thought I would be back last week, and then (as so often happens) life intervened in my plans.

Last Thursday, on the final day of March, my brother Doug, died suddenly at the age of sixty when an aortic enlargement (that he did not know he had) burst. These enlargements run in the family and can be monitored if they are known- I have one, my father had one, both discovered by tests for other medical conditions.

Doug and I were only sporadically in touch over the years, but we'd had a number of phone conversations more recently when our parents were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He was often preoccupied with how he was going to die. Doug had been an alcoholic since he was a teenager and was beginning to show signs of alcohol-induced Alzheimer's. He was not interested in giving up alcohol, and I accepted that this was his choice. He was however worried that he would be incapacitated by Alzheimer's and linger long after he wanted to be here. In this, the death he had was mercifully quick and without suffering.

My brother and I lived very different lives- but, of course, we shared our beginnings. Here we are at Easter in 1960- I was five and he was four, with our baskets of chocolate eggs and jelly beans. I look at the face of this boy. . . .and I pray that he is now at peace, without pain or suffering. I remember his innocence, our shared silliness, and. . . . I hold tenderly the girl who could not protect her little brother, and the boy who bore the brunt of our father's woundedness. Like all of us, he did the best he could. May he feel held in love now. ~Oriah

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Impulse To Blame

The urge to blame someone- anyone- when our plans are disrupted or things go badly is. . . . well, it’s human, but often not very helpful. Years ago, running between work and mothering, always a little behind with just a bit more on my daily to-do list than could be accomplished, I often screeched to a halt just in time to make dinner. On one occasion, a little too late in the day, I made a tuna casserole and went to finish responding to emails as it baked in the oven. Too soon the timer rang. I zipped into the kitchen, telling my youngest son Nathan, then fourteen, to set the table. In one smooth motion, like some kind of Olympic speed skater, I skimmed across the kitchen floor while putting on oven mitts, pulled the oven door open, grasped the casserole, and swung around to put it on a pad on the table. And I dropped it. The glass shattered. Steaming tuna and macaroni spewed across the floor tiles. I stood with my mouth open and my eyes wide, unable to look away and overwhelmed with feelings of disbelief and frustration. But before I could even make a sound, Nathan- in a brilliant effort to avoid being targeted unfairly simply because he was the only other person in the room- said with feeling, “Oh no! Who can blame for this?” And all my anger evaporated in laughter. Nathan’s words became my mantra for those times when I’ve found myself semi-consciously fuming about things beyond my control that were messing with my carefully laid plans. Stuck in a traffic jam, late for an appointment: who can we blame for this? Cat threw up outside my bedroom right where I’d step in it as I started my day: who can we blame for this? It never fails to help me take a breath and smile. Oh, I know there are situations for which someone could and hopefully will be held accountable. (If you are looking for examples I’d recommend seeing the movies, “Spotlight” and “The Big Short.”) But even when this is true, unless we are personally in a position to make this happen, life is more easily savoured when we can let go of the blaming and move into what needs to be done. Generally, life is better when we can laugh a little, take a deep breath, scrape the hot tuna off the floor, and start again. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Getting By With A Little Help

Tell me about a time when kindness touched you and made it possible to face the unknown with hope. Years ago, physically depleted and confused, I braved the drifting snow and drove into the city. I had no plan, I only knew I had to do something. I was becoming increasingly ill and isolated in the rural property I shared with my then-husband. 
Intuitively, I drove to a neighbourhood I knew near the University of Toronto. Parking on a side street, I thought, "Now what?" I phoned a friend who lived nearby. She was at work, but her husband, Jim- who I did not know well at all- answered. I mumbled something about being in the city. . . .not being sure why. . . . and wondering what to do. 
Without hesitation Jim invited me to drive over to their apartment building, saying he'd arrange for me to park there. When I arrived, the doorman directed me to the parking garage, and Jim came downstairs with a printed list of apartments for rent in the area.
I wasn't sure i was looking to rent something in the city, and if I was what that would mean for my marriage or my life. But I spent the day looking at apartments and, to my surprise, I gained energy as the day went on.
The thing is, what touched me most that day, was how Jim- this man I barely knew- had responded. He had not treated me as if I was crazy, had not tried to sort out my confusion or solve my problems. He'd offered what he could- a place to park (no small thing in downtown Toronto) and a suggestion of places to look at so I could explore my options. He was kind, and his kindness was a reminder that I was not on my own, that I was connected to and supported by the Life we share.
I think we tend to underestimate how small acts of kindness can make a big difference. We sometimes feel we need to find or give complete answers when, in fact, there are no once-and-for-all answers There's just life, in all it's wonderful messiness filled with opportunities to extend or receive the kindness that helps us through.  
~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

I looked at this beautiful photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming and thought- if kindness had colours this would be it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For My Dad

Today, was my father's birthday. He died last April- on Earth Day- which seemed appropriate since he was the most in-his-body, connected-to-the-earth person I've ever known. Because he had suffered horribly with Alzheimer's, it's been hard to grieve his passing- I was relieved for him, glad he was free. Recently I wrote a little story about my father. It just bubbled up one morning. I share it here to honour him and to honour the sweet ache of missing him.

My childhood was shaped and scoured by the Spirit of Winter. In 1963 my family moved four hundred miles north to a small town set between trackless wilderness and an incongruous patch of flat farmland.

I loved the cold, the sharp edge of the wind at forty below zero that cut through mental defenses and made me feel deeply alive in my body. At night the darkness held the hum of frigid power lines, and the house cracked and moaned on its foundation as the frozen earth heaved and sighed.

Once, in the midst of high winds, the wind chill was calculated to be seventy-five below zero. We dressed in layers and covered every square inch of exposed skin to go out and shovel drifting snow so a hearse could retrieve the recently deceased body of someone’s beloved from the hospital across the street.

I remember stepping outside, shovel in hand, swaddled in long johns and itchy wool and a one-piece skidoo-suit, toque on my head and a scarf covering my face. I may just as well have been stepping outside naked- the forty mile per hour winds at forty below zero cut through all layers and whisked away my body heat in seconds. Shocked I just stood there until my father hollered above the wind, “Keep moving!”

But he was the one who cleared the way that day. My brother and I, both in our early teens, lasted five minutes tops before he sent us in. I remember watching from the kitchen window as he dug in front of the vehicle one foot at a time, motioning the driver forward little by little until they could get to the street where a plough waited to clear the way.

That was my father: a burning coal against the power of ice and snow; a man who trusted his physicality and threw himself against the elements when someone was in need; a man who reveled in working to provide, who did not fear sweat or frigid cold or the need to do what had to be done.

Not too long after this l I started getting up at five am so I could serve breakfast and do dishes at that hospital across the road before school. It was my first real job. My Dad took me aside. He said, “This is up to you, but remember, you’ll be working for the rest of your life- don’t be too eager to get started.”   

I replied, “But I want this job, Dad.”

He nodded and smiled a little sadly. “Okay,” he said.

I get it now. He valued the ability to work, but he wanted me to have more time without that pressure. But I was my father’s daughter, and off to work I went. He was right of course- it was the beginning of a life of work. I love how he wanted me to know it was okay not to start so early, and how he acquiesced to my determined spirit.

For this and so much more- thanks Dad. I miss you. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

(Deep thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this beautiful photo of a cold dawn.)