It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have you become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
I want to know if you can
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.
This poem was written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer who is a Canadian writer and teacher living in Toronto, not a Native American Elder as has sometimes been reported. She received the name “Mountain Dreamer” from Native American Elders who she had the privilege of studying with. I don’t remember the first time I read this poem, or the last (before today), but it came to me again the other day, and I bookmarked it thinking it would be good material for a post. Today I decided to do some research on the author and, to my surprise and delight, I found a connection to my favorite poet.
Oriah went to a party in the spring of 1994 where she made a “real effort” to be sociable by asking and answering all the usual questions such as “What to you do for a living?”, “How do you know the host?”, “Where did you study?”, “Where do you live?.” Later, she arrived home with the “familiar hollow feelings of having gone through the motions.” As she often does, to sort through feelings, she sat down to write. This is what she said:
“Using the format of a writing exercise that had been given to me by poet David Whyte I wrote about the party conversations — what really did not interest me and what did I really want to know about others, and about myself.
I went to the centre of the ache for something more between myself and the world and the prose-poem, The Invitation, poured onto the page.”
Yes, the poet is David Whyte, and now I see why this poem showed up in my life again the other day – another synchronistic connection! You could say I’ve been “hanging out” with David lately while listening to his powerful and inspirational CD set, “What to Remember When Waking”. Although I love reading his poetry, listening to his life stories puts his poems in a context, making them richer and more meaningful, and listening to his melodious voice is music to my ears. If you perchance are looking for a teacher with penetrating insight on how to live life more fully and courageously, I suggest you connect with David Whyte through his poetry and story telling. If you are like me when it comes to poetry and often need help clarifying the meaning behind the words, you’ll love the CDs.
What will you risk for the adventure of being alive?