red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here

Oriah Mountain Dreamer
New York: HarperCollins / HarperSanFrancisco ©2003

 

Maybe it's the phase of the moon. Maybe it's the season. Maybe it's the state of the world. Whatever's making more and more of us question ourselves, our lives, our workplaces, our relationships, our position in the Universe, maybe it's just time.

Any number of books, other resources, and incantational speakers flood the market these days, hawking their wares and exhorting us to remake our lives in ten easy steps or less. Once we recognize that, whatever the number, the steps aren't that easy and don't magically lead to the new Wonder You, we often set aside that internal questioning and resort to simply trying to keep our heads above the swirling waters of daily living.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer invites us to try again. Her first book, The Invitation, started as a poem written one night after a particularly bad experience at a party. It circulated for many months on the Internet, by word of mouth, through handwritten letters, and spoken aloud at public ceremonies. You may be familiar with its opening lines:

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 love
For your dream
For the adventure of being alive...

In her second book, The Dance: Moving to the Rhythms of Your True Self, we are asked to consider, "What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?"

As the third in this trilogy of prose poems, The Call is both a fitting wrap-up and an encouraging send-off. For nothing in these works is intended to be a finishing point — the perfect place where everything is right and we can coast along — any more than life is ever "finished" as we live it. And yet...

And yet, in The Call, Mountain Dreamer urges us to recognize the detrimental effects of doing, of creating change for its own sake, of taking action so we can feel as if we're making some kind of progress. The opening lines of the poem are used on the book's cover:

I have heard it all my life,
A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.

Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.
Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.

But it always says: Wake up, my love. You are walking asleep.
There's no safety in that!

And in the first chapter, the author states:

This is a story about surrendering from a woman who has found surrender impossible. This is a story about stopping the war, my war, the one I have fought all my life, the one I have not been able to give up despite the fact that I have lost every battle and sincerely declared myself out of action over and over again. It's a story about stopping the war with what is within and around me because I have simply had enough of fighting, because I love my life and the world and have come to realize that in order to find the rest I ache for and the peace I want us to create together, I must give up the war I fight every time I allow my desire to create change, inner or outer, pull me into doing. Change will happen, change does happen, often as a result of our choices and our actions. But every time I let my actions be dictated solely or primarily by the desire to create change, every time I am attached to achieving a desired result, no matter how lofty or "spiritual" that hoped-for result may be, I am rejecting what is and so causing suffering in myself and in the world.

From there, as in the other books, The Call takes us into Mountain Dreamer's life — one that's really very much like ours — and shows us the halting, faltering attempts to learn what's best for oneself, to stop doing what's bad for us, to be present and attentive to what's happening around us all the time, to be kind to ourselves, and to keep going.

One of Mountain Dreamer's gifts to us in these books is her honesty about herself — good and bad — and, most especially, those times when she's not behaving in the ways to which she aspires for herself and for us. In such truthful descriptions of her humanity, we find a glimpse of how far we might go, how we might uncover who we really are, how important it is to clarify our purpose for being here, and why we should keep making the effort.

In each book, Mountain Dreamer offers a poem and then takes it apart in subsequent chapters. Each chapter expands on what the phrases and sentiments mean to her, what was happening in her life as the poem unfolded, and what she (and we) learn from it. On her Web site, you'll find all the poems and excerpts from all the books, as well as other resources, writings, and the story of how she received her name. It's worth a look....

 

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