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In The Invitation, visionary writer and teacher Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote about what we long for. In The Dance, she explored how to live this longing to the fullest. Now, in The Call, she completes the trilogy, showing us why we are here and why we must each undertake that journey from longing to living fully and deeply in the world. Each of us has our own call, our own way to discover and live fully our true selves and our heart's desires. But the call cannot be found in the expectations of others or in the ...
In The Invitation, visionary writer and teacher Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote about what we long for. In The Dance, she explored how to live this longing to the fullest. Now, in The Call, she completes the trilogy, showing us why we are here and why we must each undertake that journey from longing to living fully and deeply in the world. Each of us has our own call, our own way to discover and live fully our true selves and our heart's desires. But the call cannot be found in the expectations of others or in the outside world; it can only be found within ourselves. And heeding it is not a matter of doing, but of accepting, "not doing."
With her trademark practical style, Oriah gently guides us through her journey to find and heed her own call. What she discovered is that to be fully human is consciously to be who we truly are. By joining Oriah on this path, we may find the way to live awake to our distinct essence. The key is to give up striving to become who we think we should be and to embrace our true self, imperfections and all.
I have heard it all my life,
A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.
It comes most often just before I fall asleep. There on the edge of restful darkness, as the defenses of a sharp and demanding mind crumble just a little around the edges, forbidden thoughts and unwanted feelings make a bid for consciousness. It has come for years, not every night, but intermittently, when I close my eyes: an image on the back of my eyelids, unbidden and unwelcome, an image of my own wrists, slit and bleeding.
I know this isn't what you expect from someone who writes about the deepest longings of the heart and soul, someone who has asserted and believes that we are in our essential nature compassionate and capable of being fully present. It's not what you expect from someone whose life is filled with meaningful work she enjoys, intimate relationships she values, and a commitment to cultivating a daily connection to the Sacred Mystery that is larger than herself.
It's not what I expect. But there it is. Most often in the image, my hands are completely cut off.
When this image first came to me years ago I would pull away from it quickly, afraid of what it might mean. Although I was not consciously feeling suicidal, I was afraid that perhaps on some level I was being drawn to consider suicide without even knowing it. I have counseled adults struggling with the lifelong wounding brought about by a parent's suicide. I have two sons I love. I did not want to give any ground to the thoughts or feelings I feared might be behind this image. Suicide was not and never will be an option.
But still the image comes, frequently but irregularly, like some strange and persistent messenger who will not give up until the message has been received. I decide to pay attention to what is happening in my life and the world when the image appears. I discover that the image does not come more frequently when things in the world seem to be falling apart at an accelerated rate. The tragic events of September 11, the increased violence in the Middle East, stories of poverty and injustice within my own community all touch me deeply, but they do not alter how often or how vividly the image comes to me as I drift off to sleep. Neither does it seem to come with increased frequency when things in my own life are not going well. Sometimes the image appears when everything seems to be working out the way I want it to or think it should.
After years of being unable to banish the image, I finally decide to listen to what it has to tell me, to allow and be with the feelings that come when I simply stay with it. And I am flooded with a level of exhaustion that forces me to lie down on the bedroom floor next to my meditation cushion. The woman with her hands -- a symbol of doing -- severed says to me silently but emphatically, "I quit!"
I lie on the floor and consider the white plaster of the ceiling, allowing the feelings of failure to come. I stay with the knowledge of how frequently I am not fully present despite my intentions and my practice of meditation and prayer. I am frustrated at learning primarily in hindsight. During my contemplative meditation I can see clearly that I could have remained calm and compassionate when the woman from the insurance company informed me that my driving rating has been lowered and my premiums upped despite the fact that I did not make the claim or the police report that someone has apparently inserted into my file. But this insight was not available, did not guide me when I was speaking directly to her and she refused to correct the error. I am demoralized by how often I still find myself overtired from doing too much despite my efforts to increase my awareness of my own limitations by diligently doing my daily practice and conscientiously avoiding those things I know speed me up and make it harder to stay connected with myself and others—caffeine, tv, junk food. Over and over I resolve to slow down. And I do. I reorganize, take on less, let go of things that do not need to be done.
But the eyes of the woman in the image -- my eyes -- mirror the sense of futility that is growing within me, question the reason for all this effort, point to a hopelessness I just barely outrun each day. Her weary face dares to ask the question why? Why do any of it? Why not simply forget about being awake? Why not just find a really good pharmaceutical product that will allow me to continue to function in the world and be a happy carrot? What's the point of all this effort, all this diligent trying that seems to fail more often than it succeeds in creating awareness?
This is a story of my quest to hear and heed the call at the center of my life, the call to live the meaning -- the why -- at the center of all of our lives. It is an invitation to you to turn your attention to the call at the center of your life so that together we might begin to live consciously who and what we are and in so doing alleviate suffering in our lives and in the world and embody the deep happiness that is our birthright. The call is that consistent tug we feel at the center of our lives to do more than just continue, to know and fulfill the meaning of our lives. The call is always there, whispering in the soft places of our bodies and hearts, in the longing that reminds us what we ache for at the deepest level ...The Call