The Dance

I have sent you my invitation, the note inscribed on the palm of my hand by the fire of living. Don't jump up and shout, "Yes, this is what I want! Let's do it!" Just stand up quietly and dance with me.

Show me how you follow your deepest desires, spiraling down into the ache within the ache, and I will show you how I reach inward and open outward to feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, every day.

Don't tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart. Show me how you turn away from making another wrong without abandoning yourself when you are hurt and afraid of being unloved.

Tell me a story of who you are, and see who I am in the stories I am living. And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.

Don't tell me how wonderful things will be . . . some day. Show me you can risk being completely at peace, truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment, and again in the next and the next and the next. . .

I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring. Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall, the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your own will. What carries you to the other side of that wall, to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?

And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with each other, let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.

Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance, the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart. And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.

Show me how you take care of business without letting business determine who you are. When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us shout that soul's desires have too high a price, let us remind each other that it is never about the money.

Show me how you offer to your people and the world the stories and the songs you want our children's children to remember. And I will show you how I struggle not to change the world, but to love it.

Sit beside me in long moments of shared solitude, knowing both our absolute aloneness and our undeniable belonging. Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words, holding neither against me at the end of the day.

And when the sound of all the declarations of our sincerest intentions has died away on the wind, dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale of the breath that is breathing us all into being, not filling the emptiness from the outside or from within.

Don't say, "Yes!" Just take my hand and dance with me.

(c) Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Dance , HarperONE, San Franciso, 2001. All rights reserved.


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  • "A remarkable book. . . . A fierce and tender presence, The Invitation’s wisdom could become a lifelong companion, engaging and awakening the original and unique rhythm of your mind and soul."John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara

  • "The Call. . . . is a gift to us from a wise, funny, and honest teacher who knows the territory of the human heart and soul like few others." Joan Borysenko, co-author of Your Soul’s Compass

  • "To read The Dance is to invite all of the far flung part of yourself. . . . back onto the dance floor for a slow, sweet waltz. At the end of the dance, you have whirled yourself back into one whole person." Elizabeth Lesser, author of Broken Open

  • A spiritual exploration and practical guide to unleashing your creativity.

The story of how Oriah's poem travelled the world and, unbeknownst to her, touched people's lives.

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