Self-Care Blog Post

The Invitation: By Oriah

Below is the full poem “The Invitation” by Oriah. While it can be purchased in book form, I highly recommend the audio recording in which the author herself reads and describes the meanings behind each stanza.

This poem can be found in many places on the Internet, but is often misquoted. Marvelling at how far the poem has spread, Oriah herself explains on her website:

As the poem changed hands a few individuals took it upon themselves to add or change some words. “Faithless” was changed by some to “faithful,” “beauty” to “God” and‐as I later found out‐a man in Chicago, sure that I was an aged or deceased Native American man, put “Indian elder” after my name. Where possible I made requests for folks to share the poem as it was written and tried to correct the misrepresentation of myself as an “Indian elder.” Although there are stories of Native American ancestors in my family history (along with stories of German and Scottish descent) I am neither old enough nor wise enough to claim to be an elder of any people.

In the audio recording of The Invitation, Oriah addresses exactly why it is important to preserve the original words. Changing “faithless” to “faithful” and “beauty” to “God” changes the very essence and author’s meaning of those stanzas. I strongly recommend getting the book or recording and learn why this is so important.

This is the poem in its original form.

The Invitation by Oriah

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.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled 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 be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
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
every day.
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 at 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 the 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 centre of the fire
with me
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
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

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