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, be realistic, 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, ‘Yes.’
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 Dreamer
Some weeks are more challenging than others, and sometimes some serious showing up is required. It was one of those weeks for me, and this poem goes straight to the heart of the matter. This is what I feel life is asking of me: who are you, and can you be present with all of my invitations? Can you meet the joy, the ecstasy, the beauty of being alive – as well as the grief, the empty moments, the failures and betrayals you might encounter?
It’s so easy to get caught up by what seems urgent and lose sight of what’s important. But every now and then there is a wake-up call to presence, an invitation to review what really matters. Sometimes life offers this all by itself, but I think it’s also useful to check in every now and then with ourselves and see if we’re still on track with living our values. We do this towards the end of the Level 1 training in a particular guided reflection, but also it can be part of getting in touch with our motivation at the beginning of each session. Why am I practising, what am I hoping for in my life, what matters most and how can I be brave enough to meet it all?
I remember first reading this poem as a teenager and being struck by the sense of urgency to not waste time with what’s not important, and to meet life fully. I was interested to read it was the response to an attempt to be sociable at a party, which left the author – a Canadian mother of two – “with the familiar hollow feeling of having gone through the motions.” She says “I wrote what I need to remember, what I need to hear again and again: that life is full of beauty and pain; that the world will break your heart and heal it, over and over, if you let it, and that letting it do both is the only way to live fully; that we are not alone but deeply connected to that which creates, and sustains all life” (read the full article here).
And to me, this is very much connected with what I am practising both on the cushion and how I’d like to live… it’s good to be invited!