I want to
know if you can be alone
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.
Tell me about a moment of real solitude, a moment when you
were with yourself and felt yourself at the center, a
moment when you could feel the world, the stars, the
galaxies spinning around you.
In the spring of 1974, I took the train home at the end of
our college term. There was one train a day that
left Toronto in the early evening and arrived in my
hometown, four hundred miles north, at 4:30 in the
morning. No one I knew was coming, so there was no
one to meet me at the station. The only person to
get off the train, I stood for a moment on the wooden
platform and then swung my knapsack onto my back and
started to walk toward home. My family lived on the
opposite side of town, about a mile and a half away.
It was dark when I started walking, but by the time I'd
reached the bridge that spanned the river in the center of
town, walking past stores and restaurants and the town's
single traffic light, dutifully changing color although
there was not a car in sight, the sky was streaked with
the pink-gold of dawn, and the birds were singing the sun
It's the quiet I remember most, the sweet stillness of the
whole town sleeping. I was nineteen--in blue jeans,
denim jacket, and a yellow T-shirt, with long, straight,
I inhaled a great
gulp of the cool spring air and found myself smiling for no apparent
reason. I suddenly realized that no one knew where I
was. And yet I was there, close to so many who knew me.
Walking down the center of the deserted streets, past the familiar
houses, I felt invisible--seeing and yet not being seen, by
choice. For the first time in my life I felt truly alone and
completely with myself. I imagined the people I knew in those
houses--sleeping, dreaming, waking to the growing light and rolling
over to find one more hour of sleep--unaware that someone was
walking past, observing their lives in motion. . . .
It was as if I had stepped outside something of which I had always,
unconsciously, been a part and was seeing it for the first
time--this stream of life, this cycle of ordinary living that goes
on within and around us all the time. I knew that in that
moment, when I went through my parents' door, I would become a part
of it again and lose this acute sense of being the witness, alone
and completely with myself and my own thoughts. I knew I would
be swept up in the hugs and exclamations of surprise and greeting,
the sharing of news and the sounds and smells of bacon and eggs and
coffee--the irresistible tide of living in the world. But for
this moment, I was with the world, watching it but somehow not in
it. I was alone with myself. . . .
Tell me, have you met yourself? Have you been able to step
outside the business of life for just one moment and look in from
the outside, feeling yourself whole and separate and yet with the
There is a tension in living fully, what often feels like an
opposition between our longing for the solitude where we can find
our own company and the desire to be fully and intimately with the
world. When we learn to live with both the desire for
separation and the longing for union, we find that they are simply
two ways of knowing the same ache: we all just want to go
Some days, solitude is an impossibility. Caught up in the
activities of daily living, I ache for my own company and am filled
with a sorrow that makes me weep when I cannot find it.
And, at other times, I do too much and run too fast deliberately,
unconsciously hoping to avoid the cool and steady gaze of that young
woman standing on the patio, the gaze that sees clearly what is
within and around me. Sometimes I don't like what she sees,
don't like the company I keep when I am with myself, and want to
pull away from this woman I am. So I fill the empty moments
with TV, or work, or a book, or time with another. It takes
courage to be willing to meet myself over and over again, seeing in
my own face more beauty and grace and ability to love than I had
feared. I forget that it does not matter how far or how fast I
move, but only how much of myself I take along for the journey.
by word of mouth, e-mailed from reader to
reader, recited over the radio, and read aloud
at thousands of retreats and conferences,
"The Invitation" has changed the
lives of people everywhere. In this
bestselling book, Oriah expands on the wisdom
found within her beloved prose poem, which
presents a powerful challenge to all who long
to live an authentic life.
Life Fully, the e-zine
exists to try to provide for visitors of the world wide web a
of growth, peace, inspiration, and encouragement. Our
are presented as thoughts of the authors--by no means do
mean to present them as ways that anyone has to live
from them what you will, and disagree with
whatever you disagree
with--just know that they'll be here for you
As I drove down the interstate, tension twisted the
muscles in my shoulders and neck. Overhead, the canopy
of a late afternoon was a jumble of late winter storm
clouds and early spring sunshine, ebbing and flowing
under a backdrop of deep blue.
An object to the right of the freeway caught my eye.
Sun-swathed, a Mylar balloon twirled in a slow-moving
ascent. Brightly colored, it brought to mind images of
birthday parties, clowns and small-town parades.
Balloons seemed a part of such festive occasions--their
purpose, to bring smiles and levity--to celebrate life.
Too keyed up to go home, I drove out of the city; into
the country and parked my car between two large fields,
fenced with barbed wire. As I rolled down my windows
fresh air wafted round me, carrying with it a panoply
of spring fragrance. I closed my eyes, allowing the
smell of rain-moistened earth and sun-warmed vegetation
to float through my senses.
Unawares--the tension in my body eased away from me--
carried on the same breeze that lifted the songs of
birds found only outside the city reaches. Leaning
back, I closed my eyes, as a calming sensation pulled
me into a drowsy state, soothing my soul. Surprised at
the simple beauty of a bird's song, I sat up and gazed
into the field.
The movement of cloud shadows spun with sunlight poured
over the sun-glistened field. Long blades of wild grass
bent 'neath the fast-rushing feet of the wind. I
watched as a butterfly bounced up from the field to
flutter to another clump of wildflowers with small
blossoms of a bright Easter egg yellow.
Like the Mylar balloon adrift over the city, or the
butterfly gliding over a verdant field bright with
wildflowers--both are symbols of life, celebrated.
And life celebrated, is life renewed. I started the car
and drove away from the field, and smiled.
celebration, why celebrate life, and how can one best celebrate
his or her lifetime? To celebrate is to observe or honor an
event with rituals of respect, festivity, or rejoicing.
Celebrating life helps us remember our blessings; it feeds the
soul with gratitude, expanding our awareness that, indeed, life is
grace. It increases our spiritual and physical abundance.
As we move through the seasons of life, we obtain several
wonderful collections that no one can take from us:
collections of experience, knowledge, love, and times when we've
helped others. These collections for celebration remain
indelible in our memories.
As Kathy suggested in today's feature, celebrating life brings
renewal to life. In practicing personal rituals of
celebration, we find nuggets of gold in darker days as well as
brighter days, for in this life, day will always follow night; no
darkness can hide indefinitely from the light. The universal
law of compensation cannot be broken.
In "Reflections from a Garden" (1995), Susan Hill wrote,
"Gardeners celebrate the influence of time. If we have
had a late cold spring followed by a desiccating drought, autumn
may be the most soft and golden for years; one poor season will
sooner or later be compensated for by another."
Celebrations of life may take the form of memory making, memory
reviewing, gifting, or observation. These rituals increase
our awareness and put special moments in our pocket as we enjoy
life's journey. In one of my writings, "Celebrating the
Gift of Life," I listed some of the ways I have enjoyed
celebrating my life. You can do the same.
Ask yourself these questions: What are my favorite ways to
celebrate living? What makes me feel especially alive and
joyful? What are the special contributions I plan to make
during my life that future generations can remember and celebrate?
Celebrate your lifetime today. Recall your best moments,
make new memories, and share them with someone. The
celebration of your lifetime can make an important difference
today and for many years to come.
Check out our bookstore,
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of the things we must develop is a capacity for exploration,
a searching for meanings and connections.The search itself
is crucial.If you are not asking the hard questions of life,
if you are not carefully testing what others tell you, then you
are not engaged with all the potential aspects
of your own unique and wonderful life.
I've learned about the destructive force of anger from
watching angry people and what they do. Because of
their lessons, I hope to teach others of the constructive
powers of compassion and patience.
I've learned about the effects of drugs and alcohol from
people who have hurt their loved ones from using one, the
other, or both. Their lessons have made me want to
teach others the benefits and the blessings of sobriety
I've learned how much damage dishonesty can do to other
people and their loved ones. Because of what I've
seen, I want to be honest and forthcoming with the people
I deal with.
I've seen just how unhappy jealous people are, and just
how unhappy they make other people. So I want to let
people be who they are, and to try to teach others just
how nice life can be when we don't let jealousy rule us.
I've seen some terrible consequences of ignorance, and I
do my best to teach others the importance of education
because I don't want them to suffer the sting of a life of
I've learned about the horrible consequences of playing
with other people's lives by watching manipulative people
do their best to play with other people's lives and
feelings. They've taught me that I never want to
accomplish anything I do through the manipulation of
another human being.
I've learned about the power of love from watching people
who make love their highest priority in life. I want
to pass on their teachings by leading a life dedicated to
love; even if I'm not there yet, it's a goal that's worth
working my way towards.
I've learned about the power of acceptance by watching
people who accept others as they are, without bias or
prejudice. Because I love their example and because
I see them leading happy lives, I want to emulate them and
the ways that they treat other human beings.
I've learned about cowardice by watching people act
cowardly, and seeing the ways that they hurt others in
doing so. I've learned about courage from watching
people face incredible obstacles--sickness, tragedy,
hopelessness, disaster--with incredible courage and
equanimity. I hope one day to be like them.
I've seen the effects of fear on those who let fear rule
their lives, and on myself when I've feared. I hope
one day that fear will be less of a motivating factor in
I've learned about life from those who live fully, who
accept. I've learned about backing away from life
from those who reject, who fear, who take no risks and who
stay where they are always, doing the same things always,
seeking out safety instead of life and living.
I've learned a lot in life, but I continue learning.
Many of the negative things I've learned, I've learned
from myself, and I hope to become much less of a teacher
of the negative to myself. On the other hand, I've
learned many of my most positive lessons from myself, too,
when I've dared to take chances, when I've been true to
myself and my values, and I hope that my life becomes a
reflection of those positive lessons. Perhaps, one
day, I may be an effective role model of the positive, and
just maybe, I may be able to help others to uncover
positive lessons in their own lives.
is life? It is a
flash of a firefly in
the night. It
of a buffalo in
the wintertime. It is
as the little shadow
that runs across the
grass and loses itself
in the sunset.
our life means that we take our life day to day and moment to
always trying to deepen our understanding of what it means to be
human. Life will
never be perfect, and we will always be in a state of moving
Don, 84, put it this way: "You have lived the life you
have lived. When we accept
the life we have lived, then we can begin to be whole."
He echoed an often-heard
theme: When we judge our life we diminish ourselves.
The more we can
eliminate all need to compare, compete, grade, and judge our
the closer we get to wisdom.
spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway
This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart for all the right reasons
In a moment they can choose to walk away
Love 'em anyway
You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love . . . anyway.
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