What sustains you when all else falls away?

“I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.” – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This line from the poem ‘The Invitation” comes to me, as I navigate the unpredictable times in which we are living.  I go to the bookshelf to locate the book the famous poem is in.  Of course the book is not there, as I have had to replace it several times.  That’s okay, because I have read it so many times over the years, I have the poem memorized.  

As I engage in my morning routines, the question  resurfaces, how am I sustaining myself? I answer with my actions and my spiritual practices. I tend my home, cleaning deeply, organizing, clearing clutter, making my bed, washing my clothes.  I do small jobs that have been on the back burner, and when they are complete, it offers me a sense of satisfaction.  I tend my home and place of belonging, providing a place for comfort, safety and warmth, and self-care.  

I make bean soup and cornbread with zest of orange, thinking of all the beautiful ways I can nourish myself and my family with food.  I create beauty in the kitchen, food to nourish my soul and enliven my spirit, sharing nourishment with others, for this too feeds my soul.  I teach my grandchildren how to cook and bake, and make a fire, and how important it is to tend to the fire within us that sustains and connects us with our spirit. 

I reach out, call and visit friends; those soul friends that help me remember the magic that resides within me, hoping I too may spark them to remember they are magic makers. 

I tend to the birds, my feathered friends, feeding and watching them with delight as I sip my morning coffee, sharing silent thoughts with my life long partner.  I  speak to the trees, thanking them for the warmth and shelter they are providing, as I offer gratitude for my partner who wakes early every morning, stoking the fire, turning solar panels, making coffee and ensuring our home is warm and safe.   

I go outside for my walks or skiing, all the while praying, expressing my gratitude for all that has been provided to sustain my life, and the beauty that is all around me.  I offer my prayers with tobacco to the river where I go every day, praying for myself, family, friends, and those I don’t know who are feeling lost, confused and suffering.  Each day the prayer is different, and most often there is a song that comes, which I sing to the land, the clouds and the lake, trees, birds, and the curious pine marten that visits us at dusk.  

Sometimes on those walks, I might break down and cry, expressing grief for what has been lost, feeling helpless and like a failure.  I allow the tears to flow, knowing they are not only my tears.  

As I wake in the morning, I lay still, capturing dreams from the night; a gift from the dream world.  I connect with my heart, breathing slowly and deeply, offering gratitude for another day, sunrise, breath; another gift to be here, and alive.  I offer myself to the spirit of creation, as a vessel through which love may be expressed and received.  I connect with my spiritual teachers and allies, thanking them for their guidance, support and companionship, and the light within my heart that illuminates and radiates, filling the cells of my being.  I connect with the web of light all around the Earth, and those who are tending this web, in whatever ways they have been called, holding the potential for peace, unity and a new dream.  

I connect with my ancestors, my mom and dad, grandparents, elders and teachers who have walked with me and those who held a mirror for me, reflecting my potential.  I thank them for their love and support, and for all they did in their lifetime to the best of their ability, to bring more beauty and peace to this world.  I ask them for continued love and support, as I express my fear and hesitation of stepping into my leadership to navigate through these troubling times.  

On cold, dark and gloomy days, when my heart feels heavy, I go into the sauna, and sweat my prayers, cleansing my body, mind, spirit and heart of all that feels overwhelming, to restore my faith and trust in myself and in the human heart.  

I conduct ceremonies with our family, outdoors, in the elements, creating opportunities to connect with the spirit within all things and reflect within, as we light candles in the blowing winds, collectively providing a shelter for the flame of hope.  

I write in my journal everyday, what I feel and dream and what my heart desires.  Expressing this way helps soothe my heart, providing an outlet for my emotional self.  

I do Qigong, during sunny or cloudy days, to connect with universal energy, restoring the flow of life energy within me.  

I play the piano, practicing presence and focus, playing music that I love and that soothes me.  I stretch my body, following it’s direction with bends and twists, doing my best to breathe with each movement.  I drink Tea Latte, or warmed Egg Nog, or London Fog tea at night by the fire, retiring with gratitude for the gift of the day.  

At dinner as we share a word or two of what we are grateful for, my grandson said “Grandma, if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have these Gratitude Circle’s”.  Thank you”.  My heart melted, helping me to know that small things matter.  The way we do things, the way we act, and are witnessed, matter.  The song, prayer, bean soup matter and ripple out far.  

Tending to my heart flame, connecting to and strengthening the light within through self care, compassion and acts of love, is what sustains me from the inside when all else falls away. May you, whoever you are, know your words, thoughts, actions, prayers matter.I encourage you to consider the question of what sustains you when all else falls away. It is no small success to do what sustains you from the inside and know those simple actions guided by your heart can change the world. 

If you are not familiar with the complete invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, it is worth sharing again and again:


The Invitation

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 shriveled 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


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