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,

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

© Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Invitation published by Harper San Francisco, 1999. All rights reserved.
Used at this website with permission.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer is the author of the inspirational prose-poem and international best-selling books, The Invitation (now translated into over fifteen languages), Opening the Invitation, The Dance, The Call and What We Ache For. Her writing explores how to follow the thread of our deepest heart’s longing into a life of meaning and purpose. Oriah is the mother of two grown sons. She lives with her husband Jeff in a home surrounded by forest stillness several hours north of Toronto. More details about her, her work and books at her Web site.


  1. James Bright said,

    January 31, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Very interesting .
    I have seen the website.
    Thanks for letting me know about this great person!

  2. -poison- said,

    February 1, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    great lines…great oriah…

  3. Rahul said,

    February 3, 2006 at 11:54 am

    I have read this poem before. But I thought that Oriah Mountain Dreamer was an Indian Elder, at least that is how the author was mentioned. Also there is a typo, the faithless should be faithful–If you can be faithfull and therefore trustworthy.

    Thank you for posting such a wonderful poem.

  4. Alexis Leon said,

    February 3, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    Many sites mentions that Oriah is an Indian Elder, but that is wrong.

    Also, it is faithless, the poem has been often misquoted. This is the correct version as available at oriah’s web site and also in the book.

  5. Ganja_turtle said,

    February 21, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Came here via Silverine…reminded me of Desiderata by Max Ehrmann….

    And the other one seems to be adapted from the Upanishads….the one about dreams becoming your destiny… etc etc.

  6. Alexis Leon said,

    February 21, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    Ganja_turtle: Thanks for dropping by. Yes many people told me that this poem reminded them of Desiderata.

    Regarding the “Be careful’ poem, you could be right. It is by an unknown author so could be adapted from Upanishads.

  7. maya cassis said,

    April 4, 2006 at 5:22 am

    Alex,this really is such a touching defines a lot of things for me…unexplainable.
    oriah it is

  8. Alexis Leon said,

    April 4, 2006 at 9:55 am

    maya cassis: If you liked the poem, then you should definitely read the book–The Invitation. In the book, Oriah explains and expands on each stanza of the poem. It has chapters like Longing, Fear, Sorrow, Joy, Betrayal, Beauty, Failure, Commitment, Fire, Sustenance, Finding our way home, etc.