[Book Review]: The Invitation and The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Okay, before you completely disregard this post due to the author’s name, stick with me a bit.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer is a coach, writer, and retreat leader. Her work and teaching often comes from Native American traditions. I value her viewpoint and feel that her books are easily approachable but not preachy in the sense of “This is what you should do” in specific ways. Her name was given to her as part of her studies/work with her spiritual teachers. Each book is based on a prose poem written by Mountain Dreamer and include multiple meditations to work with the topics included.

I’m posting this book review for two reasons. One, I’m trying to get better about reviewing books I read. Second, I think these two books fit with the overall ideals of this blog and think that you all might find value in them. They touch on some of the themes I write about here – practice, authentically and fully living one’s life. (All this said, not all books I read will be reviewed here. If you’re ever interested, feel free to find me on Good Reads.)

I first heard about The Invitation in 1999, shortly after the book came out. (I believe the poem came out earlier.) The poem that serves as the book’s foundation went viral (at least, as things could then). It spoke to where I was and how I wanted to live my life. While the entire thing still resonates, I think this stanza still is one that crops up for me most frequently:

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 center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

The book is a testament to living fully – to owning your own story and to trying to live from an authentic place. Rather than shy away from what is hard and what is not what we want others to see, she calls for us to live from our heart. I read this book back in 1999 and found that I would’ve underlined most of the same passages. Either the book holds up really well, or I’m dealing with some of the same stuff.

Probably both.

Anyway, I reread it because I wanted to read the follow up book, The Dance, as it popped up in Susannah Conway’s book, This I Know. There is also a poem that serves as the basis of that one. (There is a third one, called The Call, which I do not have and have not read. It’s on my list.)

The foundation of what the book explores is the following question:

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?

book and computerIt’s an interesting twist (or not) to the Shambhala lineage’s understanding of basic goodness – that who we are is basically good, as in fundamentally.

There are more stories, included in this one and I found myself underlining large swathes of paragraphs, until I’d realize they were whole paragraphs and then just mark it with a star. :) Yes, that’s my reading style for you.

Over the next few weeks, I will be using pieces of the books as catalysts for some entries, as a lot is now percolating and I want to give the thoughts proper time to be digested and worked through. But, as practice is something that’s been coming up a bit, I leave you with this quote – her definition of practice.

A practice is a structured activity that offers us a way to consciously enter and be with sacred emptiness at the center of our being. It is by definition done on a regular, preferably daily, basis. The regularity is what makes it a practice. You do it whether you feel like it or not, and not feeling like it – resistance – seems to be a pretty universal human response to doing anything on a regular basis, at least in Western culture. The structure is what makes the regularity possible. It gives us a way – a method or an activity – with a shape that does not depend upon how we are feeling at the moment. (p. 177)

What do you think about her definition of practice? Does it fit with your experience?


2 thoughts on “[Book Review]: The Invitation and The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

  1. Huh… I remember The Invitation. I don’t think I read it, or all of it… but I do remember.

    I think her definition is narrower than mine. I think of the 5Rhythms as a practice, even when I am not delving in even weekly, much less daily. So I think regularity is a… facet… but she sets it more centrally than I do. I hadn’t really articulated the spiritual part of practice, actually. And I find myself wondering if every practice has to be spiritual. Hm.

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