Finding Our Way Home 
Oriah

  

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself 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 up.

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, blonde hair.

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 world?

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 home.

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.

  
   

Shared 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.

  
    


 
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