Arts and Entertainment

Her spiritual quest spread by word of Net

After Oriah Mountain Dreamer penned “The Invitation,” she received RSVPs from all over the world.

Mountain Dreamer, who will read from two books based on that first poem on Jan. 30, became a publishing phenomenon when her writing criss-crossed the world via the Internet.

“I wrote the poem one night in 1995, after I came home from a party,” Mountain Dreamer said. “I was frustrated because of the superficial social interaction. I longed for something else.”

Using a format she had learned at a writing workshop that starts alternating lines with the phrase “It doesn’t interest me” and “What I really want to know is,” she composed a poem she titled “The Invitation.”

Mountain Dreamer published the poem in a newsletter and promptly forgot about it.

But “The Invitation” circulated through a sort of global word-of-mouth, and a year later Mountain Dreamer was still getting email from lands as far-flung as Botswana and Iceland.

“People copied and shared it with friends and colleagues around the world,” she said. “They posted it on the Internet and on workplace bulletin boards and kitchen refrigerators.

The grassroots endorsement was noticed by a literary agent.

“(He) called me in 1998,” Mountain Dreamer said, “and asked ‘Have you thought about writing a book based on the poem?’”

Using stanzas from “The Invitation” to introduce chapters, Mountain Dreamer wrote a book by the same name. The work blends anecdote, training in what she calls “an intertribal tradition of shamanic medicine,” her social work experience counseling women and families in crisis, and her readings in philosophy into a prescription for, as she says, “living fully and compassionately with our humanness and the world – what we long for in the deepest part of ourselves.”

The phenomenal success of “The Invitation” has been duplicated in a second book, “The Dance.”

Mountain Dreamer was better prepared to tackle her projects than some neophyte authors; as a human services professional she had often published.

It was when she fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that she encountered the Native American spirituality that would influence her life work.

It was after the birth of her second son that she became seriously ill, Mountain Dreamer said. She went to a Native American shaman healer. She studied with the Native elder, who dubbed the woman born Oriah House as “Oriah Mountain Dreamer.”

“The earth-based Native spirituality was very close to how I grew up – surrounded by nature in rural Canada,” Mountain Dreamer said.

She says her Native mentor intuited an Indian background that was family lore.

Mountain Dreamer does not claim Native heritage outright, however, and says that she has found the addition of “Indian elder” to her name in some online versions of the poem, disturbing.

“People were editing my poem online,” she said. “I had no control.”

While she has dissociated herself from public use of Native ceremony, citing misuse by some participants that has included weekend “vision questing” at a spa – her private spiritual practice has received a boost from her rigorous speaking schedule.

“The success of the books and being on the road has actually made me more disciplined about spiritual practice because the tours are exhausting,” Mountain Dreamer said.

“I’ve had to do it. If I get disconnected, I get sick.”

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Oriah Mountain Dreamer reads and signs “The Invitation” and “The Dance” at 2 p.m. Jan. 30 at Fox Paw. Call 842-7788 for information.

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