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An Invitation: How Are You?

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“When we surrender, when we do not fight with life when it calls upon us, we are lifted and the strength to do what needs to be done finds us.” Oriah Mountain Dreamer

An Invitation: How Are You?

The Invitation by Oriah
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 shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain… Contd

“How are you?” seems like such a simple question that we ask to elicit an expected response. It can be found in every language and, most of the time, people expect a pat reply – “I am fine!” I wanted to explore this and change how I respond to the question too. It’s not so much about revealing too much as it is about checking in with ourselves before we respond. What if we decide to answer that question truthfully, from the core of our being, from the same place that Oriah Mountain Dreamer reached for when she wrote The Invitation? How powerful would that be? So tell me, How are you?

“Every act I live while I am fully awake can not help but be both prayer and lovemaking.” Oriah Mountain Dreamer

An Invitation: How Are You?

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
to be realistic
to 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… Contd

The first time I read The Invitation, the words sank deep into my body, and tears welled up in my eyes; I felt a deep and powerful connection to the message of her poem. Like everyone I met who expressed the powerful impact that poem had on their lives, I felt it spoke to me… It spoke to that place inside of me that abhorred the veil we use to cover our true self and I wanted to stand in the middle of the street and shout the words at every passerby. I wanted to look at every face and pose the questions Oriah asked, and then say to each person: Now tell me, truly tell me… How are you?

Do not touch me and keep your soul out of your finger tips…Die into me or don’t come to me at all” Oriah Mountain Dreamer

An Invitation: How Are You?

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… Contd

Why are we often reluctant to answer the question behind the question: How are you? Some say they don’t want to impose on the questioner; some say it is a cultural expectation to pay short shrift to the question and move on. Yet, others say it is impolite to vent or share deeper reflections in a 30 second exchange. Perhaps Oriah’s questions can help jug our reserve. How about saying something other than the norm? Tell me, How are you? More below. Happy St Patrick’s Day!  😉

You cannot trade the courage needed to live every moment for immunity from life’s sorrows… We know that what we do and how we think affects the quality of our lives. Many things are clearly up to us. And many others are not.” Oriah Mountain Dreamer

An Invitation: How Are You?

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 Dreaming

We live in a hectic world with inattentive, oversubscribed and rushed folk around us. When we stop to look each other in the eyes and inquire about our well being, it shakes us up, pulls us out of our automated trance, and reminds us to pause and take in the beauty of our surroundings. It helps us build rapport, consider a new approach, another direction, a new thought. For a moment, lets stop hurtling forward like a planetary meteor and answer the question: How are you?

What are your thoughts? Have you read Oriah’s poems/writings? Do any favorites come to mind? Do you genuinely answer the question: How are you? If no, why not? Do share! Thank you. 😉

Positive Motivation Tip: When we ask: How are you?, We also mean, How is your spirit bearing up today… Refresh and release.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Old guitarist Chicago, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, via Wikipedia and/or via Flickr Excerpts via Wikiquotes

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

51 Comments leave one →
  1. 18/03/2012 12:28 am

    Oh I’m fine thanks, and you? my usual answer, regardless of what.It does make one think. Love this post well done and thanks. 😉

    • 19/03/2012 3:29 pm

      TY and yes, I know! I was thinking about how “I’m fine!” is a typical response from most of us… even automatic, and I wanted to explore it.
      As for me, I’m great! My right shoulder hurts and I need rest from a cold… but I’m in great form! There! 😆

  2. 18/03/2012 2:11 am

    I prefer to give the polite reply no matter what’s going on.

    I’m fine, thanks.

    How are you?

  3. 18/03/2012 2:49 am

    I am wondering if I can figure this retirement thing out. Do I find another job? Do I go back to my last career? Where do I go from here? I need to make decisions. I really like this post. I keep wanting to reblog your posts. You must touch some part of me,when I read your words!

  4. 18/03/2012 2:50 am

    Reblogged this on newfoundlandtraveller and commented:
    Another thought provoking post I have to share with my followers! I hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

  5. 18/03/2012 3:48 am

    Wonderful post and wonderful poem. The truth is that most people don’t really want the answer to the question ‘How are you’ – once or twice in my life I have answered with detail of how I am (never great when I’m doing that, strangely our joy doesn’t usually burst out of us in as uncontrolled a way as our sorrow, does it?). That is why the poem is so evocative. BUt I believe you, Elizabeth when you ask – so, thank you for asking, I am OK but I appreciate you asking and wonder how are you?

  6. 18/03/2012 4:19 am

    hi Eliz,
    sometimes a photo is the answer to that “HOW ARE YOU”:
    (me and my grandson no. 3 in BERLIN)
    and of course without any private pictures:
    reading your blog, Eliz, helps to optimize my empathy!

    • 19/03/2012 3:22 pm

      True and it is a beautiful bonding time for all of you. TY! 😉

  7. 18/03/2012 4:51 am

    What a great poem & post! I only answer that question honestly with close friends and family. I do not think I could possiblly have the energy to expose all that with everyone. Nor do I have time to hear their stories!!

  8. 18/03/2012 5:04 am

    This just blows me away, Elizabeth! WOOAW! A beautiful read for a Sunday morning. Thanks for introducing me to The Invitation.

  9. 18/03/2012 5:11 am

    I normally answer I’m fine and you? In Ghana (West Africa), asking someone this question is a form of greeting to show respect, promote friendship and cordiality as well as to start up conversation. Greeting is part and parcel of our culture so that one feels offended or even slighted when he or she is not greeted or does not receive a response to greetings. And though the response may not indicate the person’s actual state of mind or his feelings, more often than not greetings indicate showing interest and showing concern and love. Africans show love through greetings.

    Great poem!

  10. 18/03/2012 5:43 am

    I am in the metaphorical realm of books. Fresh from a trip to the library, I have found multiple fountains of knowledge.

  11. 18/03/2012 6:00 am

    Friend, I read this poem years ago in a newsletter which I promptly lost. You’ve made me so happy for posting it today. I especially love the verse about doing what needs to be done for the children…

  12. Bree permalink
    18/03/2012 6:56 am

    This is brilliant! Like many, I do pay short shrift to the question because I don’t want to impose. I am well but could be better if I took a vacation. I need more rest from my chores and the courage to say no to some dolks. How are you?

  13. 18/03/2012 7:10 am

    I never have a “bad” day. How about you? – that is my usual answer when asked how I am. If the person just gives a perfunctory “great!” and a few short words I move on. IF they stop and question how I never have a bad day, then I will go into detail that I’ve tried to shift my thinking, that in essence, any day I wake up on the right side of the dirt and breathing, it’s a good day. It’s pretty much in your mind set. I’ve decide that I have the power to decide how to react to everything life throws at me and one those “not so good days” I have chosen to call them “character building” days because even those days, getting through them,helps me build character and be a better person.

    For the long answer… I am doing great. We are busier than we have been in years and starting a whole new chapter at this age is challenging AND character building but life is good. Thank you for asking! And thank you for sharing this wonderful post and wisdom. I loved it.

  14. 18/03/2012 7:41 am

    Reblogged this on Miriam Gomberg and commented:
    This post spoke to me unlike any other I have read. I felt it was my duty to share Elizabeth’s interpretation of an incredible poem. Please read and enjoy. Miriam

    • 20/03/2012 1:55 pm

      TY for the re-blog Miriam! I appreciate it. I’m working hard to catch up on comments to others and here… Forgive me and thanks again! 🙂

  15. 18/03/2012 7:44 am

    Eliz, your posts touch me like none other. I thought I was past the tears, but they came out while reading this amazing poem. Like so many others, I reblogged the post in order to keep it going. Thank you so much for sharing this. Miriam

    • 20/03/2012 1:56 pm

      TY too for your feedback… I struggle with it myself so I understand how you feel. TY! 🙂

  16. 18/03/2012 7:55 am

    Yes, great post, great poem. Will definitely link to it in one of my posts.

    I don’t remember when, but at some point I started answering “How Are You?” honestly although in many different ways. Sometimes short and sweet, sometimes longer. My favorite audience are the check-out people and my intent with them is to get some honest bantering or some laughs perking.

    At one point in an evaluation I was told to can that kind of honesty. Made me think why did I do it. The Meyer’s Briggs says what matters most to me is being how I am. Made sense. But as a clinician, I also decided my desire to be honest served a useful purpose. It said I was human. It also modeled the idea that the downs of life, the broken threads, the burned heart, the failures as well as the highs, completed tapestries, healed hearts and successes when set out into the world leave us all less alone. Or at least being honest in this one small question, made me feel more connected to others.

    Of course, as noted by many above, Some don’t want to know. So my advice, be honest, keep it short and turn it back. Leave all with something kind.

    All cashiers where I shop for groceries are obligated to ask you three questions. How are you, did you find everything you need, do you need help to your car? Sometimes as I present my discount card, I say, “Don’t ask, I’m not fine, I didn’t find any money lying around and I won’t need help out to my car.” Gets a laugh but as the cashiers get to know me, have to change it, but we have become a bit more to each other than business transactions.
    Stay strong, life ain’t for sissies, but is far better than the guaranteed alternative.

    Began to enjoy the varied res

  17. 18/03/2012 9:21 am

    I haven’t read this poem in ages. Good to read it again. When asked how I am, I will usually say “ok”, because it seems people, unless it’s family, don’t want to be weighed down with another’s problems. They don’t really want to know, it’s just the expected intro.

  18. goz permalink
    18/03/2012 9:57 am

    Beautiful poem.. I agree with ‘Freedom, by the way’’s not always the right time nor the right has to know when the moment is right to share deeper.. Otherwise we risk titillating, amusing or even irritating the hearer.

  19. 18/03/2012 12:22 pm

    Geez, girlfriend- You find the best passages!

  20. babs50nfab permalink
    18/03/2012 12:30 pm

    I remember a Tony Robbins tape from years ago that said, “Saying you’re fine? Really? You’re just ‘fine’.” We need to be mindful of the words we choose. My usual response is ‘Great’ how about you?

  21. 18/03/2012 1:14 pm

    The Invitation is beautiful. I must copy and keep it close as a reminder of what matters.

    It’s good to be free and be back here. I missed you. 🙂

  22. 18/03/2012 3:01 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this poem. I have never read it before, but it truly does speak to me at this moment . . . to the me who wants to find something beyond the superficial, the me who feels very alone and insecure, the me that wants there to be more to life then titles and money and meaningless work. How am I? I am lost, but slowly finding myself.

  23. 18/03/2012 3:33 pm

    A wise man and advisor recently told me to be truthful…if you are not fine, don’t say you are fine. It’s also part of being truthful to yourself. But for me, the answer depends on who the person is. It seems some people just don’t want to hear other than “I’m fine.”

  24. 18/03/2012 9:04 pm

    I am not familiar with Oriah, but I feel I should be! What inspiration! You’ve written a very thought provoking post…a lot to think about. What a different week we’d all have if we seriously listened to others, and if we dared to share honestly! Hmmmm. Debra

  25. 18/03/2012 10:04 pm

    A thought-provoking and insightful post, Elizabeth. I think along the lines of CreatingReciprocity and Frizztext – sometimes people don’t really want to hear the truth of how you are, grief is one, illness another. And I think that photographs, any sort of art, or writing can answer the question.
    I took this picture yesterday.
    /Users/saustin/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters/2012/03/17/20120317-183947/IMG_0437.JPG
    That’s how I felt at the moment. Whether it’s words or a photograph, there’s still so much left to interpretation.

    good, fine, doing well, rambling, thank you.

  26. 18/03/2012 10:07 pm

    Inspirational poems, and thought provoking post!

  27. 18/03/2012 11:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing Oriah’s poetry and philosophy…I had never read it before. 🙂
    I am happy, alone with myself. 🙂 As well as happy when sharing life with others.:) I remember years ago,..if one of my children found me sitting “alone” (a very rare occurence in those days, you can be sure), he or she would ask if I was “lonely”.. “No” I would reply. “I am alone, not lonely.” Sometimes, we need to be alone, I think.

  28. 19/03/2012 1:50 am

    Hi Eliz

    Beautiful post – it sings to my soul.

  29. 19/03/2012 6:07 am

    Reblogged this on LUPUS CHRONICLES and commented:
    “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.”
    Can we be with, sometimes just sit with someone who is in pain and rather than fix the pain, offer the support they need; the support of love and friendship that says that ‘I may not know your pain, specifically; but I know that pain that others don’t see or understand is the worst pain at all?’

    • 19/03/2012 2:19 pm

      I agree with you Annie. We can be supportive of people in pain by being open and loving instead of pretending we don’t know something is wrong or running away from it. TY for stopping by and for the reblog. 🙂

  30. 19/03/2012 7:13 am

    Beautiful poems today.

  31. 19/03/2012 7:33 am

    Powerful poem and invitation to delve deep into your inner sanctum!

  32. 19/03/2012 1:52 pm

    I think most don’t want to answer and most don’t want to know, not because they don’t care, but because it’s all too overwhelming – and it’s akin to letting Pandora out of the box. I don’t know…

    • 19/03/2012 2:35 pm

      I agree with you completely. Even when you look at the answers here, I know my fellow bloggers care, but it might open an overwhelming box that many don’t want to delve into. So we avoid answering the question. I took a workshop once where the instructions were to; stop and think about an answer before saying anything, look the other person in the eyes, and then answer truthfully. It was a very powerful exercise and we all walked away feeling differently about how we answer the question. TY for your feedback! 😉

  33. 19/03/2012 2:17 pm

    “The Invitation” and Pablo Picasso’s art are both beautiful… yet a bit disconcerting. Great pairing Elizabeth!

    • 19/03/2012 2:36 pm

      TY! What did you find disconcerting about them… I’m really curious to know? 🙂

  34. 19/03/2012 3:35 pm

    If the asker is someone I barely know, I’ll reply with, “I’m fine.” Otherwise, I like to add a couple of words about why I’m feeling the way I am. Without that, it feels like I might as well be a robot engaged in robot communication, not a human engaged in human interaction, but I don’t think I’d ever thought about it quite like this until I read this post. :p

  35. 19/03/2012 8:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing, Sculpting, Joy and commented:
    How are you? I am tired, sleep-deprived, and joyous about the time I spend with my granddaughter. I am also feeling so hopelessly behind on everything else, like keeping up my blog and getting any writing done. I haven’t given up though and I thank anyone who still cares enough to read my blathering. Until I can get my own writing done, please enjoy this piece from a lady whom I have come to respect deeply.

    • 20/03/2012 2:35 pm

      TY for the re-blog and I love your answer… I was thinking about how “I’m fine” is so automatic that we use it all the time without even stopping to consider the question. I wanted to explore it and change how I respond to that question too. It’s not so much about revealing too much as it is about checking in with ourselves before we respond. Are we just fine or great? Are we a tad tired or hurting? We can answer sincerely without revealing too much. I believe we can and I’m reframing my response to the question. TY! 🙂

  36. 19/03/2012 10:21 pm

    Wow, I think this is my absolute favorite post from you. To be honest, I shy away from sincerely answering that question, bc at times I don’t think the one answering it truly cares. I absolutely love this poem and wish people would ask me more indepth questions such as these and sincerely wait to hear my answer:)

  37. 20/03/2012 10:32 am

    How are you?
    You’ve said it so well: it’s a question that is asked and answered everyday, yet in answering, we’ve already lied for the day. The ‘fine’ automatically comes. It’s robotic. But inside… if we ponder well on this question I’d say that it’s a very hard question to answer.

  38. 23/03/2012 10:38 am

    I was once called upon to read The Invitation before a literature seminar! I have felt ever since that I walk around every day silently asking those questions with my eyes. No wonder some close friends tell me I intimidate a lot of people without saying a word!

  39. 23/03/2012 8:53 pm


    I had a lovely ride in your blog. Please do visit mine. We’ll be glad if you do! 🙂

    Thank you and have a lovely day!

    Subhan Zein

  40. 25/03/2012 1:19 pm

    I am posting a little late. I really enjoyed this poem and the work that went into posting.


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