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The Call
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer • Toronto, Canada

I have heard it all my life,
A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.
Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.
Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.
But always it says: Wake up, my love. You are walking asleep.
There’s no safety in that!
Remember what you are, and let a deeper knowing
color the shape of your humanness.
There is nowhere to go. What you are looking for is right here.
Open the fist clenched in wanting and see what you already hold in your hand.
There is no waiting for something to happen,
no point in the future to get to.
All you have ever longed for is here in this moment, right now.
You are wearing yourself out with all this searching.
Come home and rest.
How much longer can you live like this?
Your hungry spirit is gaunt, your heart stumbles. All this trying.
Give it up!
Let yourself be one of the God-mad,
faithful only to the Beauty you are.
Let the Lover pull you to your feet and hold you close,
dancing even when fear urges you to sit this one out.
Remember, there is one word you are here to say with your whole being.
When it finds you, give your life to it. Don’t be tight-lipped and stingy.
Spend yourself completely on the saying,
Be one word in this great love poem we are writing together.

I should tell you from the start that I had a difficult time writing the chapter of The Call about the lines "Let yourself be one of the God-mad, faithful only to the Beauty you are." I wrote and discarded pages, moving on to complete or rewrite other parts of the book. The other chapters were complete while this one still cried out to me, telling me that I was hedging, not allowing the truth to speak to me or you about what it means to be God-mad. So I began again. It’s not that I don’t understand this small segment of the prose poem or that I disagree with its directive to allow my experience of what is both the essence of what I am and larger than myself to determine my actions regardless of what others will think. It’s that I find my life woefully lacking in instances when I have allowed myself to follow unreservedly the impulse that comes from the moment of fully and ecstatically touching the beauty of the divine within and around me.

Of course I do have my private moments of letting my intimacy with the Beloved have its uncensored way with me.

Years ago, I often drove alone to a small trailer I owned on an isolated wilderness campsite, arriving late at night. Each time I arrived I would step from the car after turning off my headlights and shout exuberantly into the welcoming darkness, "Hi honey, I’m home!" listening to my voice echo across the lake to the unmoving silhouettes of hemlocks and white pines on the opposite shore and up through the air to infinite points of light in an indigo sky. This earth, this universe, this breathtaking manifestation of the divine presence, is the home I love, and nowhere do I feel this more strongly than when I am in the Canadian wilderness. The beauty of this place and my sheer delight at being there made the words spill out of me, unconcerned about how crazy most people would probably think it was to call out to the trees and sky and rocks and water as if I were coming home and greeting an intimately familiar partner. Because I was.

Of course, I also knew that no one– no other person– could hear me. Like most people, I behave, even without thinking, according to commonly agreed on social norms, which don’t include calling out to the sky and rocks and water.

Craziness is commonly understood to be an unwillingness or inability to participate in the cultural agreements we make about what is real– that to which we collectively attribute not only existence but also meaning and importance. I do not want to make light of the suffering endured when someone afflicted with mental illness cannot determine any qualitative difference between the voice of the person in front of them saying hello and the voice in their mind’s ear telling them to hide in the basement because someone is coming to harm them tonight. When I was employed as a social worker, I found that the line between neuroses we all share and psychosis, which is fortunately less common, was generally and sadly very clear when you were in a room with someone suffering the latter.

The ability to understand and take into account how your culture defines reality is one sign of being grounded, sane. But what happens when your experiences lie outside this culturally acceptable definition of reality, as many spiritual experiences do? Surely Moses paused and wondered if he was losing his mind when he heard a burning bush speak to him. Do Christians who believe in the virgin birth think Mary’s friends and family believed her when she turned up pregnant and said she had never had sex? What reaction do you think Jesus’ disciples got when they went home and reported feeding hundreds with only a few loaves of bread and a small number of fish? History is full of stories of those we revere as great saints or teachers, thought by many during their time to be simply mad. One of my favorites is the story of Mirabai, the sixteenth-century Indian mystic and poet. Mirabai was a devotee of the Hindu God Shiva. Widowed at an early age and refusing to follow the cultural norm and throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, Mirabai gave up her jewels and silk dresses to wander the countryside singing and dancing and reciting poetry in praise of God. Her in-laws were so furious they tried to have her killed to stop her craziness and the shame they felt it brought upon them.

What would it look like if we allowed ourselves to be God-mad, if we simply decided to stop whatever we were doing and wait until the impulse to move came from a deeper awareness of the sacred presence within and around us and then followed wherever it led?

Meditation on Being God-Mad
Do this meditation in the spirit of exploration. I find it easiest when trying to uncover new information about reality– inner or outer– to have a pen and paper handy. Writing allows me to sidestep the judging, censoring voice within, to discover something I don’t already know. You may want to write what comes, or, if you find writing is for you an impediment to allowing the flow of whatever comes, set it aside and allow the answers to simply arise in your consciousness.

Sit in a comfortable position. Take three deep breaths and let your shoulders drop. With each exhale, allow yourself to let all expectations and fears float gently away. What we are doing here is simply opening to what is already there within you. You are not required to do anything. Let your body relax, and with each exhale allow any tiredness or tension to float away. If you find yourself thinking about what might or might not happen, what you want to happen or fear will happen, simply acknowledge the thoughts and let them move through you, gently bringing your attention back to your breath.

Allow the following questions or phrases to come into your mind, waiting in silence for a while between them for whatever comes. Notice, without any judgment, the answers or the completion of the phrases that come. Notice any thoughts or feelings you have about what comes. Do some excite or entice? Do others frighten or intimidate? Let the feelings move through you, and bring your attention back to your breath, focusing on one or two inhales and exhales before you move on to the next question or phrase.

• What would it look like today to be God-mad?
• What would it look like to let my longing for the Beloved spill into every moment of this day?
• If it didn’t seem so crazy, I’d….
• How do I want God (the Mystery, the Beloved, the Great Mother…) to be with me?
• Given this, how do I want to make love to the world today?

Oriah Mountain Dreamer is a visionary writer and author of the bestselling The Invitation, The Dance and her new book, The Call. She leads workshops and is a guest speaker at various ceremonies and retreats throughout the United States and Canada. You can visit her online at: www.oriahmountaindreamer.com
Excerpted with permission from The Call, HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.