The Invitation

I am so happy to be given permission by Oriah Mountain Dreamer to re-publish my favourite poem here….

 

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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.

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.

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,
“Yes.”

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.

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 from her book, THE INVITATION (c)1999. Published by HarperONE,
San Francisco. All rights reserved. Presented with permission of the
author. http://www.oriah.org

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I see themes of authenticity, courage, integrity in this poem. I’ve highlighted my favourite lines. They point to what lies at our Core, our Essence and how we feel about it.

What speaks to you most about this poem?

Cooking with Love

I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago, being trained to become a facilitator for The Transformation Game, a board game focusing on self development. There were six of us and the training was held in an apartment. The organisers had kindly arranged for our meals to be catered in.

I didn’t really expect what we got. It tasted like gourmet food. And each day I saw Ong Beng Chung, one of the owners of the restaurant come in personally, plate the food, lovingly top them with garnishing and walk out quietly while we were in training.

Beng Chung lovingly preparing our food

I also learned that he hadn’t created vegan food before but had taken on the challenge of doing it for me.

These hand-written notes from Beng Chung about our food were another way in which we experienced his care and warmth.

I was intrigued. Who was this man who would drive a long distance to cater food for six people with so much care?

So when we visited his restaurant, Zest Cafe, at Bangsar, we had a little chat.

Beng Chung had been in the corporate sector for 19 years before starting this restaurant venture. Four to five years of deep personal transformation planted seeds for Beng Chung’s professional transformation.  I enjoyed witnessing how the inner work he had done was manifested at the restaurant. I witnessed care, appreciation, authentic connection, humour, a real sense of joy in creating a space for people to connect and grow in.

Here are some highlights from our chat….

Food as a connector

I love to entertain people at my house so much so that my friends call my house a “coffeeshop”.  I find it very joyful to prepare food…I like it when people come, eat and talk together when we’re stressed out at work.

His vision for what he would like the restaurant to be…

~ I would like it to be a “social business”. A social business is where the investors themselves don’t just enrich themselves financially. They use wealth to enrich others, first their staff then the neighbourhood….for example, we buy our staff rice…

~ I want to make this a place where people can pursue their hobbies. I am trying to work with a photographer friend on how I can hold a photo-contest for example.

~ We serve nutritious food as much as possible.

Turning points

I was in sales, in the corporate sector for 19 years. Four years ago, the thought started that I can do more… something that is more related to touching humans. So I initially thought of running a retirement home. This was the time when my mum got into a stroke. But I took no action for three years. Then we thought of doing something all of us liked but then it took me another two years.

So I didn’t have a  sudden transformation. It was gradual…I moved away from the limitations I had set for myself. Many things happened in 2005. My mum had a stroke. I was in my late thirties and knew something needed to be done but did not know what….Now I see alot of possibilities.

About the day he was signing the tenancy agreement for the restaurant

I remember the day when I went to sign the contract…I still had fear…then I did the Ho’oponopono …I did it all the way from my office. Then my mood changed. I was signing with joy! I only realised the change after the incident happened on my way back to the office..

(Note: Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian practice marked by four phrases- “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”)

What he wants customers to feel when they leave

Refreshed. Quite a lot of my customers come from the office and I see them rushing through. I tell them, “Don’t rush. enjoy your meal…”

Having been in the corporate sector for almost 20 years, Beng Chung's "Don't rush. Enjoy your meal" to rushing customers seems especially heartfelt.

On my observation that he seems to love people and that the food is secondary

In marketing, there is a word called “touchpoint” which is where a business connects with the customer. To me food is another touchpoint in my interaction with people.

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I noticed Beng Chung sit next to children and speak playfully to them. He carried one. A few customers spoke to him when they were leaving. He noticed I was really hungry so got me some bread before the food arrived. I felt like I was in someone’s house, instead of a restaurant.

He said, “When people go to your house, you entertain your guests. I don’t call them “customers”. I call them guests.”

Beng Chung offered extraordinary service…there was a sense of intimacy, authenticity and a kind of heartful and soulful offering that honoured us as important and worthy of being cared for so well.

Beng Chung found his touchpoint in food. What’s yours? What could you create with love and authenticity?

Video: Truth Happens

Here’s a catchy video, “Truth Happens” on the inevitability of some changes despite the initial resistance they face…built on Gandhi’s quote:

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

What do you know in your heart as good, true and coming from Love, which is ready to be unleashed into the world, despite the resistance it may attract? 

(Thanks to Doug O’Loughlin for sending on the video!)

Video: Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself

Actress Thandie Newton gives an inspiring TED talk that guides us to an exploration of who we really are, our Essence and Connection.

I admire her open and authentic exploration of her own journey from hopelessness and confusion as a child of mixed parentage in a white neighbourhood to the self-aware and compassionate woman she seems to be.  

When are you in touch with your Essence so you can see what Connects you to others and the divine?

The Imperfect Stamp

I went to the Singapore Philatelic Musuem recently for the first time. And this was my favourite exhibit.

The text below reads: "How many holes are there on the phone dial?"

Here’s an excerpt of a HuffPost Living interview with Dr Brene Brown who researches imperfection, vulnerability and authenticity:

Rosenberg: You write that the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” — “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” — serves as a reminder to not control everything and try to make everything perfect.

Brown: Yes, not spackle the cracks is how I put it.

Rosenberg: You also discuss spackling the cracks with regard to perfectionism.

Brown: Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best, but it is not about self-improvement; it’s about earning approval and acceptance. Being addicted to perfectionism is actually a process addiction no different from the being addicted to food, or gossip or debt. Sometimes these are called counterfeit comforts.

Log on to the full interview. 

Related: Be compassionate – to yourself

Which of your imperfections make you a collector’s item?

Which imperfections of your loved one makes them one too?

PS: The fuller Leonard Cohen quotation is:

Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.