What Is It like to Be You Right Now?


Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a retreat in Cincinnati hosted by two people I have come to know and admire over the past year – Tenneson and Quanita. One of the questions we explored in the opening circle on Friday night was What is it like to be you right now? Although a simple question, each response explored a depth and vastness of each person’s life. 

On my flight back to Philadelphia, I sat between two seniors studying at the University of Cincinnati. The three of us were complete strangers, heading in different directions. The guy, an international student and finance major from Sri Lanka was on his way to London to see his girlfriend. The girl was studying nutrition and dietetics and was on her way to New York to meet a friend for winter break. By the end of the 90-minute flight, we were like old friends. We discussed parts of our lives that are seldom shared within the first 10 minutes of meeting someone. I shared details of the retreat with them and together, we did a mini circle over the course of the flight. We explored the question what is it like to be you right now? and discovered even more about each other. I was reminded of what Tenneson said about the power of good questions: they are one of the few things you need in your toolbox when gathering with others.

The conversation with these strangers-turned-friends brought me back to the opening passage Tenneson had read on Friday night. It is called The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer:


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, be realistic, 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.


When patiently dwelled upon, each line can be unpacked. In the process of unpacking, I was reminded that we are all, somewhere deep inside, wondering the same thing. We want to know if someone will show up for us and tell us who they really are.

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.

Each line in The Invitation reminds me of the stories and life experiences my new friends from the plane and retreat shared. These stories are life-giving, providing us the opportunity to step into their lives for a just moment. It taught me what it means to show up for myself and others while also remaining aware of who has showed up for me throughout my life. As I reflect on the past year, I think of the people who have showed up for me and led me through times of darkness. I thought back to strangers, some close friends, and my parents…

More of us are asking these questions and explicitly looking for the human in our day to day lives and work. These new friends who attended the retreat reminded me of that. Tenneson and Quanita are also gentle reminders of that for me. They bring circle and dialogue to their work with communities and organizations across country. They plant seeds and then move on with the awareness of their responsibility to themselves and the communities they serve.

Quanita and Tenneson had shared what it means to hold a softness on the outside and a toughness on the inside. While we are taught to do just the opposite, how can we be soft in the way we encounter others and ourselves in relationship with others? How can we practice toughness through living with conviction, being clear on our purpose, and staying true to ourselves? I was taught this courage – the courage to practice softness on the outside and remain tough on the inside requires an unapologetic audacity to hold one’s ground.

After the retreat, I’ve been finding the courage to hold my toughness, while showing my tenderness and asking those deep, compassionate questions.

“Tell me a story of who you are”, writes Oriah in The Dance, “…and see who I am in the stories I am living…Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall, the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your won will. What carries you to the other side of that wall, to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?”


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Rina Patel1 Comment