Mark Nepo moved and inspired readers and seekers all over the world with his #1 New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening.  Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark has been called "one of the finest spiritual guides of our time," "a consummate storyteller," and "an eloquent spiritual teacher." His work is widely accessible and...
Mark Nepo moved and inspired readers and seekers all over the world with his #1 New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening.  Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark has been called "one of the finest spiritual guides of our time," "a consummate storyteller," and "an eloquent spiritual teacher." His work is widely accessible and used by many and his books have been translated into more than twenty languages.  A bestselling author, he has published twenty books and recorded fourteen audio projects. 

In 2015, he was given a Life-Achievement Award by AgeNation.  And in 2016, he was named by 
Watkins: Mind Body Spirit as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People, and was also chosen as one of OWN's SuperSoul 100, a group of inspired leaders using their gifts and voices to elevate humanity.  In 2017 Mark became a regular columnist for Spirituality & Health Magazine.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: All We Can Hope For

allwecanhopefor Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: All We Can Hope For

I’ve known this world in all its splendor and breakage for a lifetime. Or has it been a moment, the blink of some cosmic eye that let’s anyone still enough see the script of history all at once. I only know that when the forces of life and I move too fast, we author violence. When we stop and open, we discover a softness at the center of all things that gives rise to a music of acceptance. Very few things evoke this soft equanimity, which feels like a violin exhausting itself at the center of a symphony when the composer has spent his creative storm and is wondering if there’s anything left to say. Every day, the things we love sprout and emerge, or break and wither, as the vine grows quietly up the wall toward the light. Perhaps this is all we can hope for. The other day, we watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, it’s wings still wet. It had to wait for its wings to dry before it could flutter its way into life. Perhaps loving ourselves and each other and life itself is how we dry and open our wings.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: A Lifelong Process

bee A Lifelong Process

When the question arises, “Why write? Why create?” I’m drawn to ask, “Why breathe? Why climb to a place where you can see the horizon? Why look for things soft and durable to wrap around a wound? Why call into the canyon between us to see if anyone is there?” Because all these efforts help us live.

Repeatedly, we’re called to engage experience as a way to manifest what we carry within us, bringing what is dormant into the world. As the tree that a seed carries breaks ground in time, reflection, dialogue, and writing are seed-like forms by which we release our inwardness into the world. This is why we listen and express. This is why we write, why we create. Because expression is like sunlight that emanates from within. It causes the soul to blossom in time.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The River of Light

waterfall The River of Light

Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo left a trail of unfinished art greater than anyone else in modern history. Still, they are regarded as two of the most talented artists who ever lived. They are extraordinary examples of how the journey of expression is more important than the final product.

William Blake is another inspiring example. Toward the end of his life, Blake endeavored to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy, the medieval epic poem that follows Dante’s transformative journey through Hell and Purgatory into Paradise. Blake created 102 watercolors, planning to engrave them all, but he only had time to begin seven.

More than his immense effort to create art, Blake’s innate devotion was to immerse himself deeply in the thickest currents of life. Though he couldn’t finish engraving his illustrations, I imagine that, at some point, the life-force Blake was so devoted to began engraving him. What more can any of us ask for but to be created by the very thing we feel compelled to create? This is where the holy work of effort leads, regardless of its trail.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Thread

thread Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Thread

Thirty-four years ago, in my mid-thirties, I was working hard at becoming a good poet, when I was thrust into my journey with cancer. The torque of that experience pulled me from all my goals and routines and aspirations. I was left in the raw, uncertain simplicity of being alive and trying, by any means possible, to stay alive. I had few native gifts to help me through. The one closest to my heart was the aliveness of expression that lived below my want to be a poet. And so, I began to journal daily about my deepest fears, feelings, pains, and dreams, about the prospects of living and dying. I didn’t think of it as “writing” or as “material.” More, I was climbing the rope of honest expression, day by day, into tomorrow. It became a muscular and tender, honest space in which I began to access my own inner healing. This was my first in-depth experience of writing as a spiritual practice.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Our Nature

orchidslipper Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Our Nature

As skin will stretch and mend a cut, kindness will heal all our divisions in time. Just as something cellular and internal causes trees to grow and fish to develop fins, something equally cellular and internal causes the heart to open. This openness is what releases the enzyme we know as kindness. And while being vulnerable opens the heart, that earned tenderness yields a wholeheartedness that reveals all forms of kinship. It’s how Grandma Minnie made her way from Russia as a girl and became a strong weed growing in Brooklyn. I will never forget her broken-English dignity, sitting proudly on her stoop, no matter what came her way. She was always ready to weather the next storm with kindness, ready to welcome the needy and to speak up against cruelty. I don’t think she thought of this as brave or altruistic. It was just part of her nature, part of our nature as living beings. Her innate kindness helped her endure. It is the strength of our kindness that roots life in the world. It is our initiation through kindness that lets us grow from I to we. I only know that every time I give, I receive more. Every time I give, the act illuminates my soul and I am enlarged out of hiding, the way an orchid opens to arrive as itself. So, when in doubt, give. When dark and confused, give. For your doubt and darkness and confusion are cuts that reaching out with heart will mend.

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Mark Nepos' Weekly Reflection: I Affirm (for Joel Elkes)

moonreach I Affirm (for Joel Elkes)

Already someone is asking

who you were. And I well up.

I reach for your long life and all

you did. But it’s all you touched

that can’t be put into words. Twenty

years ago, when I was troubled and

confused, you took my hand firmly

and said, “You steward a force of

nature within you. Honor it and

trust it.” Later, you led me to the

plateau between all that is good

in us and all the harm we do. You

stood there between the eternal light

and the eternal dark and said, “Come,

look with me into the heart of things.”

But you always returned to walk the

earth, lending your strong hands to

all who came your way. I want so

much to speak about the force of

nature you were. The kind stranger

is waiting. And I can only point to

who you were, like a child pointing

to the moon. I stutter and simply

say, “He was such a good man.”



A Question to Walk With: Describe someone who can look into the heart of things with. What qualities does this friend inhabit that makes such depth between you possible?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Majestic Turn

earth-night-space-picture-id1070110506 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Majestic Turn

One of the great masters of the long walk through time is the Earth itself, as it turns ever so slowly on its axis, turning in place forever. This unconscious devotion to being sustains all life and keeps the mountains and oceans from spinning into space. This great and silent teacher holds the secret of being. For we are each born with an unconscious devotion to turn in place around the unseeable center. And in doing so, we sustain all life. When the Earth devotes itself to this majestic turn, ever inward, it creates and renews a force we call gravity. When we devote ourselves to this majestic turn around the unseeable center, we create and sustain a force we call love. And it is love like gravity that keeps the continents from breaking apart and spinning into space.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Speechless

summertree Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Speechless

I pause under that summer tree, the one that feels like a friend, as my dog wonders why we’ve stopped. She was trotting in such rhythm. But when this still, I wonder what part of me, way down, remains untouched by dream or memory? What drop of being remains out of reach of the opinions of others? When up close, each thing reveals its shimmer. And it’s the unexpected closeness that holds everything together. The light spreads across my dog’s face, her eyes so devoted to wherever I want to go. Can I be this devoted to the pull of life? Last month, I saw a dolphin and her calf slip back into the surf, and the pucker of the sea where they went under said, This is what it feels like to shimmer and go speechless. There’s a closeness we recognize in everything simple, as if we knew everything at the moment of our birth, and living is how we remember it all, piece by broken piece. It can happen when I stop to pick up what you drop in the supermarket. As your eyes shimmer, I realize we’ve known each other forever, though we just met.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Range of Our Compassion

dont-worry-im-here-for-you-picture-id926537622 The Range of Our Compassion

Dogs can hear well beyond the range of human hearing. In California, it’s been reported that dogs have heard the beginnings of earthquakes before seismographs could register their initial tremor. In just this way, there are those of us whose ability to feel, see, and hear others is beyond our normal range of compassion. We call them empaths or psychics. And we often discredit them because what they know because is beyond what we can sense.

A central physic of the heart is that the range of our compassion is widened each time we experience suffering or love. Like a mud-filled pipe that is hollowed out by the rain to carry water underground, the force of each experience clears us out. Listening, expressing, and writing are conscious ways to clear ourselves out and to expose and extend the range of what we feel. And so, the artist or poet in us is that deep part of who we are that keeps extending the range of our compassion.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Immersion

alongroad The Immersion
Now that I am here, I am somewhat ashamed
at my long insistence on there. Now that I am
loved, I am sorry for the hurts I caused in my
want to be loved. Now that I can see, I am
humbled by my desperate attempts to be seen.

Such a long, unforeseen road to simply be
without defining myself by others, for others,
in compliance with or resistance to.

Such an arduous path to breathe in the light
without running from or running to, without
giving myself away, or demanding too much
of those I admire.

Forgive me. Perhaps I can care for you
better in my heart than I did in the world.
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Over Many Months

Photo credit goes to Guduru Ajay bhargav Over Many Months

After ten years of swimming, I stopped when Eleanor died. She was one of several dear ones who had left the Earth. There was too much to tend, and part of my heart had stopped, unsure how to continue. Everyone called it grief, but below the name, I felt that the fire in my center was beginning to smoke. I kept my appointments and did the endless tasks, but some part of me felt hollow.

Slowly, over many months, I began to feel the presence of those I lost in simple things: in the sudden sweep of tall grasses, as if Eleanor were whispering something I couldn’t quite hear; in the light on a pigeon in Washington Square Park while someone played a saxophone, as if my father were smiling on a bench just out of view; and in the closed eyes of our new dog Zuzu while asleep, as if our dead, beloved dog Mira were slipping inside her to tell us she was near.

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The Details Change

couple-arguing-on-a-bench-in-the-park-picture-id472151005 The Details Change

Strolling in summer down Bleecker near Broadway, we pass a young Hispanic couple sitting on the curb. They begin to argue. He blurts out, “How can you say that?” She looks hurt. They start squabbling in Spanish. We laugh at them and at ourselves. It’s the same argument since the beginning of time skipping between us. The details change. The language evolves. We long to be close, then bump into each other, and tumble through life the best we can. How to stay close without losing who we are? How not to run away or retreat into isolation when misunderstood? How to stay connected and tethered to the truth that outlasts all argument? The next morning, I land on a bench in Union Square where the homeless sleep in the sun this time of year. A damaged man in a T-shirt is walking in circles, talking on a cell phone, though there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end. A young woman who’s listening to music is watching him too. We catch each other’s eye, not sure if we should get involved. But that’s the mask we all need to put down, the one that keeps us at a distance. For we’re already involved. The question is how?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: THE ONE THING

compus Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: THE ONE THING

There’s this one thing

I can’t remember or can’t

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Our Rawness

crystal-ball-picture-id486812736 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Our Rawness

Life expands and contracts in the yoke of a second. One minute there’s an unseeable vastness between life and death, and the next, it’s the length of a needle we’ve dropped and can’t seem to find. There is no one name or reason or label we can put on what we go through, though all of us, in our want to calm our fears, try to pin it down. Yet when doing all we can—holding, listening, bearing witness, and resisting the demon of “why” while leaning into the angel of “how”—there’s so much wisdom in the depths of our rawness. In being so present and engaged, we are forever shaped and carved as we shape and carve. This only makes us a more finely wrought instrument. So you are not blind and thickheaded, no matter how powerless you might feel. Quite the opposite: you are a clear jewel being burnished until all of life is reflected through your deeply exposed heart.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Always Building and Mending

Pixabay Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Always Building and Mending

I start each day by opening the blinds and making coffee for my wife. This way, I enter the day by letting in light and doing something for someone I love. From there, come what may, I’m centered in the strength of light and care. Then I feed our dog and go to work, which for me is re-entering my conversation with life. Like an astronomer who spends his days looking into the galaxy, tracing the movement of stars and planets, I look into the inner galaxy, tracing and mapping what I can.

By midmorning, I take Zuzu, our yellow Lab, for a walk. It’s there that the trees and birds begin to speak. Or rather, I begin to listen, as they’ve been sharing their secrets constantly. Most mornings, I see birds tending and feeding their young, flying to and fro with twigs, or pecking at the ground for seed. They’re always building and mending their makeshift nests. Much like us, going to and fro to gas up the car, and pay the bills, and get the tools we need to patch the roof. Endless tasks that keep us a part of life.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: All This has Yet to Happen

friends by Helena Lopes All This has Yet to Happen

When my twentieth book was published, we had a party in our backyard. It was such a milestone. My wife, Susan, surprised me that day by having the incomparable folk singer, May Erlewine, play with her quartet. I was dumbfounded to see her in our driveway. As May played, her voice threaded through our histories and I could feel the weave of stories that have brought us all together. After her first set, I offered a reading, one piece from each of my books. I have read all over the world and, honestly, I’m never nervous, but reading in our backyard to our dearest friends, I was. As I took in all those loving faces, my heart swelled and I realized that what so touches me about May and her music, beneath all her gifts, is that when I first saw her play, she reminded me that I am alive and that the moment we are in has yet to happen. And standing before my friends, I said as much, adding, “I feel this with each of you. Every time we’re together, no matter the distance or time in between, I am reminded that I am alive and that all this has yet to happen. In this way, each of you holds up my heart. In this way, each of you opens my heart. In truth, anyone or anything that reminds us that we are alive and that this has yet to happen is a friend.” I could feel all these beautiful beings with their gifts and burdens, mirrored and softened by each other’s company. Insight often appears in the loving presence of others. It had happened again. Standing with friends on this raft of an afternoon after years of rowing downstream together, I could see that friendship is my religion, the constant practice of love in the world.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In the Sea of Dream

handsleep Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In the Sea of Dream

In the middle of the night, your hand was sticking up from under your pillow—so still and open—as when we finally stop reaching and are just beginning to receive. I gently twined my fingers in yours. You were so asleep, and yet you took my hand. That’s how deep we can go. We hold on, even when drifting in the sea of dream. I couldn’t see your face, only your hand. And with no distractions, with no dishes to wash or bills to pay, I was winded by all the things you’ve held and cared for, including me. This was the hand that stroked your mother’s face before she died, the hand that cupped a baby bird till it could fly, the hand that cupped my face when I was so alone in my pain, the hand that learned to give our beloved dog Mira shots to ease her arthritis, the hand that sometimes doesn’t know how to care for itself, the hand that renews itself nonetheless by planting things in the earth. I wanted to place your hand, like a salve, on my heart but didn’t want to wake you. Then your fingers went limp, as if the dream you were falling through was coming to an end. In that moment, I feared this is what it would be like if you were to die in your sleep. I quickly squeezed your palm, and you stirred. I held you and whispered, “Everything’s alright. Go back to sleep.” And you turned over. It was then I put my head on your shoulder, leaning on the mystery of your heart, of my heart, of the one indivisible heart, as thousands have done throughout time.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Instructions to My Smaller Self

wave Instructions to My Smaller Self

When hurt, it’s important to scream. Just don’t pray to the scream. When sad, it’s important to grieve. Just don’t build a kingdom of your loss. When falling through whatever you thought would last, admit, “I’m lost and confused.” Just don’t map the world as lost and confused. And when riding the wave, however it appears, feel the strength in you released. Just don’t believe the strength comes from you alone. But most of all, when listening to others, say, “This may be so.” Then look for yourself at what life is painting with all its colors.

A Question to Walk With: What instructions would you give to your smaller self?

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Rising Out of Hardship

rising Rising Out of Hardship

I always hear what’s soft breathing inside what’s hard. I think this comes from my great-grandfather’s family, who hid from the Nazis in Romania, who slept in cemeteries under the blue night and woke with the stories of the dead, which filled them with resilience.

Just today, I heard a woman who’d been tortured softly play a wooden flute. Though she can’t put to rest what was done to her, her softness filled the room, making each of us think of someone who’s loved us more than we thought possible. And there was the minister born to blind parents. He said with a tremble that his father saw him better than anyone. And the burly electrician spoke of his colonel in Vietnam taking his dead friend from him when he couldn’t put him down. And two states away, the stepdad who never knew his father calls his stepson’s father to ask him to stay with them, because he wants his boy to have what he could never find. And just last week I met the nurse who helped me walk after surgery twenty-eight years ago. We cried in each other’s arms.

So if you think someone is brave, tell them. For they might feel frightened and small, and you will change their life. If you think someone is beautiful and aglow, tell them. For they might feel dark and lonely, and you will quiet their demons. When you reach to help someone who is stuck, you might free the flight of their soul. And they will return when you least expect, to bring you something from the sky. Never underestimate the strength of your kindness to suture the torn.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Aftercloud

forgiveness Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Aftercloud

When I admit I’ve been wrong

and that you’ve been true, I want to pick up

all I’ve broken with my insistence and bring

you flowers you’ve never seen.

This is what it means to make amends.

When a misunderstanding unravels,

I want to linger in that clearing, and put

aside our beliefs, which weigh us down

like old iron castings we’ve carried

around for generations.

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