It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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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: The Context of Every Struggle

Antonio-Sessa Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Context of Every Struggle

We spend so much time anticipating what will happen next that we miss the whisper of Heaven that unfolds wherever we are. Though I have known and survived many forms of pain, fear is the troll in my mind that anticipates more. And just as a loud noise prevents us from finding the peace in the center of silence, fear prevents us from finding the inch of Heaven in the center of whatever moment we are in. Yet, no matter how much I’ve been through and how much I’ve learned, I can’t stop the wave of anticipation. No one can. It is part of being human.

But I can escape it from time to time. When fully engaged in learning, or caring for another, or in a moment of devotion to all that I believe about the Mystery of Life—in these openings, the anticipation loosens and I am completely present, at least for a while. The practice of authenticity is building on these moments until they open up our days.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Next to Me

Image Credit: LisaFotios Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Next to Me

Later, we’ll see Kenzie dance at NYU. She is sixteen and close to her source. She ran through my legs when she was little. I’m fifty years older than her. How did this happen? This morning, in a favorite café, a couple close to thirty. They’re signing some papers, so blinded by their love and dream of the future that they can’t see that the man waiting on their signature is not trustworthy. I want to warn them. Of course, I could be wrong. But more deeply, no one can be saved from their possibility and their path. Not I or the young couple or Kenzie. Near the window, another young man, his arms covered with intricate tattoos. Suddenly, each marking is the story of a life. He has headphones on and is lost in his computer. And I wonder if the ancient, stone Buddhas at Angkor Wat were living beings whose wounds and lessons were inked into their bodies. Like this one. I wonder if, over the centuries, they hardened into these compelling remnants of ordinary people trying to find their way, who we have turned into gods.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Signature of Being

citystreet Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Signature of Being

I stop in the middle of our conversation on the street and feel those around us working on themselves and their relationships, solving problems and imagining new ways of being. For a moment, as the sun comes through, I can sense the entire city at work on their worth, unlacing trouble, looking for peace, each trying in their own way to be kind and useful in the face of storm and time. I am stopped by the sound and glow of souls being hammered in the smithy of circumstance. I lift my face to the sun, thankful to be part of an unfinished humanity, everyone trying to find the love and keep the love, everyone working as a part in the unseeable Whole. All of us like a medieval guild working in the sun: this one repairing a wheel, that one cobbling a shoe, and another repairing the path, while someone over there is baking bread. And the secret is revealed: we are never more alive than when working on the way.

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The Anthem of Our Day

Photo-credit-is-Amanda-Phung The Anthem of Our Day

In the ocean of history, things build and then are worn away to what is most essential. This is an irrevocable and recurring tide of time. And while the storms, whatever their form, first push us away, it is only by coming together that we endure and emerge even stronger, clearer, and more loving. This seems to be where we are now. And the practice, so simple and so difficult, is how to move through the days with caution and care, without feeding our panic. For the other virus spreading now is fear. We all feel it, calling us with its hypnotic frenzy. But one thing I’ve learned from almost dying from cancer is that fear is to be moved through and not obeyed. And we need each other in order to see clearly so we can right-size what is before us—day after day.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Singing Light

singinglight Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Singing Light
When I was ill, I walked
the antiseptic corridors,
holding God so tightly
I couldn’t see a thing.

Only now, years later, have
I had this dream in which
a small bird is singing light.
It follows me and everything
it brushes begins to glow.
I catch it, to have with me always.
But in my hands, it stops singing.

It’s made me see that more than
holding, we need to be held,
by the larger things that
enable us to live out loud.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: After Many Years

yellow-phalaenopsis-orchid-picture-id507116932 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: After Many Years

After forty years, my oldest friend, Robert, took my hand and said, “I didn’t give you one thing you didn’t already have when we met. I just warmed it open with love and truth until you opened like a flower, blossoming into yourself.” This is what friendship does.

 

A Question to Walk With: Describe a friend who has loved you the way the sun loves flowers and trees. What is the greatest gift this friend has given you. Once you’ve reflected on this, tell them.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Easy as Gravity

Easyasgravity-Pixaby Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Easy as Gravity
While every love we know is unique
and has its own history, every chance
to care traces back to the same
enduring love that lives below
all names.


The way the branches on this
towering oak trace back to its
enduring trunk.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Helping Each Other Stay Awake

photo credit: David Bartus Helping Each Other Stay Awake

As I travel to offer workshops and retreats, I enter a depth with willing others who’ve been opened and shaped by life. Through that depth, we create a path to what matters by which we enter the temple that is the world. I remain humbled and excited by the mystical fact that, try as we do, this depth can’t be opened alone. We need each other to do this, even though no one can experience life for you. And so we journey as pilgrims of the heart, alone and together, crossing this threshold of depth whenever we dare to tell the truth of our lives.

I open these gatherings by admitting that I have no answers and that we’re here to compare notes, because no one knows how to navigate the mystery of being alive. I then try to open a heart space through which we can enter the realm of all that matters, which is always waiting just below the interruptions of life which, if followed beyond our wants and fears, will lead us to the bareness of being that informs all life. I open this heart space by reading poems, telling stories, and sharing metaphors that reveal the unseeable architecture of existence.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Drop of Ocean

20200211-123915 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Drop of Ocean

The drop of ocean teaches us about integrity and faith because, no matter how churned up it is, it never loses its transparency or its ability to go clear. As transparency and clarity are intrinsic to the true nature of water, integrity and faith are intrinsic to our true nature. Regardless of how churned up we are, restoring our transparency will enliven our integrity, and restoring our clarity will enliven our faith.

As one drop of the sea contains the entire ocean, each human being contains all of humanity. When churned up and full of trouble, we are disconnected from this living heritage and things always feel worse than they are. When transparent and clear, we reflect and reveal all of humanity and are able to draw strength from the living heritage we are a part of. This is why we need to discover and inhabit a personal practice of transparency and clarity that will return us to our true nature by restoring our integrity and faith.

All the spiritual traditions offer rituals and practices, including all forms of meditation, in order to support us in our ongoing task of returning to our true nature when the roughness of living challenges our assumptions. How do we personalize these practices? How do we create our own? What is your own history of being churned up? What are the ways by which you have restored your own transparency and clarity? Who and what helps you return to your true nature?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stop Fighting

StopFighting-MarkusSpiske Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stop Fighting
When humbled, we finally stop fighting—

against life, against the tide of time, against

the avalanche of disappointment, if we can

outwait the stubbornness of our dreams. For

every storm, no matter how fierce, dissipates

itself. The question is how much damage

it does while wearing itself out. Eventually,

once broken open, once our soft center

spits out its pearl, we try to put all that

we’ve damaged back together. And no

one tells us that the storm hurts itself.

It guts its own center. Even the surf

crashes into itself. All this to say, I’m

sorry for the path of my storm. I know

some things can’t be put back together,

and we have to live with what we’ve done.

In time, the hardest nut will crack and

wonder why it took so long to lean into

love. But now that we’re here, I don’t know

what to say, other than, please, stay close

for the time we have. Like flowers, we

spend long hours underground, in the

dark, all for these few moments of

blossom that we never thought

would come.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stewards of Light

comet1 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stewards of Light
The more a comet
burns away, the
brighter it gets.


As it enters the
atmosphere, more
and more of it flakes
off and burns up.


Until there is only light.


This is our journey
as a spirit in a body
over a lifetime.


As the years wear us
down and burn us up,
we grow brighter.


Until at death,
we are all light.


A Question to Walk With: Describe an aspect of who you are that has brightened over the years.
This excerpt is from my book of poems in progress, A Thirst for Simple Light.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Lately

Photo credit: Brett Sayles Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Lately

Death has been with me, getting my attention, saying nothing. So this morning, in a hotel in New York, I take a long shower, hoping the hot, anonymous stream might wash the aches from my heart and the fear from my mind. Yet once rinsed of my memory and worry, death takes off its mask and it is only life trying to get my attention one more time. But I insist, I have never taken any of this for granted. And now, from the inside, I can see the story of the Universe in the homeless man’s eye, and the kindness of time in the sun off the thunderstorm puddle, which will evaporate by noon. Like me. Like you. Now life appears as a small bird drinking from the puddle. So that’s it. All our efforts come down to one life offering itself as a drink to another before we evaporate into everything else. It makes me sad to think that you and I will vanish. But the way this works is elegant: the expending of one life till it is seamlessly absorbed in the next. And so, this morning, these thoughts hardly seem my own.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Prosperity

Photo credit: Chris Munnik Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Prosperity
Living with an open heart,
all is real. And we become
briefly all that we meet.


I touch your sadness and I
become sad. I brush against
your wonder and I am restored.


But under all the sadness and
wonder, I remain who I am.


This is integrity, the want to
feel everything and become
nothing.


The orchid in the sun stretches
but remains an orchid.
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Mark Nepos' Weekly Reflection: The Necessary Art

Photo credit goes to Matt Hardy The Necessary Art

Each of us is called to listen our way into the underlying truth that connects us all, though we experience this calling as a very personal journey, the way plants and flowers grow and blossom differently, though they all root in the same soil. This rooting and breaking ground until we flower is the necessary art of coming alive.

As Rainer Maria Rilke offered in his legendary Letters to a Young Poet:

“Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create.”

I would take this further, because I believe we all must create—that is, we all must root and break ground until we flower. This necessary art of coming alive is not reserved for the few. It is every person’s destiny, though there are always things in the way. Not because we’re unlucky, but because this is the nature of our time on Earth.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Life Marks Us Up

darkroom Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Life Marks Us Up

I was stranded in Washington D.C. due to a storm in Chicago. It was sunny and cold and I wandered into the National Gallery of Art just beyond the Capitol. On the ground floor in the west building in two small rooms was an exhibit called In the Dark Room, which mounted examples of the early process by which photographs were developed in the 1800s.

We don’t see many darkrooms any more, given the ease of digital cameras. But darkrooms still offer a small, reflective solitude for serious photographers. The great photographer Ansel Adams had a very elaborate, expansive darkroom, while the Civil War photographer Timothy O’Sullivan refitted an ambulance wagon into his portable darkroom. Progress doesn’t limit our toolbox but adds to it, the way that master woodworkers don’t throw away their hand tools just because they have a set of power tools.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Practice of Reading

reading-book-while-drinking-coffee-picture-id932272022 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Practice of Reading

In our modern age, the noble art of reading has been truncated and compromised. Today, a skilled reader is judged as someone who reads rapidly, who can scan the skeleton of any piece of writing and abstract its silhouette of meaning. Yet this is like taking an x-ray of a person and thinking you now have met the whole person.

The word “read” comes from the German raten which originally meant “to guess.” So reading is always a guess at what matters, a leaning in to all that is beyond words, a bow to all that gives rise to words.

I have always been a slow reader, not because I struggle with comprehending what I read, but because when challenged or moved by what I read, I slow down in an attempt to absorb what I’m taking in. Inherent in immersing ourselves in books is the call to enter time and not just move through it. Understanding reading in this way, books become thresholds to moments of living beyond our own.

There is a story in the Talmud in which students notice that their rabbi has been quietly reading the same passage over and over for several days. Concerned, one of the students approaches his teacher to see if he is alright. The rabbit smiles and says, “When I have come upon this small window into Eternity, why should I go anywhere else?”

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Energy of Hope

person-the-pen-writing-on-desks-picture-id635876658 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Energy of Hope

I believe that teaching, reading, and writing all have to do with searching. Each involves searching for Wholeness through dialogue and experience. When that search involves other living things, we find ourselves in the province of learning and teaching. When that search involves other living things that are not present or of our time, the dialogue takes the form of reading. And when that search involves things that are present and living but not yet visible or known, we have entered the creative realm, which includes writing.

These forms of search are really inseparable. They constantly impact each other. In truth, a teacher is someone who is actively involved in all three forms of search—whether they have a classroom or not, whether they are reading the wind instead of a book, or whether they ever write it down or not. At the heart of it, learning is really seeing, while writing is really internalizing what is seen through the life of our expression. And teaching is asking questions about what is seen and taken to heart—in an effort that if honestly entered usually leads to seeing further and taking in more.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: What It Means to See

Photo credit: Well Cabral Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: What It Means to See

To see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

Georgia O’Keeffe

I was born a seer. Early on, words became the brushes with which I tried to paint what I saw. In time, I learned that while art is movement through space and music is movement through time, poetry is both. And each of us is born with an inclination toward seeing or hearing. I was born a painter and sculptor in a poet’s body.

Over the years, I’ve come across several legendary crossovers in the arts: those whose vision comes in one form, while their expression comes in another. Michelangelo’s genius came from being a sculptor forced by Pope Julius to paint, forced to compress and express his gift for three dimensions into two dimensions. The result was his masterpiece, The Sistine Chapel ceiling. George Bernard Shaw was a social theorist and critic in a playwright’s body. Aldous Huxley was a philosopher in a novelist’s body. And Robert Frost was a masterful short story writer, a weaver of potent yarns, born in a rhymer’s body.

The insight here is that each needed to express what they saw through the instrument they were given. This dynamic is what gave rise to their genius. I suspect that if George Bernard Shaw had expressed his social ideas in pure social writing, their potency would have been lost.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Refection: Not Great But True

Photo credit goes to Markus Spiske Mark Nepo's Weekly Refection: Not Great But True

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Rumi

Because all young people are taught to be ambitious, I began as all young artists do—working toward some imagined greatness that might reveal itself in time if I could stay devoted enough to my craft. But along the way, I was humbled to be more uplifted by what was true rather than what was great, by what was heartfelt rather than what was intricate. It kept me close to my own experience, which when entered honestly began to reveal the common ground of all experience and all time.

From there, I risked more by entering the poems than by writing them, not sure where they might go, and found myself touched and changed by showing up in my life so completely. Well, that’s not very different than being changed by loving another, is it? Now in the second half of life, I am devoted to being in that holy space where the conversation of aliveness exists. It’s not about the words but the poetry of life that is revealed and enlivened by our honest engagement.

The process of writing and expressing—whether you become a writer or not—offers many valuable tools for living. If you concentrate on learning what those tools are and are diligent in using them, this concentration of wakefulness will help you live, and chances are that you’ll surface good writing.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Quarter Turn

holdingbutterfly Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Quarter Turn

I suddenly knew I was looking at it from the wrong angle and I gave the cloth in my hand a quarter turn. Immediately I saw a beautiful and coherent golden pattern... In wonder, the pattern had emerged, to be seen in all its beauty by those who could learn to make the quarter turn.

Helen Luke

The above quote is from Helen’s inner autobiography, Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On. She begins the book with a dream in which one of her oldest friends, now gone, is asked on the other side to weave a tapestry that tells the story of her life. But as Helen looks at the cloth, it makes no sense—until she gives the cloth a quarter turn and the pattern of her friend’s life emerges plainly.

Helen then offers the quarter turn as a synonym for a paradigm shift, as a way to understand those unexpected shifts of perception that return us to the hidden wholeness, the spot of grace, the Oneness that exists beneath all subjects and conclusions. And like the fine-adjustment knob on a telescope or microscope that brings what you’re looking at into focus, the quarter turn is the skill of perception by which you can bring into focus the instrument that is you.

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