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: How Can You Still Make This About You?

austin-neill-0A_b9G-Rm6w-unsplash Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: How Can You Still Make This About You?

I thought after death had its way with us, you would have stopped trying to get somewhere. You would have stopped making up conclusions. But you still take what you go through and force it on others, making the world into a silhouette of your pain. Yet this never frees us. We just keep praying to what is missing. I know. For I painted the strangers I met while lost with the colors of my sadness, wondering if anything mattered. Then, just as I was about to give up, something gave way, including my want to make everything like me. Sure, it was frightening. But when the Mystery of Oneness washed over me, experience dropped me into the common well below our names, where what happens to one of us happens to all of us. And then, the way a boulder tired of holding on slips into the sea scattering the fish into a glimmering pool of light, I began to cascade anonymously. Now, I can only say that though what pains us may be different, where it hurts is always the same.

This is how we find each other.

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Broken Open and Broken

daffodil-narcissus-picture-id482437547 Broken Open and Broken

It is impossible to know why some of us are broken open while some of us are just broken. If we knew how to invoke the difference, we could change the course of history. Even within one life, we can experience transformative moments of being broken open and, at other times, we just suffer being broken. More than staying in the unanswerable tangle of why some of us grow while some of us stay stuck, it is more important to move from one to the other. When broken open, we grow. When just broken, we endure. And the crucial calling of all relationship is to inhabit what we learn from being broken open to help us endure those times when we are just broken. Essential to the practice of compassion is that, when broken open, we find a way to help those who are broken, and to be humble enough when broken to ask for the help of those who are broken open. In this ongoing way, the light of kindness fills the hole of every pain. We must resist the trial of fairness and the comparison of suffering and devote ourselves to completing each other as we tumble through time.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Mind as Keyhole

dramatic-sunset-picture-id182179126 Mind as Keyhole
Beneath the cloud,
everything is grey.

Above the cloud,
everything is light.

Calling the cloud
unfair is being a victim.

Trying to conquer
the cloud is being a hero.

Calling the cloud a cloud
is the beginning of peace.


A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, discuss a time when seeing things other than how they are led to your feeling like a victim or wanting to be a hero.

This excerpt is from my new book in progress, Returning to Where I’ve Never Been.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Conference Of Flowers

ales-krivec-unsplash The Conference Of Flowers

The garden grew this way and

that as a circle of flowers gathered

to discuss the meaning of life. The

tulip leaned toward the peony and

asked, “Is there a purpose to any of

this?” The peony, drooping toward

the ground, replied, “Oh, can’t you

see? Our purpose is to open when

filled with light.” The rose shook

its pistil, pondering, “If this is a gift,

then who is the giver?” The shrubs

and trees fell silent till the iris gently

swayed, offering under the wind,

“The giver is that great force that

causes us to break ground.” A young

boy was listening and thought they

were talking about the fate of young

boys. He told his grandfather who

knew the boy had heard the

secret of all desire.

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Waking Close to the Bone

summer-campfire-and-lake-at-sunset-picture-id498849219 Waking Close to the Bone

We each discover the Timeless Center through love and suffering. And just seeing the Center burn under everything changes the way we look at the stars, the way we hold the wood we gather. It changes what we see while making love. Once entering this moment, waves of feeling ache close to the bone. I used to think that ache was sadness, and spent many years trying to get rid of it. But now, it is deeper than not getting what I want or losing what I need. Now I feel this ache, the way the earth feels its core grind about that central fire that no one sees. It is the slight burn of being here. Thankfully, we are brought in accord with life by making a covenant with the sweet ache of being here, each of us hollowed, in time, to an instrument of care. It’s how the fire of life that no one sees keeps singing. This is our destiny: to awaken our soul by loving the Center under everything. This is the hard-earned peace, which no one can teach, that keeps the light of Spirit rising in the world.

A Question to Walk With: Describe what it means to you to wake close to the bone. How would you describe the difference between sadness and a feeling of depth?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Each Day, an Anniversary

eachDay-_-Shutterstock Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Each Day, an Anniversary
With each passing year,
the climb turns into a drift:
turn of phrase, turn of pot,
spot of sun, touch of dog.


After all this way,
we wake in what we wanted,
like a painting we used to drive
to see in which we now live.


Like swimmers who tire into
ease, we are, on good days,
cradled by the deep.


Thankfully, we have crawled
into the O of ordinary
and found beauty.


We walk our dog, following
the streets that warm in the sun,
share a glass of water, and watch
the cherry blossom bend, one
more year, toward something
no one can see.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a simple detail that carries the essence of a significant relationship in your life. What does this detail represent? Honor this detail by talking about it and its significance to the person it involves.

This excerpt is from my book of poems in progress, Elsewhere.

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Where All Souls Meet

dawid-zawila--G3rw6Y02D0-unsplash Where All Souls Meet

After being born physically, we unfold within a second womb, meant to incubate our better angel. The second womb is an experiential one that, through the labor of a lifetime, births the soul on Earth. This journey opens us to a process of transformation that is mysterious, difficult, and inevitable. This dynamic transformation is how we are revealed and shaped by experience. By living the one life we are given, we release the wisdom that waits in our heart, and that tender, human process leads us to the way under the way, the place of true meeting. When we commit to these holy engagements that join who we are with the world, we discover that the temple is the world.

Eventually, all the love, suffering, and humility we go through wear away our walls of resistance until Spirit shines from within us like an inner sun. This is how Spirit is revealed on Earth—as the coverings we carry are worn away by life, the light we carry can pour into the world.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Language, Prayer, and Grace

male-northern-cardinal-in-a-blizzard-picture-id510405282 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Language, Prayer, and Grace
Language is no more than the impressions
left by birds nesting in snow.

Prayer is the path opened
by a leopard leaping through the brush.

And grace is how the water parts for a fish
letting it break surface.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a recent experience you’ve had with grace and try to convey its appearance and feeling in words without using the word grace.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Golden Thread

photo credit:Jenna Beekhuis. Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Golden Thread

The thread on the border of the fabric painting of Mount Fuji—stitched so many years ago, so many oceans away—has held the scene together longer than I’ve been alive. And on this uneventful morning, the soft rain makes the oak outside my window dip enough for the early light to stream across the braided mountain hanging on my wall. Now the thread on the border swells with the sun and seems for the moment the source of all strength. Then the sun steps higher in the sky, and the thread that holds all things together goes back to work.

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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.