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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 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. More

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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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Labyrinth to Shared Happiness

rainheart Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Labyrinth to Shared Happiness

Though I run to get out of the rain, it’s standing in the rain with my hands on my heart that is cleansing. Though I run from the pain, it’s standing in the pain with my face to the sky that is healing. So I never stop peeling the hurt, never stop trusting life to burst through whatever I have to face. Even when lost, there’s a truth we carry that—when released—can return us to the ground beneath all trouble, beneath all pain, beneath the worm in our mind that wants to run. Facing things together is how we move through the labyrinth of trouble, from thinking alone to feeling together. So when my head is burrowed in what I can’t put down, when I can’t find what I’ve just said, please, hold your kindness like a mirror, so I can begin again. Tell me that, hard as it is to accept, the path is right where we are, when too exhausted to chase anything. Remind me that the angels we seek flutter within us, using our hands as their wings.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Where Are You?

lostball Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Where Are You?

My teacher appeared to me

in the midst of my grief for him.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Life After the Ocean

lifeafterocean Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Life After the Ocean

And what of an afterlife? In our humanness, the question stays too small. Like crabs on the bottom asking each other if there is life after the ocean. What if one thing is supposed to carry another? What if the purpose of the snake is to keep the process of shedding alive? And the purpose of being human is to keep the process of loving alive? What if heaven for the wave is evaporating into sand? And destiny for the fox is that when he dies he will live inside the coyotes that eat him? What if paradise for rain is the root it swells in the dark? What if reincarnation is not one to one, but more like leaves broken down to mulch? What if we disperse into all that we love? What if your kindness becomes part of the lake that held you? And my heart becomes part of the wood that braces a bridge that saved me? And Susan’s ability to listen becomes part of the canopy that shades those tired on the way? What if Robert’s unshakeable belief in all that is unnamable becomes the bent nail that keeps the barn from falling? What if our tears and sweat irrigate the dreams of those yet to be born?

A Question to Walk With: Imagine what you might become in the next life that would represent who you are.

This excerpt is from my book, Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Accessing Resilience

lightintunnel Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Accessing Resilience

For all we go through, for all the heartache and loss, for all the messy ways we’re dropped into the depth of life, for all the ways we’re pried opened by great love and great suffering, I feel certain there is something unbreakable and regenerative about the force of life we each carry. And while we are the very breakable human container that carries that essence, the Spirit we carry is not.

Somehow, resilience comes from letting what’s unbreakable rise through the broken pieces that make up our lives. And the only way to access what’s unbreakable is through an open heart. And the only way to open our heart is by staying committed to the depth of our feelings. Though we resist their intensity, being rinsed by the depth of our feelings is what opens our heart to its timeless bottom. And following our heart to its timeless bottom is what lets us drink from the unbreakable stuff of life. Whenever I dare to take what I feel to the bottom of my personality, I dip into the well of all personality and I’m renewed.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: This Is How

Image from Designecologist Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: This Is How

When we can open our hearts and work with what we’re given, loving what’s before us, life stays possible. Then, through effort and grace, we do what we can with what we have. And when exhausted by all that’s in the way, we’re faced with the chance to accept and love what’s left, which is everything. This is how we discover that Heaven is on Earth.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a time when you experienced a moment of Heaven on Earth. What led you there? What have you carried from that moment with you?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Mansions We Dream Of

mansions we dream of Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Mansions We Dream Of

I have longed for people I thought I would die without. And wanted books and music I was sure would bring me peace. And I’ve driven myself to accomplish things I thought would secure my worth. And though I seldom touched what I longed for or got what I wanted or achieved what I pushed for, the remnants of my longing burned like ancient wood on the fire of my soul, making the heart of my being burn brighter. To my surprise, I loved and worked and pushed till I used my self up. To my surprise, using my self up was the fate under all my aspirations. At the end of all we want, we’re meant to glow. So long and want and dream till you exhaust your heart’s desire. We learn so much from longing, and wanting, and dreaming. Mostly, that they are not the mansions we dream of living in, but the wood that keeps our fire going.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under All The Fuss

drgonfly Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under All The Fuss
Over the years, I talked so much that, like a car speeding down a dirt road, I couldn’t see anything but what I stirred up with all my talk.Thankfully, loss broke my axle and forced me to stop. When the dust settled, I could see.Then love picked me up and took me to the nearest town, where I started a school for seekers who talk too much.In time, we taught each other to listen like dragonflies who touch the water without making a ripple.Now, to listen is to breathe with my heart. Now, I have so little to say that strangers think I’m a nobody, just when I’m finally becoming everybody. A Question to Walk With: Describe the difference between who you were ten years ago and who you are today.

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

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Heartfelt Way

heart The Heartfelt Way

In late November, I had an odd sensation in the night of not being able to breathe properly or easily, especially when lying flat. Upon going to urgent care, I was told that I had a small amount of fluid on my left lung. This led a three month fall into a dark hole of worry, as the common causes of fluid on the lung are serious: congestive heart failure, a pulmonary embolism, or the appearance of lymphoma, just to name a few. My doctor sent me to the emergency room which ruled out these serious conditions. Though I kept getting better, no one could find a cause. It took five weeks before I could sleep lying flat again.

In early March, I went to a pulmonary specialist to follow up. He was very kind and a thorough listener. After many questions, he brought me beside him to look at all my medical films through the years. Then, he quietly said, “I don’t think you ever had fluid on your lung. The abnormal shape of your left lung is the result of scar tissue from your rib surgery thirty years ago.” His best guess was that I contracted something viral that had passed its course.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Each Time We Grieve

memories1 Each Time We Grieve

I’ve lived long enough to know that every

sigh opens a story, the way a mouthful of

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: My Parents

seated-on-a-wooden-bench-picture-id529574797 Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: My Parents

I was raised like our backyard,

only tended with a sigh

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Mystic Spinning of Threads

silhouette-of-woman-dancing-and-rejoicing-to-god-at-sunset-picture-id523033651 The Mystic Spinning of Threads

I wonder where you are tonight.

Each of you. You who I lived with

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: All Of It

Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi. All Of It

Often, the delicate grows within

the harsh, the way the milky

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: One More Taste

pexels-photo-115617 One More Taste

When on the go, there are more

places to go. When stopped, I’m

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The Meditative Space

nature-meditation - by Alexander Dummer. The Meditative Space

All the meditative traditions encourage us to be still and to drop our thoughts and feelings, so we can breathe our way below all trouble into the flow of life-force that carries us. This is wise counsel. It gives us perspective and sometimes peace. But being a poet, I enter that Universal space and just take notes. I lean into the stillness with an open heart and listen to everything, including my thoughts and feelings and the entanglements of life. For I believe the mutual goal of meditation and poetry is not to have us remove ourselves from our human journey, but to have us live our lives more completely in relationship to the flow of life-force that carries us.

The poems and all that I write are simply the trail and record of what I see and feel in the meditative space. All my writings arise from peering from the edge of our humanness into the bareness of being that permeates all life. I have intuitively worked this way, even as a boy, long before I knew about meditation or poetry. I believe that poetry itself resides at the holy juncture where our humanness touches the bareness of being that holds the Universe together. This is the only place I write from, whether I’m alone in the woods or being jostled on a crowded subway. It is the lens through which I meet life. It is the place I return to in order to renew this endless conversation. It is listening in this space that keeps me fresh and sane.


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Before He Knew

photo from Pixabay Before He Knew

He was thirteen before he knew what a hand drill was. His father saved and bought him one for 75 cents. Before that, he made holes in wood by twisting coal-fired nails into the grain. It was his job to throw wood in the fire after school. When red hot, he’d pinch a nail with a pair of pliers and twist it through the wood, which went soft and dark until there was an opening. Now his skin is thin and just last week he stumbled out of bed and landed hard on the radiator, his forearm tearing like a thin curtain. It took an hour to stop bleeding.

He just took care of it himself. We are held this way in the fire of time where we go soft and dark till our skin goes thin and just waking tears us open.


A Question to Walk With: Ask an elder in your life for a story about the first tool they learned how to use.

This excerpt is from a new book in progress, Compass Work: Finding Our Fathers While Finding Ourselves.

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Between Troubles

fishingbarn Between Troubles

The old painter tells me that he loves to drive through small towns, so he can sketch the light and strike up conversations with the young woman who pumps his gas and the lobster fisherman who lets him bait his traps. He loves to meet life as it bubbles up between troubles. Last summer, he wanted to meet that poet from Nebraska, the one who speaks so simply of all that matters. He didn’t want to bother him, just to say how grateful he is for what his poems open. Eight hundred miles later, he was asking for the poet in the old bookstore. Then he drifted into the antique store in Garland where he bought four lanterns. It’s there the owner said, “Oh Ted, he lives in Dwight.” So the painter took his lanterns and drove the back road to Dwight where he left a note on Ted’s window that read, “Your poems matter.” Once home, he set up the lanterns and confessed that he needs more light as he talks to death. The next day, he painted a barn he saw in Dwight and sent it to Ted. In telling me this, he’s all aglow, a lantern himself. He takes my hand and wells up, “I love this life.”

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Listening

listening Listening

In many ways, writing is listening and simply taking notes. One of the reasons I love the process of writing is that it enables me to listen until my loneliness opens into a blessed sense of aloneness. The gift of deep silence is that it allows us to let go of what we want so we can receive what we have.

I’ve always been a learner of the heart, not a specialist of the mind. I can dissect and hone and prune away the excess. But the shimmer of Wholeness and the dynamics of Oneness show themselves when we can absorb and integrate rather than sort and choose.

As a young writer, I would try so hard to be a mirror, to reflect back to everything its color and verve. But as a more experienced writer, I try to be a window now, to open a threshold between people and the inner world.

Being still and listening allows us to behold what is before us. The deepest form of bearing witness is to behold another in all their innocence. This is the key to love. To listen until the noise of the world subsides. To listen until the noise of the mind subsides. To listen until the noise of our wounds subsides. To listen until we only hear the life before us.

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Carrying the Water

*photo credit: Dazzle Jam Carrying the Water
When overwhelmed by the suffering,bring water to the first you find.When you can’t grasp, embody.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a time when you have been caretaker and when you have been a gatekeeper and what led you to each position. How do you understand the difference in what led you to each position?All life depends on water. As such, access to water has become a universal right in the world, regardless of faith, country, privilege, or poverty. Throughout the world, in a legal and common law way, people, corporations, and countries have access to water, but no one owns the water. What this means is that if a river passes through your land, you can use it, but not divert it, dam it, stop its flow, or damage its purity as it passes through your land to another.

This says a great deal about our responsibility as guardians of what passes through our care. It says that the deepest resources are not ownable, but shared and passed on. As such, we can easily equate water with Spirit, wisdom, and the communal ways of being. We can also call that deeper stream which no one owns, the common good. For all life depends on the common good, which passes like a river through the land of our care. Just like water, we can use each other and honor each other, but not divert one another, dam one another up, stop each other’s flow, or pollute the common good as it passes through our hands to another.

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