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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-two books and recorded fifteen audio projects. For information about Mark’s work and his upcoming events and webinars, please visit Live.MarkNepo.com

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: We Carry a Great Matter

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Once we grasp the essence of another, we have an obligation to honor and carry what we know to be true about that being with us and into the world, while they live and when they die. Honoring and carrying the essence of another is the deepest kind of love, the deepest kind of friendship. This is how the sea loves the shore and how the sun loves all it shines on. While we perish and vanish from the Earth, our love never dies. It illumines the next world.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: For Tu Fu

Mark-Nepo-July7
It was the spirit of Tu Fu from

the Tang Dynasty who gave me

strength to endure my cancer.

Now, years later, he appears again,

in a book of translations by a ninety-

nine-year-old. This time lamenting

how the autumn storms tore thatches

from his roof and how he woke to see

patches of straw fly into the river. In

the morning, he could see parts of his

roof tangled in the trees. If not for the

cold, he would have preferred sleeping

under the sky. On the page above his

poem is a print by Han Gan of sixteen

horses in various poses. If I could, I’d

tie a poem to the saddle of each and

send them back to the great one who

didn’t know he was great. I’d send

a long bow that could scarf its way

through history to let him know

that the red shock of his heart

still lives on.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Work of Care

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I’m not sure I can help
but my heart wants to try.

Oh, I can shop for you or
bring you dinner.

I can even help you up
should you fall.

But when the hunger is
inside, when the break is
where no one can see,

then all we can do is be
a greenhouse for each other.


---

A Question to Walk With: How do you help someone you love when where they are hurting is invisible?

This excerpt is from my book of poems, The Gods Visit.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Craft of Perception

craftofperception

The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Aristotle


Jennifer Blessing, a curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, has said that “artists pursue various methods of liberating the mind in order to access the marvelous.” We are all looking for ways to widen our lens of perception so that we can be more alive. The Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley declared in the 1950s that form follows content. And so we keep searching for forms of expression that will open and liberate the confines of our mind, so we can access and inhabit the marvelous. What we do to find the form that keeps us close to life constitutes the craft of perception.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Inside Why

Mark-Nepo-June-14
Violins are falling

from the sky. As they

tumble, the wind releases

deep music. This is how

love sounds to itself. This

is what it’s like to love

you. It’s a music that

can’t always be heard.

It makes me pour you

tea.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Great Waters

Nepo-June-7
In the beginning, I thought I was

going somewhere. I thought we all

were. But falling in while trying to cross,

I finally understood, the journey is to follow

the river. All the rivers, especially the ones

no one can see. The soul is a fish whose

home is in those rivers. So I can take you

across, if you want. But the secret is to go

everywhere by going nowhere. And I will

be here when you fall in. Which is not

a failure but an awakening.



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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Care Unto Care

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In 1689 in Japan, a kind farmer gave the lost poet Basho a horse that knew the way. And in 1910 when Ted Shawn was paralyzed, before he knew he was a dancer, a dear friend left crutches just out of reach and breakfast on the table. And in 1938 in Paris, Django Reinhardt’s brother left a guitar at the foot of his hospital bed because he knew the badly burned genius would no longer be able to play the banjo. And when Claude Monet at 82 was suffering from double cataracts, he somehow knew to keep painting what he saw, which led him to retrieve his masterful “Waterlilies.” Even leafcutter ants in Costa Rica will carry another ant for miles.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: View at Seventy

nepo.5.26
I’m standing on a bridge

near the top of a mountain,

looking back at the winding

path that took years to climb.

And there, below, the chasm

I thought I’d never cross, so

much more beautiful on this

side of the rise. And in the

vastness that seemed like

heaven on the way up, all

those I’ve loved and lost.

And in that pocket of fog

that seemed like hell when

I was in it, the truth in all

things I sighted on the way

that kept me going. I could

lean on this bridge forever

but for the view the next

step will bring.

A Question to Walk With:  Describe a passage in your life and how it looked before you experienced it and how it looks to you now on the other side. 

This excerpt is from my book of poems, The Tone in the Center of the Bell.


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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Path of Lasting Friendship

lastingfriendships

The deep irony of my life as a teacher is that I travel all over to affirm that there’s nowhere to go but here. And I’m happy to do it. For every place we arrive at unravels to the same timeless moment in which we are each other. This is the path of lasting friendship: trying to go somewhere, only to land in each other’s arms. The harder we try to run from ourselves, the more certain it is that we will boomerang into the heart of our unanswered question. There, we will find each other.

If, upon such meeting, we accept the truth of our journey and the ways that we have run from life, then we will form an unbreakable bond. If we deny our attempts to escape what is ours to face, then we will push each other away.

I have done both, but I am here to affirm that there’s nowhere to go but here. There is only one, timeless place of truth under every there. The way the same nectar waits in the center of every flower, no matter how it opens. All the friends I’ve been blessed to have know the taste of this nectar. It’s how the spirit of friendship keeps us alive.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Foundational Moments

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When not doing well, when full of doubt or pain or worry, when unable to find your way, try, very slowly, to return to moments that feel foundational. By foundational, I mean moments that are solid, however briefly, in which you feel directly connected to life, in which you feel safe and thorough, in which you feel at peace, even if for a few seconds.

You don’t have to name these foundational moments, or explain them, or fit them into some theological box. You simply have to experience them and locate them, so you have a chance to return to them or to moments like them, when you need to.

In time, you will chart a constellation of foundational moments that can hold you up when you fall down. And mysteriously, when identified and honored, these moments of peace and clearness start to join each other. So, in time, our foundational field enlarges when we have the courage to find what will hold us up.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Your Hand

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I know you can only see red right now

through the cut in your trust. But most

cuts mend and then, the courage is in

finding an open boat so you can row

far enough out that you can drift.


And only when you have given up

going anywhere might you be drawn

to pick up the oars and start rowing

at the pace of clouds.


Then, as your hand is one with the oar

and the oar is one with the water, your

heart will be one with your life and

your life will be one with the ancient

drift that joins all things.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Drinking There

deepwell
No matter how many conversations I

start, they all end with me kneeling at

the same deep well. And drinking there,

I remember who I am. I rise from that

drinking able to see, again, that we are

at heart the same. And the secret wound

you show me there is my wound which I

have hidden for so long. And the secret

joy you bring into the open is my joy

which I thought I had lost. Experience

has us meet in the most unexpected ways.

Until we’re forced to show the soft center

that never dies. Until our soul appears in

the world like a pearl before it hardens.

Until the gift of life stirs in our hand

like a tuft of feathers that needs to

be loved into a wing.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: It Only Gets More Real

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In the way that erosion makes every face in nature more elemental, everything we go through only makes us more real. Once we give up our masks and excuses, we are humbled to accept the tenderness of having nothing between us and this thing we call life. It is this fragile, resilient state that lets us breathe more deeply, that lets us hear what love has to say, that lets us experience Oneness over the idea of Oneness. The more real we become, the more we experience love over the dream of love. Until Love and Oneness emanate in the coffee steaming as I wait for my wife to come out of the shower while our dog is belly up, her tail wagging at the supreme joy of absolutely nothing. It is then that I admit that I am hopelessly simple, gratefully simple, eager for the moment at hand to stay unadorned and free of veils. There is no five-year plan or bucket list or dream of living in another country. There is only breathing in the country of this moment where everything touches everything else. And though tomorrow, I will drift or fall away from this bareness of being, I remain devoted to all the things, pleasant and harsh, that help me return.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Inside the Pandemic

joshua-earl
Now that we can’t touch, I am awash

with all the ways that touch sustains us:

like an electricity from one heart to another

or the ancient rush of water down a falls into

the basin of a village. I’m thinking of how you

wiped my brow in the hospital and the time

you stroked a fallen bird, its beak aquiver,

and the time your mother held your face,

saying, “I saw how loving you are the day

you were born.” Or the moment I caught

a stranger in the parking lot as her groceries

splattered, her cart wobbling away. Earlier,

it was Grandma hoisting me to my feet in

her Brooklyn alley and the hands of my

father guiding mine as he taught me to

use a chisel. Now I’m seeing Whitman

as a medic in the Civil War wrapping a

bandage around a corporal’s chest. And

now I close my eyes to send my touch

like a Shaman across the dreamscape,

hoping it will reach you.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Dropping The Scale

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Like everyone, I was taught that justice is blind, then given a scale to weigh and measure everything. Then, I was told on the sly that everyone peeks and puts their finger on the scale. And years later, after tumbling through the labyrinth of almost dying and waking up, I chanced upon the words of a man who lived fifteen hundred years ago who said that the urge in us to save a child from falling in a well is what makes us human. This was the Chinese philosopher Mencius and he used this image to define the notion of Ren. It makes me think of my first dog, Saba, who as pup in the snow for the first time fell into an iced pond. My heart pounded and without any conscious choice, I was in that pond lifting her back into life as she was sinking. It makes me think of my oldest friend, Robert. When I came to after having a cancerous rib removed, he was over me with a washcloth on my head. It makes me think of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal where two hundred years ago a janitor was revealed as a healer. There is now a wall of crutches from all those he lifted back into life. It makes me think of the ancient shamans who somehow believed that to lay hands on the ill with an open heart would draw the toxins from their bodies and their minds. It makes me think of Jesus telling the wealthy merchant to drop his scale and enter Heaven now. The truth is that, like so many of us, I have been burdened by the hell of weighing, when Heaven waits in the things that matter that can’t be weighed. In truth, I owe everything to those who have saved my life and yours, dropping everything to pull us from the fire.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: In Those Moments

photo_by_donald-gianiatti
Sometimes, after she falls and before

she gets up, she takes a deep breath.

And in those moments, she stares

briefly into the Center of Things.

It calms her. For in those moments,

she drinks from something older than

her life. Other times, the same thing

happens when reading a passage from

a book that opens her heart. Or when

hearing that lift in a song that makes

her think of looking at the stars as

a little girl. She never knows how to

speak of these openings. It’s as if

the still point of her life rests on

the bottom of all trouble like a

weighted pearl. And an invisible

string ties it to her heart. And

every once in a while, the pearl

of life tugs at her heart, forcing

her to fall and remember that

there is nowhere to go.



A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe your own firsthand experience of how being stopped opened you to more than just your life.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Resilience

Photo-by-samuel-ferrara

Somehow, when I face what is mine to face and empty myself of all that is agitating me, I go clear like a lake after a storm. It is then that I can see through to the bottom of what is me, only to see that I share that bottom with all other beings. When I face my heartache and reach its bottom, there is the bottom of all heartache which is both comforting and renewing.

In this brave and tender way, resilience is accepting strength from everything that is not us. When being ourselves to the bottom of our personality, we trip into the well of all personality. When giving all our care to what is before us, we trip into the well of all love. When diving through the depth that some call soul, we swim in the depth of being. Once opened that deeply, summoning and marshalling what is dormant in us to face the situation at hand empowers our fortitude.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Blessing of the Ordinary

blessing

In a moment of exhaustion, my mind was too tired to keep weaving its web and my heart was too tired to keep the world at bay. In that sudden stillness, I realized that, as a patch of water when still will reveal the bottom of a lake, the blessing of the ordinary is that any moment met with stillness will reveal the whole of life that resides under everything. This is the power of presence. When fully present, we can see through all trouble and turbulence. Through meditation, we can breathe our way back into presence. Through love, we are softened back into presence.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Thinking She was Lost

meiying-ng-Mark-Nepo---March-8

She was standing in the aisle as the train bumped along the Hudson. She was looking in her bag, as if she’d lost something important. She just meant to check that it was still there, like when she reached for her wallet the other day, just to make sure she didn’t leave it on the counter in the drugstore. Or like reaching for that small photo of her son who was now gone. Is it there? How could she go on without it? The more she looked, the more desperate she became, as if she couldn’t find her heart. Where did she leave it? She began to search her mind for when she last took her heart out. Did she leave it on the table at the restaurant when the young couple reminded her of her first love? Or did she leave it at her son’s funereal? Did it fall into his grave at the cemetery? She had to find it or she couldn’t go on. I began to ache for her, saying to myself, “Keep looking. It has to be there. You can’t lose something like that.” But then, I slouched, remembering the times I’d lost my heart and how awful the weeks before I found it. She began to cry and pull at her bag, as if it had betrayed her. My heart began to pound. Things started to spill from her bag onto the floor. I moved closer, thinking, Now that I’m in this, I have enough heart for two. I touched her arm. And the extra heart she’d given me by being so real in her fear of loss in the middle of a train—I gave it back by holding up her bag which was falling. She gasped for air, as if waking from a dream of drowning, and put her hand to her chest. It had been there all along.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Fidelity to the Journey

michael-baccin

Confidence is not the swagger or certainty with which we convey what we know. It is the fidelity with which we listen to and relate to the irreducible foundation of all life. For there is a difference between how we carry what we know and how we know what we know.

Leon Felipe was a Spanish poet and friend of the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Pablo was outgoing and uninhibited, exuding his curiosity and care into everything. Leon was more introspective and hesitant around others. While the shy poet admired the soaring presence of his friend, he knew he could never approach life that way.

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