Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Grounded but Not Buried


I take my time, looking for what [lasts]…

Tao Ch’ien

We are constantly challenged to marry what is with what can be. If we only bear witness to the trials of existence, we will be weighed down by the burdens of time. If we only pine after what is possible and ideal, we will become airy, romantic, and completely removed from the embodiment of life. So these questions of practice remain: What are the tools by which you stay grounded but not buried in the ground? And what are the tools by which you are lifted but not removed from all that is real? Staying grounded but not buried and lifted but not removed is how we repair, reimagine, and rebuild the world.

The translator David Ladinsky speaks about the enduring gift of poets in this regard when he says, “I believe the ultimate… success [of poems] is this: Does the text free the reader? Does it contribute to our physical and emotional health? Does it put ‘golden tools’ into our hands that can help excavate the Beloved whom we and society have buried so deep inside?”

These questions speak to the unending journey of all souls to stay grounded but not buried and lifted but not removed. And it is the enduring gift of poets and teachers to help us navigate life by entering these parallel questions: Does the experience and hard-earned wisdom at hand free the soul on its journey? Does the lesson at hand—of being, loving, knowing, giving—contribute to our health and resilience? And what tools are put in our hands that can help us restore our direct relationship to the Original Life-Force and Presence that informs and renews everything?

The poet-teacher that lives in each of us is the giving part of our soul that brings the water of life to our lips. A second unending challenge is to find that source of presence, to scoop its water, and then carry it to each other.

The word translate, which comes from Latin, means “to carry or bring across.” And the deeper vow of all poets and teachers is to bring their beloved others across the divides of ignorance and isolation, back into our kinship with all things.

A Question to Walk With: Describe your own struggle to stay grounded but not buried in the gravities of life.

This excerpt is from my book in progress, The Long Walk Through Time.


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