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's Weekly Reflection: The Mending Quality of Life

nepo-migration The Mending Quality of Life

The slightest nudge in the fabric of existence alters everything. The shift of an atom when no one is looking can turn a molecule into a disease that covers the Earth, as in the pandemic we are suffering. Similarly, one small act of care can birth a food source that can feed the world. As happened 10,000—14,000 years ago, when an anonymous Chinese farmer first domesticated seed from wild grass to cultivate the first known rice field near the middle stretch of the Yangtze River.

In just this way, the opening of a soul’s eye under all trouble can turn darkness into light. This, too, can cover the Earth. Still, life in its totality has always been overwhelming, though the world has always turned on the smallest gesture. To stay devoted to how life will always join other life while never knowing if your effort makes a difference is at the heart of an enduring, nameless faith. We can describe this nameless joining as the irrepressible life-force emanating through us to keep remaking the world, no matter how many times things fall apart.

As when the admission that we have failed but are still committed to each other is carried on the wind across state lines to lift a pained pilgrim’s eyes just in time to keep them from suicide. And, as a doe chewing leaves steps on branches that broken are picked up by bluebirds to build their nest, you find the breakage of my dream on the side of the road in time to build your nest. We are infinitely and endlessly connected. Faith, then, under all its names, is our inability to stay awake to this numinous latticework of being regardless of our doubt and fear.

This impulse in us to sense and follow our innate kinship, even when we lose sight of it, is a spiritual form of migration. Consider how migration in the animal world is a cyclical, recurring journey that animals undertake annually, seasonally, and sometimes daily, in order to inhabit the most life-giving conditions possible. Isn’t this the soul’s migration from birth to death? Isn’t this the heart’s migration in search of love? Isn’t this the mind’s migration through the sea of meaning for the next shore of peace?

Our migration—from darkness to light, from sleep to wakefulness, from isolation to community, from fragmentation to wholeness—is the seeker’s journey of transformation. No one can foresee it. No one can map it. No one can anticipate it. We can only give ourselves to its impulse as it rises in us, going where it leads. The way caribou, not knowing where they are going, migrate up to six hundred miles every year to the edge of the arctic circle. The way flamingos, with no sense of destination, migrate up to seven hundred miles a day from the mountainous salt lakes in Chile to the lower wetlands. In this way, we migrate between suffering and love, between trouble and peace, and between hurting each other and healing each other.

While the gravity of existence breaks things down in order to fertilize nature’s regeneration, the life that roams this Earth emerges and evolves because of an unstoppable force of life that heals by joining with other life. These two forces—nature’s regenerative breakdown and the inborn force of life rising to join with other life—balance and complete each other. It’s how the Universe keeps growing. While falling too hard will break my arm, the marrow of my bones will start reaching for each other across the break in an effort to mend, even as I writhe in pain. And while the trespass we visit on each other will break our hearts, the core nodes of love we each carry since birth will start reaching across the break in an effort to form a larger, gentler, stronger heart, even through our heartache.

Against all hesitation and resistance, something inborn in our being can’t help but reach out to join with other life. When we call our lonely friend to let them know that they are seen beyond their shell of fear, or leave an old coat for the homeless sage who rants near the train station, or when in a sudden burst of care we keep someone from being trampled, we are the marrow of humanity reaching for itself.

In order to resurrect itself, the wave must remember, while crashing, that it will form again and again. And for humanity to resurrect itself, we, as its intrinsic cells, must find a way to remember that, no matter how we are painfully broken and scattered, we will form and join, again and again.

So, accept the appearance of small graces, however they might come. Call them angels of coincidence or a mist of life-force, sudden as a gentle rain. Call these swells of life bringing us back together whatever you like, just let them open you where you have closed. This is perhaps the most penetrating migration of all: from closed to open, from surface to depth, and from death to life within this life.

A Question to Walk With: In your journal, reflect on your life and describe an inner path of migration that you have found yourself inhabiting. Describe further what it is you migrate to and from. How does this inner migration sustain you?

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

Join Mark for a 3-session webinar on Finding Inner Courage: Our Walk in the World, January 24, 31, and Feb 7, 2021. Register at

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