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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: 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

Nepo-May-3
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

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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

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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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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Swayed in All Directions

Image: Ben Turnbull

I doze in the hammock, and this book of voices from long ago falls from my lap into the grass. And these ancient voices say to me in my sleep, While you are not suffering, give to those who are. When I wake, the page where Li Po spoke of dead soldiers’ horses wailing to the sky is stained by the grass. The wind lifts my face to the east where we are at war in our own time. How do I hold the suffering of others in the middle of such a calm and beautiful day? We each can do the breaking. We each can be broken. We each can hold. We each can be held. I feel powerless in the presence of such suffering, and yet it’s the strength of our attention that makes a difference. The breath of this day keeps lifting my head. Is it enough to be kind where we are?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Kinship

Malith-Karunarathne

If you don’t know,

then ask the moon in the sky.

Yuanwu



Trying to prove that all things

are connected is like piling up

snow in a silver bowl.

As soon as you bring it inside,

what you’ve gathered will vanish.

For truth like the ocean is hard

to see once in it.

I can only say that the things that

matter are always there like stars

in the daytime.

Kindness sleeps in our heart

the way flowers are compressed

in their seed.

Everything is waiting for the right

moment to break ground.

I am always here for you.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Two Forms of Compassion

ocean

What is compassion but drifting in the immensity of life with an open heart? We bump into and pass by so many torn and budding lives along the way. Some are like us, many are not—on the surface, but under it all, we remain the same ounce of spirit carried in skin and bone. One of our jobs, then, is to learn how to relate to the cascade of others that rise and fall around us. The practice of compassion is how we learn that we are each other. And the practice of expression is how the heart knows itself.

Early on in life, there is an initiation into the practice of compassion through the commonality of our experience with others. If I have suffered and healed from a broken heart, then when I witness your heart breaking, I can easily identify with what you’re going through. If you’ve lost your job and come into my life when I’m laid off, we can easily meet in our common struggle through adversity. If I’ve felt betrayed by a friend or loved one and I’m with you when you are betrayed, we can quickly form a bond that will help each other through. This sort of compassion, based on our common experience, is an ongoing apprenticeship that never ends.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Small Lift

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Our job while here is threefold. First, like a mountain that is steadfast in meeting the elements, we are called to face the wear of time, so we can reflect and endure the truth revealed. Some say this is doing nothing. If so, it is a noble nothing that in time reveals everything.

Second, like a river that is relentless in how it carves its path to the sea, we are called to bring what is true into the world. Some say this is our vigilance for justice. If so, this is a noble doing that in time honors everything.

And third, like a tireless seeker who finds God in the smallest pebble, we are called to care for everything in our way. Some say this is impossible. If so, this is the noblest errand of all—to go nowhere like a mountain and everywhere like a river until we turn nothing into everything with the small lift that some call love.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Unseen Force of Spirit

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As the unseen wind moves from the azalea to the young willow, the unseen force of Spirit moves from you to me and on to those yet born. Still, the azalea doesn’t become the willow, even though they root in the same soil. In just this way, you stay you and I stay me, though we are informed by each other, just by virtue of how Spirit moves through all things. Under the circus of appearance, all forms are knit into a barely perceptible weave of being that spans from the stars to the endless drip in the darkest caves. And though the star never touches the cave, the light and dark inform each other. We carry their essence. As I carry you, though we have never met. I carry the dream you are about to wake in. And you feel my sadness as a sudden cloud blocking the light. We arc in a dynamic elegance that no one orchestrates, though no one can come alive without feeling its pull.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a time when you felt the wind of life move through someone you care for. What did this look like? And how did this affect the person you care for?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: After the War

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How can I be a bridge
to help you cross what
you need to cross?

This is finally all I aspire to.
To reach across the divide
because I have been so divided.

To pick up what is broken
because I have done the breaking.

To ask for guidance because I
too have been so stubborn.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Wherever We Go

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We live between the edge we look out from
and the edge beyond which we can’t see.

 
What we see as real may expand when
we relax or are illumined and shrink when
we are tense or in pain. But always, an edge
to what we know: out there, in here.

 
So the real art is: how to listen where we
are blind, how to sense and relate to all
that lives beyond our awareness.

 
Like a cell in the heart that doesn’t know
it is carried by a body, we float, work hard,
and drift in a sea of life on which we depend.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Allegro 28

anewyear
I happened into the cathedral downtown
and heard serious, ancient song in Latin
or Greek. Wonderfully, the words had no
meaning but the weight the voices carried,
the search their eyes revealed.

I was happy to receive no message
so beautifully.

It made me want to whittle new myths
for our children’s children
to lose their way by.

Finding is never as urgent
as needing to look.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Finding It

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How will you ever find peace

unless you yield to love?

Rabia


If you put down what you carry

in case of emergency, you will make

space for what can really help. For

clutching onto failure or success

will only make you sink.

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