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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: For Keith Jarrett

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Keith Jarrett is a legendary pianist and composer who is part of the pantheon who have led us into new realms of music. His legendary ability to improvise is astonishing as are his renditions of classical music including Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Like so many, I have been both softened and strengthened by his company my entire life.



On January 24, 1975, you arrived from a long wet drive from Zurich. You had not slept well due to back pain. You kept shifting the brace in the car, only to find they had the wrong piano. You were going to cancel when the young promoter pleaded in the rain. So, at 11:30 p.m. you walked on stage at the Koln Opera House to a sold-out crowd of 1400 who each paid $1.72 to get in. For the next hour and three minutes you were a nameless spirit rippling in a musical wind, your hands fluttering up and down the keyboard in a more than human way.

I discovered the recording a few years later and your devotion to playing only what you hear helped me be the poet I was born to be. I have played the Koln Concert everywhere: jogging, swimming, walking in the woods, and on airplanes peering through the clouds. Then, in 1985, you released “Hourglass,” a waterfall on piano that you plucked from the gods. Like so many, I have let it unravel my soul countless times, including while huddled in the nook of a boulder on the edge of the Continental Divide. The mountain jays were swooping to the rhythm of your hands. Your disciplined abandon has taught me much about immersion.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Inside of Jade

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As ancient Buddhists drank tea
to prevent drowsiness during epic
mediations, we drink of each other’s
pain and joy to prevent our souls
from going back to sleep.

In the second chapter of Lu Yu’s
Cha Ching, the holy scripture of tea,
he remarks that the most potent leaves
have creases that have held the sun
which when softened release
an aroma from the Beginning.

This is what a life ushered into
acceptance looks like: crease,
soften, and in time we unfold
with an ease beyond our making.

The tea hut by design is too
small to enter standing, and too
narrow to bring anything with you.

Like the threshold to wisdom
after a lifetime of trouble.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: As He Lay There

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When my father was close
to death, we were stripped
of our history. I sat by his bed,
holding the ancient, twig-like
hand of a ninety-three-year-old
who, though absent for years,
was mythic to me.

As he lay there, under the weight
of a stroke, life undressed the myth
I put on him and he was just a frail
old man who had introduced me
to the sea, who had loved wood
into marvelous shapes, who sur-
rounded himself with books
though he was a slow reader.

After a lifetime of holding back,
he wanted to speak, though he
couldn’t. And I understood
him completely.


A Question to Walk With: Describe someone important in your life and how your sense of them has shifted over the years.

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: Spiritual Fluency

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Our utter devotion to whatever is before us reveals the nearest detail as a doorway to the Infinite Latticework that holds the Universe together. This moment of spiritual fluency makes us a conduit of life-force. Such moments recharge the heart the way plugging in a lantern revitalizes the reach and intensity of its beam. Through each instance of inner thoroughness, the heart educates us further in what it means to be alive.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: As a Tuning Fork

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Early on, I realized that being a poet was mostly about being an awake human being, which in turn was mostly about living each day as a tuning fork in the midst of life’s currents. As a young poet, I would stumble into a vision, or trip into a metaphor, or glimpse a truth, or be stopped by a deep question. Then, I’d reach for expression after expression in an effort to capture each of them. Of course, I’d inevitably miss because the only things worth saying are unsayable.

So I’d try again and miss again. I would get frustrated and press myself, trying to capture the original vision five, six, seven times. Why couldn’t I express what I was seeing and feeling? Why was I always missing? These things were so clear to me and yet I couldn’t render them accurately. What was I doing wrong?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Garden in Our Heart

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I believe there is a garden in our heart where some part of everyone we’ve ever loved takes root. And no matter what happens in the world of circumstance, we continue to love them in that interior garden. We may lose someone to death, betrayal, mistrust, or cowardice. We may find that we fail each other, or discover that, love each other as we might, being together is toxic. Or we may be torn apart by world events—wars, injustice, or natural disasters. Yet we never stop loving them, not a one. And so, they live in the garden in our heart, waiting for us to visit them in our dreams and to summon their better angels in the still moments that we earn.

Recognizing this inner garden has changed how I react to the pangs of loss. When I miss someone who has turned hurtful or cruel, it doesn’t mean I need to resurrect the relationship. That I still love them doesn’t mean I have to undo my resolve and find a way to see them. More deeply, feeling my love for those who are absent means I need to go inward and spend time harvesting the lessons of how we came to love each other and how we came to hurt each other. Feeling their presence doesn’t mean I need to go back, but rather that I need to go forward, allowing the love I feel to evolve beyond the trials of our actual relationship.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: At the Fair

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Hundreds of artists sharing what

they’ve been driven to create. No one

knows why, but here it is: in pots that

spiral to their spout, in jewelry to wear

over the heart, in a photograph of a still

spot in Maine, and in wood from the

forest carved into a chair. Above us all,

the summer breeze twisting through

trees that watch us come and go.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under The Snow

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Across the years, my drift into

understanding has been like a

hawk descending in glide, one

spiral after another, until I have

landed where flight is no longer

necessary.


And my breakdown into peace

has been like a cliff standing up

to the sea, until after all my suffer-

ings, I only long to join, until with

each crumble, I utter, “Take me.”


Now, my ability to give is ever

increased by my acceptance of

surrender, like a dandelion

finally giving way to the

slightest gust of wind.
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The Tone in the Center of the Bell

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No matter where you look—

near, far, up, down, out or in—

there is a bareness of being that

lives in the center of every ounce

of life, the way air waits inside

every bubble as it rises from

the deep. The way a small

pocket of worth waits inside

every attempt to love. The way

wonder waits in the center

of our heart for something to

wake it. The tone keeps ringing

in the center of the bell, long after

our ears stop hearing it. Whether

we know this or not, this is how

life moves through the living,

how light makes a branch grow

toward it. How a stream draws

a horse to drink from it.

How you draw me to ask

what it is to be you.



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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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