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: Everyday Life

It is the simplest of paradoxes:
You can’t see what you are in.

As soon as you try, you are no
longer in it. This is the trap
of self-consciousness.

You can’t see the ocean
when you are in the ocean.

You can’t see the bird flying,
if you are the bird flying.

You can’t see how the lungs
work when you are struggling
to breathe.

Nor the contours of the path
when you are breaking trail.

Only looking back can we
make sense of what has

Looking forward, we can
only open our heart like
a fire to the sky and live.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a trail you have taken or made in your life and what it looks like looking back. What do you see now that you didn’t see when you were in the middle of it?

This is from my book of poems in progress, The Fire Dialogues.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stacks of Wheat

So many thought Monet
was making it up,
imagining wildly
how things might be
if God held them closer.

But what he did
was much braver.
Like a human microscope
he kept looking and looking
as warmth left the trees
as waves remade the sea
as loss slowed into peace
undoing hard men.

He watched
strange flowers open
where only silence had been.

He focused so far in
that everything shimmered.
He proved by the strength
of his attention that
nothing can keep
light out.

It’s a small leap
to say that love
works this way—
a light that lives in the bones,
just waiting to be seen.

So why not
prop your heart
out in the open
like the easel that it is
and dab its blood
on everything.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Way

When a horse runs, it leaps
and touches down by turns.

In just this way, our life is always
moving between joy and sorrow.

Trying to avoid this is its own
sorrow, like a mad bird trying
to escape the sky.

Rather, our call is to help each
other rise and help each
other land.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, tell the story of how someone helped you rise and land.

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

This Uncertain Moment Is Your Gift

This Uncertain Moment Is Your Gift | Maria Delivers Commencement Address to University of Michigan

Good morning, Michigan! I’m really excited to be here today in the Big House to celebrate YOU, the class of 2022!

Now, let me be honest: I initially said no to the invitation to be your speaker. I said I had a scheduling conflict, and that I was already planning to be here next weekend for my son Christopher’s graduation. He was part of the class of 2020, the only class in Michigan history to not have a graduation ceremony. Thank you, Covid! But now, finally, his class will have their own moment to shine right here next Saturday!

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: At the Base of the Mountain

The Japanese monk, Ryokan,

returned to his hut in the moon-

light to find a frustrated thief. For

there was nothing to steal. So, Ryokan

offered him his clothes, saying, “You

have come such a long way to visit

me. Take these.”

The stunned thief scampered away

and Ryokan thought, Poor soul. I wish

I could give him this beautiful moon.

Nothing can be taken if it is given.

Nothing can be missing if left in

the open. Nothing is lacking if

we water what we chase, where

it lives, within us.


A Question to Walk With: Describe one thing you are holding onto tightly that would serve you better if you let go. How can you begin to let go?

This is from my book of poems in progress, The Fire Dialogues.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Speaking What We Know to be True

The story of Moses carries an archetype that we all must face and live with. Of all his brethren, Moses was closest to God. Indeed, he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments and heard God directly. But due to an accident as a child in which his tongue was burned by a hot coal, he stammered greatly. All his life, he suffered an inability to easily speak what he knew to be true. Though he listened to God directly, he couldn’t convey what he heard to others.

Inevitably, this is everyone’s fate when crossing from the inner world to the outer world. We all have trouble speaking what matters and yet we must try. Often, we are misled to think that falling short in how we convey the truth is a failure, when it is not trying at all that damages us. For even light through a crack is illuminating.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Cascade

As soon as we can walk, we are
taught to run. In time, we think
we have to catch something out
of reach, when, if we let go, time
carries us the way a river carries a
boat with no oars. If we find our
place on the bottom, the noise stops
and time holds us in its soft cascade.

So jump into the current of time.
Sure, we will get wet. But that’s the
point. Important papers will dry and
seem less important. And the secret
maps no longer secret will free us
from ourselves. I once saw an old
woman leave her belongings on
the shore and wade in naked. I
feared she might be taking her
life. But she was finally giving
herself over to joy.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a race you need to stop running. How can you begin to stop?

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

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My BEST Survive and Thrive Mantras

I spent the weekend with a tribe of 80+ like-minded, conscious souls that I hadn’t seen in two years.

Upon arrival we were all tested for Covid before receiving our color-coded name badges in an effort to keep all of us feeling safe.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Never Lost, Always Found

On the darkest night of the year,
Susan asks about Grandma Minnie
yet again. And again, I soften and speak
of being a child in your Brooklyn kitchen,
sitting next to your stove as you made
latkes, patting the excess oil and giving
them to me while they were warm.
And Susan jumps up, as she does every
year, as if for the first time, and starts
grating potatoes. I put on klezmer music
and we make latkes and eat standing
in the kitchen.
Our dog jumps to the music or to
the presence of something unseen.
I grab her paws and we dance briefly
to the music of the old world.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Anthem

Yes, you fell down.
I feel for you, for I have
fallen many times.
Now, you must get up.
I know it isn’t easy.
I know it will take time.
Remember, the seed
can’t imagine breaking
ground. And the fledgling
can’t imagine flying.
And so, your broken heart
can’t imagine finding its way.
But life is this repeating journey
from sleep to wakefulness,
from blindness to sight,
from fear to love.
No matter how many times
we fall, we are just beginning.

A Question to Walk With: Describe your latest journey from sleep to wakefulness or from blindness to sight, or from fear to love.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Traveling Again

After almost two years at home, I was overwhelmed just ordering the Uber to the airport. I needed to reclaim that in-between space while traveling as home. Once Christopher dropped me off, I was back in the stream. But as soon as I got to the counter, I was delayed and would miss my connection. My mind began to spin with logistics. Could I still get to Denver tonight? Would I have to go tomorrow? Should I just rebook now? The delay threw me off.

I was rebooked through Minneapolis. It all worked out, though I didn’t arrive in Denver till after midnight. In texting my wife, Susan, I almost wrote, “Something went wrong.” But I stopped myself, caught by an earlier flight deplaning. Dozens of passengers scurried out of the arrival gate, like bees scattering from a hive, buzzing about, intently focused on the countless choices suddenly before them.

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Painting For Peace

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he thought really captured peace, and so he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy, white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But, they were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But upon closer inspection, you could see behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. And nestled in the bush sat a mother bird on a nest. There, in the midst of a storm and the rush of angry water, a mother bird had built her nest and sat upon it.. in perfect peace.

This was the picture that won the prize because the King realized that . . .Peace is not the absence of conflict, not the absence of storms, not the absence of rough waters, but calm and serenity right in the midst of it.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: For Your Birthday

I wanted to reach for you, to say with urgency—
Don’t go. Don’t ever go. But it was only after
lunch, early on. So I watched you go. I’ve come
to understand that in that simple moment, I felt
the whole of our life together. On that corner,
it felt like a thumb pressing on the center of my
heart. It stopped my breathing for a second and
in that pause, I knew I had to see you again.

Through the years, I’ve felt my heart indent
that way a handful of times: carrying popcorn
into a theatre and hearing you laugh, seeing
you work wet clay in the yard as yellow leaves
fall, watching you watch the moon above the
winter trees, coming home to see you drip
water from your finger into the mouth a
broken bird. What kind of story is this?
I know you better than anyone and yet
something in you makes me want to
hold you and ask, who are you now?

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or trusted loved one, sit with them and ask them, “Who are you now?”

This is from my book of poems in progress, Elsewhere.

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under the Quest

Can you drink from the Lake of Being
you came from before you were named?

For peace lives there.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Staying Awake

I don’t support the notion that some people are awake and others are not. Everyone is capable of great love, kindness, and insight. Everyone has eyelids. Some of us open our eyes and some of us, for various reasons, live with our eyes shut. Likewise, some of us live with an open mind and an open heart and some of us, for various reasons, live with our mind and heart shut.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Resilience

Given that I almost died from cancer, I have had several attribute my survival to some deep wherewithal within me that crisis awakened. But humbly, I must clarify the resilience that helped save my life was not just some reservoir within me. It did not come from me alone. But through facing what was mine to face, I was given access to much more than me. I think this is the paradox about resilience.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Instrument that is You

We discover metaphors by surrendering our attention, by staying in honest conversation, and by listening to the quiet movements of life as they appear before us. Let me share a recent example.

I was visiting Pine Manor in Lake Elsinore, CA, where I teach every year. My good friend Gail Warner founded and directs Pine Manor. She is an old, wise soul. I like to come a day early so that Gail and I can re-enter our lifelong conversation about the mystery of being here.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Where to Now?

Now that I’ve come out of hiding,
my fears are forgetting to be afraid.

Now that I’ve dropped my opinions
in the rain, my story is too small
to cover my heart.

Now that I’ve put down what I thought
was important, I’m surprised by angels
lost along the way.

How we got here doesn’t matter
and where we’re going is just
something for the mind to chew.

I’ll meet you here, in the palace
that difficulty opens—the magical
doorway, the shape of who we are.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a door that difficulty has opened for you.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under the Temple

The temple hanging over the water is

anchored on pillars that nameless workers

placed in the mud long ago. So never forget

that the mud and the hands of those workers

are part of the temple, too. What frames the

sacred is just as sacred. The dirt that packs

the plant is the beginning of beauty. And

those who haul the piano on stage are the

beginning of music. And those who are

stuck, though they dream of soaring,

are the ancestors of our wings.

A Question to Walk With: Thank someone who struggles with what comes to you easily, for they have steadied the ground for you.

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

The Truth About Mother

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other:

“Do you believe in life after delivery?

”The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

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Weekday Personal Support

Join Panache Desai each weekday morning for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.

Designed To Move You From Survival and Fear to Safety and Peace. Available Monday - Friday. Meditation begins at 9 AM.  Access early to hear Panache's monologue -  around 8:30 AM. 

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