Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Café Life

I have always loved the café life where I can sit by the endless river without leaving the river, where I can remove myself from the sweeping current but still drink from life. Known as “schools of wisdom,” the first cafés were opened in Damascus, Mecca, and Istanbul in the 15th century, places to stop before making the trek across the continent.

The English word coffee comes from the Italian word caffè, which in turn comes from the Arabic term qahwa, which originally referred to a type of wine. But after wine was banned by Islam in the seventh century, the name referred to coffee.

I wonder: Who was the first to brew and open his door? Who was the first to stop and share his story? And what was that story? Was it one of wonder or betrayal? In 1640, a coffeehouse opened in Venice. Twelve years later, Pasqua Rosee opened the first café In London in St. Michael’s Alley. By 1739, there were 551 coffeehouses in London. They were known as “penny universities.” Patrons told stories, played checkers, sketched portraits, and read poetry. Weary travelers listened and laughed before picking up their burdens.

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Dear Maria . . .

the friction
inside your mind
will keep overflowing
into your relationships
 
until you process
your emotional history
and understand how it shapes
your ego, perception, and reactions

—yung pueblo


I've Been Thinking...


I got a letter the other day, and I was so excited when I saw my name on the envelope. I knew right away that it was a handwritten note.

I love getting handwritten notes in the mail (and I must say, I don’t get many these days). They really stand out amongst the stack of bills, mailers, and other junk that we all get. You just know a handwritten envelope when you see it. You know that it's something personal, and that it's probably from someone you care about, or who cares about you.

At first, I thought the envelope was from one of my brothers or cousins, as they do still write handwritten notes. (My kids do too, but they don't mail them.) But then I opened it and realized it was a note from me to me! Can you believe that?! Allow me to explain how it happened. 

When I went on retreat this past August, I was encouraged by the retreat leaders to write a note reminding myself of how proud I was of the deep work I did at the inner bootcamp. My note said, "Maria, I’m so proud of you for all the hard work you've done. I hope you remember how you felt at this retreat, standing in your light and feeling strong, powerful, tender, and whole."

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Mark Nepo's Weekly reflection: For Keith Jarrett

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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Embrace Inspiration

Have you ever found yourself wanting to do something, but not knowing where to begin? Maybe you have the skills, the passion, the drive and the chops to write a book, but you have absolutely no idea what you want to write about. Or maybe your current job no longer suits your personality or needs, but you have no idea what else you would do instead.

Believe it or not, this is a good problem to have though many people get too caught up in the “not knowing” to embrace the massive opportunity. But before I get into the advantages of this situation, I first want to dissect the psychology behind it.

Back in 2004, psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book called The Paradox of Choice where he argues that the more choices one has, the more difficult it is for one to make a choice. Schwartz even goes so far as to say that current abundance of choice we as Americans are experiencing may be leading to depression.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Inside of Jade

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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Commitment to Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all”
—Emily Dickinson

A key component in any transformative life experience, personal or planetary, is hope. Not half-hearted or faint hope, but hope that is steadfast, sturdy, resilient, like that in Emily Dickinson’s poem. Hope within the human soul cannot be extinguished, no matter the hardship or loss. Despite the challenges of life, we humans endure because of that intangible something within us that holds us to life. Yet, there are times when hope seems shaky—as tenuous as a single candle flame wavering in a strong wind. Times such as now, when political discord, a deadly global pandemic, or personal crises erode our belief in a positive outcome. This is when hope is needed most.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: As He Lay There

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.



Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Spiritual Fluency

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

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

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

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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Sacred Warrior: LIFE’S ASSIGNMENT—HAPPINESS

French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin believed we are not human beings having a spiritual experience.


We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

I would like to add the more spiritual you become in your awareness, the more you are connected to your humanity. You embrace at a deep level the value of ‘all of you.’ The thoughts, the feelings, the joy, and the depth. You become totally comfortable with your-self. It is essential as a Difference Maker to be comfortable with yourself.

Life is an ongoing destination of learning, yet there is an arrival place — it’s called happiness. With happiness you draw from the core of your being, which is produced and renewed from ‘something’ much greater than who you are. Even though your life may take many twists and turns, the inner happiness you experience is always a non-negotiable.
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Under The Snow

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

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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37 Growth Mindset Quotes to Help You Persevere in Challenging Situations

After investing the last 45+ years in studying, applying and mentoring tens of thousands of others in transformational principles, a question I’ve often received from some of the people I work with is:

“Mary, I’m dealing with a challenge in my life right now, and I just can’t seem to break free and move forward! What should I do?”


Here’s what I tell them:

“Every challenging situation you or I may ever face has a silver lining attached to it, even if we can’t see it right away.”


The secret to seeing the benefit within every struggle is to shift our mindsets about the perceived challenge we’re facing.


When we feel stuck or challenged, it can be so easy to adopt a fixed mindset – one of fear, worry, doubt, anger or resignation.


This is perfectly natural, but in truth, moving away from a fixed mindset and towards a growth mindset is the key to getting unstuck, moving forward, and unlocking new and better opportunities for yourself and your life!

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7 Buddha Postures for the 7 Days of the Week

In 2018, I took a beautiful group of souls to Thailand for a trip of a lifetime. Twenty-seven of us spent two weeks in this amazing country – on the beach (Phuket), in the city (Bangkok), and in the mountains (Chang Mai). The trip truly was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ve heard from several of our group that it was theirs as well.

While there, we learned that depending on the day you were born, you had a particular buddha pose that was just for you. (Well, you and the millions born on that day ? My mom had told me that I was born on a Wednesday, but when I tuned into the Wednesday buddha, it didn’t feel right. Once I Googled it, I discovered I was born on a Tuesday. My buddha is the “Realizing Nirvana” – Pang Sai Yat – otherwise known as the lying buddha. We all had such a great time connecting with our buddhas that I thought I’d share with you the summary list below.

Which buddha is yours?

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: We Carry a Great Matter

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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Gaining a New Perspective

My transformational awareness journey began at age twenty when I broke my neck in gymnastics, was paralyzed and told I wasn’t going to recover. Completely recovering from my accident caused me to look at my life from a whole new perspective. Writing my book “Broken To Brilliant” allowed me to connect the dots (experiences) to develop a new perspective on why my life unfolded the way it did. More importantly, it exposed the truth of what really happened, versus the stories I told myself to make sense of my life. The things our minds make up to make us feel safe. All of our experiences and life stories have shaped us. How we interpret and give meaning to those stories forms the beliefs of who we think we are and what we’re capable of. Having an awareness of our stories is the first step in creating change in our lives.

Often, we believe that things in life, like this horrendous accident of mine, happen to us. I now believe life happens for us.

If you could gain a new awareness, a new perspective of your experiences and begin to uncover the potential gift in each one of them, how would your life be different? Having a new perspective could give you a whole new outlook on your life and a better understanding that ‘everything happens for a reason’.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: For Tu Fu

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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5 Unconventional Ways To Unleash Your Creative Potential

You may be born with creative skills, but everything boils down to discovering them during your lifetime. For many, it is easy to miss out on them just because the meaning of creativity differs for everyone. There is no magic pill that can help you unlock the power that lies within. You have to make an effort to discover your ability to create beautiful things and find imaginative solutions to the most challenging problems. Let us show you some unconventional ways to unleash your creative potential with a little effort.

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