Author Archive for Mark Nepo

The Decision for Therapy

Sounds True recently published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

The Decision for Therapy

 

As we gamble on the future,

let’s stay clear: this moment

with all its presence is intact.

It is not up for grabs.

 

This moment for which I’ve

lived all others, for which

I’ve withstood the breakage

of all I know repeatedly,

this moment is germ-free

and not on trial.

 

You are welcome here

by permission only

and the alarm you cast

like a blind fisherman

will only snag my want

for tomorrow, only hook

what I do not have.

 

I know you mean to help

and I cannot deny

you are a bridge

I have to cross.

 

But where I live

cannot be staged

or stained or seen

as gross evidence.

 

Where I live

is impervious

to histology.

 

It is the one site

in the city that

will not burn.

 

And if you guide me

to tomorrow, I’ll

show you, as you

shake your head,

how I still glow

in this unbreachable

clearing I carry within

like a sun or rising star

protected by its rays.

 

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a moment of certainty you experienced in the middle of a difficult time.

Finding a Way Out

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Last month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

FINDING A WAY OUT

When a dolphin leaps, something
in me comes out in the open. When
the truth in you breaks surface, some-
thing in me looks for a way out. When
I glimpse the vastness from a height, I
want to return to all I was born with.
It’s true, breaking surface and glimps-
ing the vastness live in each of us. And
tripping through the days, we mirror
each other’s sleeping angel. So when
moved way inside, open your heart
the way you would a bag of fire.
The world is a spark between
birth and death.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe a time when the truth broke surface in you or around you.  What have you done with this truth?

Living with the Wound

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Last month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

LIVING WITH THE WOUND

There is a need to be specific
if we are to survive,
which requires being honest,
the way seeing requires
the eyes to stay open.

It means I can tell you
when you hurt me
and still count on your love.

It means being honest
with myself, knowing
the ugly things are not
always someone else’s.

I’ve been thinking how
practical people cut the cord
to those who’ve broken hope,
the way breeders shoot horses
with broken legs, as if
there’s nothing to be done.

Now I know they do this
for themselves, not wanting
to care for a horse that cannot run,
not wanting to sit with a friend
who can’t find tomorrow, not wanting
to be saddled with anything
that will slow them down.

I used to think it bad timing.
When I was up, you were down.
When you were ready,
I was scared. But since
we’ve never given up on each other,
it’s clear that drinking wonder
when we’re sad is how we shed
the things we love about pain.

I have a right to joy
even when lonely,
even when in pain,
and you never need
to cover your wounds
when entering my house.

If your voice breaks, I’ll be a cup.
If your heart sweats, I’ll be a pillow
on which you’ll chance to dream
that weeping is singing
through an instrument
that’s hard to reach,
though it lands us like lightning
in the grasp of each other
where giving is a mirror
of all we cannot teach.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a wound you’re living with and how that’s affecting your understanding of life.

Love Your Window

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Last month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

LOVE YOUR WINDOW

No matter how small or old. Keep it
clean so you can see what comes your way.
When the lost bird flies into it looking for
its mate, keep the feather stuck to the glass.
Take it with you and dream of finding what
completes you. At the edge of winter, open
the window of your heart and see your
breath, how what you bring up becomes
the air. When you’re ready or pushed,
close your eyes and the other window
will appear, the one that faces all of
time. What flies there never lands, but
hovers, dropping seeds of infinity in the
breaks we can’t heal. So open the window
of your pain, though the whisperers tell you
to nail it shut, and let in everything that’s
ever lived. What flies and never lands has
been waiting. Be brave. Don’t run. Let the
fire around your window burn until you
become the opening.

A Question to Walk With: Describe your favorite window and why it has meaning for you. Then describe your inner window and what it lets you see.

Setting Fires in the Rain

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Last month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

SETTING FIRES IN THE RAIN
You see. It was time. The tube had to come out. It had drained my lung of blood for days, through a slit in my side. The doctor was waiting and I looked to Paul at the foot of my bed. Without a word, he knew. All the talk of life was now in the steps between us. He made his way past the curtain. Our arms locked and he crossed over, no longer watching. He was part of the trauma and everything—the bedrail, the tube, my face, his face, the curve of blanket rubbing the tube, the doctor pulling the tube’s length as I held onto Paul—everything pulsed. And since, I’ve learned, if you want to create anything—peace of mind, a child, a painting of running water, a simple tier of lilies—you must crossover and hold. You must sweep past the curtain, no matter how clear. You must drop all reservations like magazines in waiting rooms. You must swallow your heart, leap across and join.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, tell the story of someone who bravely showed up for you and how that affected your relationship.

Another Chance

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

This month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

ANOTHER CHANCE

It’s harder to hold onto things.
I’ve broken several bowls while
drying them, including the one of
a kind Nick gave my wife Susan.
Another chance to practice frailty.
I need to take more care in how I
lift, to let things settle in my palm
where I can feel them more than
carry them. And lately when our
dog eats too fast, she gets sick. So
now we squat beside her and make
her wait. She stops and chews and
we look at each other. These tender
moments opened by limits make
me stop in the market, watching
everyone handle fruit. I aspire
to stay tender. The softness of
light is everywhere.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe a limitation you are experiencing. How are you making peace with this?

Post-Op

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

This month, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

POST-OP

I could see it in your eye
when you thought I was dozing.
You thought you might lose me
and you started to remove yourself
as we do when pets are about to die
or old friends have decided to move.

But we are living with this,
not dying from it, and I
am not going, not until
the red bird flies
into the sun.

And you must not
corrupt the time we have
by double-living
what we will not.

So come on back.
Tell me your pain.
Utter your fear.
I feel it anyway.

This I’ve learned, the pain
makes the secrets known.

And so I saw you
sinking at the foot of my bed
watching the tubes run in
and out, saw you start
to fix the scene in your
future as a sad memory
of when I went away.

Come back to me. Now.
There are many futures
and each depends on us
today.

This is not about dying.
I have agreed to suffer
and therefore will live
like a gypsy exhausted
from his dance.

And you have chosen to love me.
So you will play my tambourine.
You will coax me to try
and urge me to stop.

And you will not have me
cleanly: in your life or not.

No. You will suffer too,
as I flare and fade
a hundred times,
while you marvel
at the secrets
I cough up from
the other side.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, describe a time when you felt a friend or family member was giving up on you too soon.

Tu Fu’s Reappearance

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Yesterday, Sounds True published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

TU FU’S REAPPEARANCE

The great Chinese poet Tu Fu (712-770)
has appeared to me in dreams
as a guide.

Out of the yellow mist
he came again, his Asian beard
in tow. We were on a healthy shore
and he sat cross-legged in the sand,
scratching delicately with a branch,
his slender head down. I crouched
and put it to him, “How do I block
the fear?” He kept scratching the sand
as if he hadn’t heard. I grew angry,
“How do I block the fear?!” He lifted
his head and shrugged,
branch waving above him,
“How does a tree
block the wind?”
With that, he
disappeared.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a time when fear got the better of you.

In the Sky of Heart

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

Next week, Sounds True will publish a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

IN THE SKY OF HEART

It’s late in the afternoon and I’m
backed up in traffic, aching for my
father and our dog, both gone, when
the sun comes through, and there, above
us, a shelf of clouds shaped like an island
edged by a waterfall. So real, I can al-
most hear the rush of water falling
into eternity. This mythic island in
the sky stands by itself, beckoning.
And I understand why early people
overwhelmed with survival might
look up and believe that gods live
in the sky. I am no different, as I
outwait the clouds of our trouble.
Someone is honking. But something
stirs within and I want to put the car
in park and walk into the sky, to sit
by the waterfall of time falling into
everything. I think it’s where we all
go when the light turns green and
the tires turn to wings and the steer-
ing wheels open into flowers. I think
I hear my father throwing sticks to
our dog at the bottom of the water-
fall. Someone else is honking.
It’s hard to go anywhere.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe the impact and presence of someone you have lost.

Being Human

Read these weekly reflections on The Huffington Post and VividLife.

In November, Sounds True will publish a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published.

One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged.

The following piece is an excerpt from the book.

 

BEING HUMAN

We’re born with an aftertaste of Oneness
and a thirst for weeds and earth, as the angel
deep within us needs our hands, to make a
dance of all this hurt. It has us reach beyond
our limits, till we love like a planet though
we’re constantly confused. We carry lightning
in a thimble of skin and bones and dreams.
We carry everything that matters in a plan
that doesn’t last, while the stars pulse
to fill us, the way a candle fills a room.

 

A Question to Walk With: Describe a time when you experienced the light of a person filling an entire room.