Nepo Quantam Miracles gift

Thank you for joining me for The Quantum Miracles Mastery program, created by Melissa Binkley.

Miracles are not just extraordinary events. Miracle reveals the shimmer of the ordinary when we can be present enough to see how everything is sacred. My cancer journey in my mid-thirties stripped me of the search for things that are special because the miracle of still being here let me accept that everything is special. And I would not be here, if not for a series of miracles. In truth, miracle is a process and not an event. Every day I awoke to death and life perched over my shoulder. When I stirred out of bed, I was simply glad to be alive. I explore the journey of miracle in my book, Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness.

In my new book, The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, there are many instances of miracle. For my offering to those who have joined us on this journey, I’m sharing a chapter, “Being Wholehearted,” which I hope inspires you to share your truest self with your family, friends and community.

Thank you so much for participating in The Quantum Miracles Mastery online event!

Many blessings,
Mark Nepo

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Why not call the moment of certainty, the fleeting moment when everything that ever lived is right behind my pounding heart, why not call that moment: Beat-of-the-thousand-wings-of-God-inside-my-chest…

Just as a bird can’t glide on the wind unless its wings are spread, being wholehearted is the only way to be lifted by the mystical web of life. This ever-present sweep of life-force is an endless resource that requires all of who we are to access. We don’t have to explore this very far to realize that being wholehearted or half-hearted affects both the individual soul and the life of our community. And so the work of being human is to be all-embracing, to bring our entire self to whatever we’re given.

The more we withhold, the more random life appears. This is not a matter of reward or punishment, but cause and effect, as when a bird tucks its wings and starts to fall from the sky. Likewise, we need to keep looking until the water goes still, or the lake will not reflect the sky above our head. And pulling back from life too soon will have us wake in what appears to be a disconnected world.

The work of remaining wholehearted depends on the honest acceptance of all our gifts and failings. Difficult as this may be, we can only access our compassion by being whole, which means not denying the difficult or stubborn parts of who we are. When spacious enough to be a home for our full humanity, two treasures open up. First, we’re allowed to experience the full miracle of life, and secondly, we’re allowed to experience the full miracle of love.

This commitment to Wholeness works on the societal level as well. A wholehearted community is one that doesn’t deny its flaws or shortcomings but works toward an honest acceptance of both its strengths and failed attempts in living up to its values. When a community is spacious enough to be a home for all its citizens, the frail and stubborn alike, a healthy society emerges.

We can’t go very far here without acknowledging Carl Jung. It was Jung who pioneered our current understanding of how we avoid and deny aspects of ourselves. He spoke of our unwanted psychic material as our shadow. Our shadow is not necessarily good or bad. It simply mirrors and exaggerates the refused dimensions of our personality. Jung emphasized the importance of incorporating our shadow into our conscious awareness. Otherwise we project these exaggerated attributes onto others.

Jung discovered that the more we deny any one aspect of who we are, the more powerful and distorted its place in our life. For example, the more we deny our need to take genuine risks, the more we might develop an addiction to gambling. In general, the more we deny our humanity, the less aware we are of the abundance of life and the generosity of others.

The projection of unwanted psychic material plagues most communities as well. In modern America, we push away what we most fear in ourselves. For instance, in the last fifteen years, many of the members of Congress who were most vocal against gay rights were exposed as being secretly gay. Consider as well the way we make pariahs out of the homeless and the sick, because of our fear of being homeless and sick. And how our fear of emotion and intimacy escalates a sub-culture of pornography and affairs.

The extreme violence that permeates our culture rises, in great degree, from our insistence as a society on repressing our life of feeling. Since the need to open and feel is innate and can’t be denied, it shows up sideways in movies of people being literally blown open. The more we push these vulnerable and unwanted aspects of ourselves away, the stronger their distorted appearance becomes.

A wholehearted person tries to honor and join the seemingly separate parts that live within them. A wholehearted society tries to honor and join the seemingly separate citizens that live within it. Wholehearted integrity is inclusive, a matter of welcome and congruence. This is not an abstract issue. Being wholehearted or halfhearted has real consequences. In Trosly-Breuil, France, L’Arche is a lay community where people with developmental disabilities and those who care for them live together. Jean Vanier, the celebrated founder of L’Arche, spoke to what he learned about true relationship from living there:

As long as we refuse to accept that we are a mixture of light and darkness, of positive qualities and failings, of love and hate, of altruism and egocentricity, of maturity and immaturity, and that we are all children of the same Father [I would say Unity of Life —MN], we will continue to divide the world into enemies (the “baddies”) and friends (the “goodies”). We will go on throwing up barriers around ourselves and our communities, spreading prejudice.

As long as we separate ourselves into “baddies” and “goodies,” we avoid the terrible and inevitable fact that we are capable of all we encounter. Creating “baddies” is a form of cultural shadow by which we banish those who remind us of aspects we don’t want to look at in ourselves. The venerable Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh held up the truth of this in his poem “Please Call Me by My True Names.” This poem was provoked when one of the Vietnamese boat people, a twelve-year-old girl, drowned herself in the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. Here is an excerpt:

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

We must not confuse what is being said here. Understanding the worst in each other—and how that capacity lives in us as well—does not dissipate the need for justice. It opens us to the wisdom waiting in justice. In facing that we are each capable of great tenderness and great brutality, we open the door of our compassion and so deepen our capacity for justice. Perhaps the most enduring retribution for any of us is to mend the very thing we have brutalized. Perhaps the greatest justice is for the inhuman in us to become human again, until we can see what we have done with the softer eyes we were born with.

I think this is the unmapped ground of social healing that South Africa has awakened the world to with its brave work of truth and reconciliation. Longfellow said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” I wonder what he faced in himself that allowed him the grace of this perception. For we can only see as far into the world as we can see into ourselves. It stirs me to look into my own life, so I might polish my heart into a clear window through which to truly behold others.

This is all hard, crucial, and ancient work. In the Hindu myth, The Churning of the Ocean, the gods decide that they need the help of all the demons in order to churn and stir the “Ocean of Being” in order to bring forth the treasures of kindness and consciousness. It’s instructive here that when forces and beings turn self-destructive and demonic, the gods do not slay them or imprison or exile them. They enlist them in a communal effort to stir the Ocean of Being until what surfaces is a shared, wholehearted consciousness. Together, the gods and demons become one restorative force known as Shakti or Durga.

As individuals and in community, this is the goal of wholeheartedness: to admit our failings, limitations, and darker impulses and to enfold them into a complete effort to restore kindness and Unity. This is a timeless task about which we have much to learn. But we can begin by accepting that we can’t ignore, censure, or exile parts of our humanity or our community without suffering for pushing parts of ourselves into the darkness. We can begin by accepting our full humanity, while holding each other accountable for what we do, and helping each other repair the torn seams of the world.

We can only see as far into the world as we can see into ourselves

Questions to Walk With

• In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe someone you push away and explore why. Try to be honest about what unwanted part of yourself this person mirrors.

i. “Why not call the moment of certainty…” From “Utterance-That-Rises-Briefly-From-The-Source,” in my book of poems, The Way Under the Way. Sounds True Publishing, 2016, p. 94.
ii. “our shadow…” Entering the work of Carl Jung is like entering an entire universe. To introduce yourself, please see Modern Man in Search of a Soul; The Undiscovered Self; Memories, Dreams, Reflections (his autobiography); or The Portable Jung, edited by Joseph Campbell. For contemporary work on the shadow, please see Robert A. Johnson’s Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche.
iii. “As long as we refuse…” See such Vanier classics as Community and Growth, Becoming Human, and The Heart of L’Arche: A Spirituality for Every Day.
iv. “I am… the door of compassion.” Thich Nhat Hanh, from “Please Call Me by My True Names” in Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1999, p. 72.

“Being Wholehearted” is excerpted from The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters (St. Martin’s Essentials, May 2020)

Mark Nepo is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Book of Awakening. Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark’s recent work includes The Book of Soul, Drinking from the River of Light: The Life of Expression, More Together Than Alone: Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World, Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living; and a book of poetry, The Way Under the Way: The Place of True. A two-time cancer survivor, Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. For more information, please visit: or

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Mark Nepo has long been one of my favorite spiritual writers, and The Book of Soul is further proof why. It’s filled with breathtaking lines you’ll want to linger over, commit to memory, and carry with you.
—Melinda Gates, New York Times bestselling author of The Moment of Lift

It’s easy in these times to allow ourselves to slip into resignation, isolation, or despair. The Book of Soul is an antidote, a path that leads us back to our own wisdom and intuition and to the authentic truth of our souls.
—Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global and Founder, Huffington Post