Since then, I’ve paid it forward by giving the book to loved ones on the harrowing journey of their own awakening. My husband Mike was one recipient. I didn’t know how he’d take it, because if it’s found in the “self-help” section of the bookstore, my ‘lit snob’ hubby gives it the side eye and keeps right on walking.
But over time, I started noticing that his copy was peppered with those colorful tiny post-it notes. For a guy who regularly lectures our kids on the mortal sin of dog-earing books, this was highly unusual.
The power and brilliance of Mark Nepo’s writing is that he never writes at you. His books feel like they are in conversation with you. I’ve found they evoke a response from the deepest places inside me.
So, like any self-respecting wife, I began to nosily read the marked-up sections to get a better handle on my husband’s struggles. Mark’s essays, once again, offered me a way into conversation. This time, though, it was with my spouse, at a time when we desperately needed it.
Mark Nepo’s newest book, THE ONE LIFE WE’RE GIVEN is an affirmation of how precious this one life is.
By fully living our life, we learn when to try and when to let go.
This, Mark writes, is our initiation into grace.
THE ONE LIFE WE’RE GIVEN was nominated as a finalist for the 2017 Books For A Better Life award, and brought Mark to New York City for the ceremony. That was where I got to watch my unflappable husband meet Mark. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how much Mark’s writing meant to him. Mark embodies an otherworldly tenderness that unlocks in men the ability to touch their own core.
I’m not sure how this is seared in my memory, because I averted my eyes due to the intimacy and power of this moment: Mike and Mark locking eyes, hands resting on arms. Mike sharing how much Mark’s work meant to him. And Mark receiving it with a quiet, humble grace. In that moment, Mark’s writing about intuitive, heart-centered knowing came to life. You could feel the creation of sacred space—that recognition that something essential shifts when men express themselves so vulnerably to each other.
Here, my conversation with Mark picks up in his childhood where he describes the imprint of his earliest understanding of world through metaphor. Mark gives language to the hunches, urges and sensations I feel, but struggle to name. Even today, as the author of 18 books, hundreds of interviews, dozens of awards, and tours with Oprah, he’s still got a boyish wonder and innocence as he lands on a good metaphor. Watching him is pure delight.
Mark goes on to describe the journey from his head to his heart that his cancer experience taught him. In his 30s he gave talks about living a heart-centered life, he says during our conversation, but he still lived up in his head. Now at 66, he’s way down in his heart, and exudes a pure, distilled kind of integrity that comes from years of aligning his values to his life.
“Patience,” as Mark says here, “is a stubborn and wise teacher.”
Waving a lantern in front of us to light the way, Mark Nepo’s THE ONE LIFE WE’RE GIVEN gently guides us back home.
And maybe this is the way it was always supposed to go down. It takes none other than Mark Nepo himself to open Mike to the wisdom and beauty of this genre, and more importantly, this life.
Mark Nepo has become our family’s poet laurate. Because, as Mike says, Mark is a poet not only of language, but of the heart. And that, at least to us, is the very best kind.
Read Mark Nepo and follow his speaking schedule at http://www.marknepo.com/
Mark Nepo reads poems that celebrate our interconnection & the complexity of our wounds
Few things dazzle me more than poetry; what a gift to be able to use the fewest words possible asraw material to spin art. And the second I try to squeeze them, they dissolve. Like a painting that loses its essence the closer you step to look at it, poetry must wash over you.
Poems thrive on the intuitive side of the brain, and wilt instantly under the glare of the analytical mind. I struggle with living so much up in my head, and poetry is a practice that brings me back into my body. But it’s hard—like a tough workout—to stay so present and loose. To let the words dance in the gauzy veil they demand, and give myself permission to be overtaken.
I find myself this time of year—particularly this winter holiday that feels like it’s out of regular time—working hard to not work so hard.
Maybe you too? In that spirit, this week’s offering are two poems. Simultaneously humble and glorious. Written and read by Mark Nepo from his latest collection, THINGS THAT JOIN THE SEA AND THE SKY.
In this clip, he agrees to read one of my favorite lines in the book, “I touched the grass this morning, and the dew on my palm affirmed that life under all its harness remains soft.” It’s from “Love is a Guess,” a poem that holds the tension, the beauty and struggle, of our interconnection. “Etched,” the second poem, celebrates our scars and the complexity of our wounds.
In time, we’ll share more from this conversation with Mark. I cherish this one especially, because Mike and I lay before Mark our raw questions that have conflicted us for years. The essence of 3-Minute Storyteller is asking such questions to inspiring teachers. But this conversation taught me something new. And I can’t wait to finally share the full conversation with you. We’ll have that opportunity in 2018 (super excited to release the whole conversation with Mark on a new 3MS platform really soon!)
Like most everyone who spends time with Mark, Mike and I feel a deep kinship, a warm, trusting friendship with him. It is born out of the integrity he brings to our every encounter.
But it’s not time for that conversation just yet. For now, join me, if you will, in the magic in-between time of rest and opening. Pause. I hope Mark’s poetry washes over and restores you as it did me. And if you are hungry for rest, I hope that you find it this week.