between peace and joy ~mark nepo

pathwriter’s note: Contrary to the evidence, it isn’t my intention to copy the entire text of The Book of Awakening into my blog. However, Nepo’s essays continue to go straight to my heart. The image in this essay is particularly lovely.


We could never have guessed
We were already blessed
where we are…
-James Taylor

This reminds me of a woman who found a folded sponge all dried and compressed, and tucked inside the hardened fold was a message she’d been seeking. She carried the hardened sponge to the sea and, up to her waist in the deep, she watched it unfold and come to life in the water. Magically, the secret of life became visible in the bubbles being released from the sponge, and to her amazement, a small fish, trapped in sleep in the hardened sponge, came alive and swam out to sea. From that day on, no matter where she went, she felt the little fish swimming in the deep, and this—the swimming of the little fish that had for so long been asleep—gave her a satisfaction that was somewhere between peace and joy.

Whatever our path, whatever the color or grain of our days, whatever riddles we must solve to stay alive, the secret of life somehow always has to do with the awakening and freeing of what has been asleep. Like that sponge, our very heart begs to unfold in the waters of our experience, and like that little fish, the soul is a tiny thing that brings us peace and joy when we let it swim.

But everything remains hard and compressed and illegible until, like this woman, waist deep in the ocean, we take our sleeping heart in our hands and plunge it tenderly into the life we are living.

  • With your eyes closed, meditate on the image of a hardened sponge unfolding like a flower underwater.
  • As you breathe, practice seeing your heart as such a sponge.
  • The next time you do the dishes, pause, hold the hardened sponge in the water, and feel your heart unfold.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


One thought on “between peace and joy ~mark nepo

  1. I love this book as well! One of my yoga instructors reads a passage from the book during Savasana and it is my favorite part of class! Nepo is a true inspiration. Thank you!

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