excerpt du jour – the mystery of the moment – mark nepo

The mystery of the moment is that it opens all moments. I know this in a felt way because of the brief and total feelings of Oneness I have fallen into during my life. This can be affirmed but never verified. It is something to be experienced, not proved. Life presents itself constantly through the miracle of the smallest part containing the whole while the Infinite Whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. It is we who fall in and out of our awareness and experience of Oneness. In the same way the eye dilates and constricts, our sense of being opens and closes. It is the way the soul breathes on Earth. These openings and closings are not to be judged or censured, any more than we would censure exhaling over inhaling. We need both to live.

Most of the practices extolled by the spiritual traditions are aimed at restoring our openness of being, so we might fall into the mystery of the moment. Repeatedly, we chance to experience the eternal perspective animated by entering any moment completely enough that it reveals the vibrant pulse of all life. Even when blessed to experience this, we often don’t know what to do with this blessing. Do we quit our job? Sometimes. Do we stop denying the love we feel? Hopefully. Do we deny the undeniable fragility of life that is never far from us? Often. Mostly thought we are simply asked to be awake, to stay awake, to live more compassionately, to be more aware. Continue reading

quote du jour ~nepo – kindness itself…

Kindness itself is a way of life. There will always be those who wait for others to lift the heavy load, those who count on you or me to make the extra effort. Do not begrudge them. For though they suffer, they have not suffered enough. They cause themselves more harm than they know. When you lend a hand, you open a way for your heart to touch the heart of everything. This is a wealth that only grows. While those we help may leave or die or simply grow into their own beauty and be loved by others, the closeness uncovered by kindness turns to light in the body, until the closeness generated by kindness makes a lamp of the heart.

~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred

pathwriter’s note: I highly recommend this (or any other) book by Mark Nepo. He has been a constant spiritual companion/teacher for me for the past four or five years.

quote du jour ~mark nepo

…when things fall apart, they make a lot of noise. When things come together, they do so quietly and slowly. And so, we often miss them. Our culture is obsessed with how things fall apart. The news reports only the noise of things breaking down. The weather is even called Storm Watch. Yet things are constantly coming together, though we have forgotten how to hear them.

~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

be the lake…

It was on another shore, later in life, that I sat on a worn cliff… I spent that afternoon in silence, just watching the vast ocean spray the stone and re-form itself, coating every surface, as if to soothe the stone’s hardness. I came away convinced that the sea is a great teacher of receiving. Always rising and falling like the clear blood of the earth, the formless water receives every thing that enters it. It rejects nothing. Always transparent, the open water gently covers everything; softening whatever it touches, giving itself completely without losing any of itself. The more I watched, the more I realized that the sea is both strong and gentle, sensitive and unwavering, it only takes the shape of what holds it or enters it. Whatever breaks its surface ripples through its entire being. So much like the heart of God. So much like the heart of experience, God’s smaller face in the world. I came away with spray on my face wanting to be like the sea, to love like the sea: to receive and give myself to everything I meet, softening its way while making it glisten.

~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

I’ve searched in recent years for an image that could be a touchstone for me when life’s storms blow up, when I’m faced with difficult people or situations, when I encounter pain and heartache both in myself and in others. I’m one of those people who, for better or worse, is like a tuning fork for other people’s feelings and moods—what they’re feeling resonates in me, and I often have to distance myself to regain my balance. Continue reading

excerpt du jour ~nepo – how do we respond…

How do we respond to the tide of experience that sweeps into our ordinary lives? Do we respond to the unknown by being absent or being present? Do we hoard or give? Do we circumvent the truth or move through the truth? Do we withdraw and hide or stand in the open and seek connection? Do we view difficulty and suffering as isolating obstacles that exploit our weakness and stall our progress in life? Or do we view these incidents as transforming waves of experience that are part of an ongoing emergence of who we are? Do we believe that life is a pulling-apart we must survive or a constant rearrangement and putting together that we must surrender to? Do we run toward or from the bareness of being?

~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred

excerpt du jour ~nepo

. . . Can we hear the sound of light being folded in a river passing under a bridge? . . . Can we listen for truth like music to come out of silence and return to silence? . . . Can we listen in the way a cloud receives light and lets it through? . . .

~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

each is a living flute ~mark nepo

Suffering makes an instrument of each of us,
so that standing naked, holes and all,
the unseen vitalities can be heard
through our simplified lives.

Sometimes we can’t get what we want. While this can be disappointing and painful, it is only devastating if we stop there. The world thrives on endless possibilities. It is what makes nature a reservoir of health. Yet if the heart is cramped or the mind locks on to its pain, we can narrow wonder to a thread. In contradiction to the endless number of eggs that spawn a fish and the endless number of cells that blossom to heal a wound, we can hold out the one thing we want as the only food. From here, crisis and desperation are a short step.

It becomes a sorry occupation, beating oneself up for the one seed that didn’t take. It is an insidious way: the more we refuse mystery, the more we feel responsible for all that befalls us. Indeed, the more we distract ourselves with analyzing strategies that failed, the more we avoid the true feelings of loss that no one can escape en route to a full and vital life.

Even if we can accept this, none of us is exempt from the turmoil and pain that arises when what we want is love. Continue reading

being easily pleased ~mark nepo

So many of us have been trained to think that being particular about what we want is indicative of good taste, and that not being satisfied unless our preferences are met is a sign of worldliness and sophistication. I remember being at a party where a woman wouldn’t accept her drink unless it was made with a certain brand of vermouth. She was, in fact, indignant about it. Or going to dinner with a colleague who had to have his steak prepared in a complex and special way, as if this particular need to be different was his special public signature. Or watching very intelligent men and women inscribe their circle of loneliness with criteria for companionship that no one could meet. I used to maintain such a standard of excellence around the sort of art I found acceptable.

Often, this kind of discernment is seen as having high standards, when in actuality it is only a means of isolating ourselves from being touched by life, while rationalizing that we are more special than those who can’t meet our very demanding standards.

The devastating truth is that excellence can’t hold you in the night, and, Continue reading

the truth about morning ~mark nepo

There is a vastness that quiets the soul. But sometimes we are so squarely
in the midst of life’s forces that we can’t see what we’re a part of.

The truth about morning is that it is the small light of the beginning breaking through, again and again. It is a wisdom so large and clear, one which carries us through our lives so quietly and completely that we seldom see it.

Day after day, we are covered with the dust and grit of what we go through. It tends to weigh us down, and then we think and scheme and problem solve. Then we worry if it will all really work, and if it is the right thing to do. It all makes us dark and cluttered.

But despite our stubbornness of concern, we tire and must turn what has happened over to the hammock of night. This is a good thing. For no matter how unfinished we seem, the letting go into sleep is nothing short of a quiet miracle.

This letting go into sleep is an innate, reflexive form of meditation, no different than a fly rubbing its face or a doe licking its fawn. Sooner or later, without discipline or devotion, despite our resolutions and mistakes, we each must sleep. We must surrender to the quieting of all intent and regret, so that the small light of the beginning can rise in us, again and again.

There is no escaping this profound simplicity: what happens covers us like dirt. It covers our hearts and minds, till, at the shore we call exhaustion, we slip into the waters of sleep in a daily sort of baptism, so we can begin again.

So whenever you feel urgent or overwhelmed, whenever you feel pressed to figure things out or to rethink the unthinkable…rest…so that the endless beginning—which some call the voice of God—might break through what has happened. And you will wake feeling like dawn.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

bird-rock ~mark nepo

Maybe that’s why I want to touch people
so often—it’s only another way of talking.
~Georgia O’Keefe

I was aching and vulnerable, feeling far from home, when, through the harsh shore wind, I saw a large rock surrounded by the rough churned-up sea. The rock was covered with all kinds of animals: willet, gull, cormorant, sea lion, seal, pelican, otter. All had found refuge from the hammering of the sea; climbing, winging, hauling themselves on the rock; living together, laying on each other; finding this rock-oasis of wind and sun; too tired once on the rock to fight, each having been wrung out by the pounding of the wet, wet hours.

I realized this is how the wounded find their way, how we have found each other, even in this book. Every survivor, regardless of what they survive, knows the hammering of the sea, and the rock we find refuge on is an exposed place where we finally accept each other—too tired from swimming to think any longer about territories, too tired to talk except through simple touch.

The wellness group I attended was such a rock. The meeting rooms of recovery are such a rock. The thousand quiet rooms of therapy are such a rock. For those who have suffered, tolerance is not a political position or even a principle. For those of us who have suffered, who have hauled ourselves into the sun, anything exhausted beside us is family.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening