Mark Nepo says he’s always been a heart-centered person. He has written several bestsellers on many things, including awakening to having the courage to be aware and caring. He speaks all over the world and encourages others to be fully awake and alive with this one life we must live.
He shares more of his personal journey and mission with Lisa Barry from WEMU.
Listen to the full interview.
MARK NEPO: Two offers this summer
The ones who wake up are the students.
The ones who stay awake are the teachers.
How we take turns.
THE GIFT OF DEVELOPMENT AND CHARACTER IN ALL THINGS: A MASTER CLASS IN CONNECTION, WRITING AND EXPRESSION
On five consecutive days, in this 5-session online master class The Gift of Deepening and The Radiance in All Things, topics such as “The Underlying Reality”, “Bearing Witness”, “Not Great but True”, “Understanding Practice” will be examined ” , “Becoming One With”, “On the Abyss of Growth”, “The Obligations of Perception” and “The Magic of Freedom”.
Whether you consider yourself a writer or a seeker, this journey is designed to deepen your connection with your own voice, empower your resources, and reinvigorate your vibrant connection with life as a whole. August 28th – September 1st, 2021.
IN EVERYTHING: A FREE READ AND TALK WITH MARK NEPO
Things always come together and they keep falling apart. And every generation is faced with the task of making it whole again. Now it is our turn to re-establish the relationships that hold life together. When all else fails, we are called to turn to the eternal resources contained in everything. All traditions speak of this renewal in the face of suffering. How do we try, accept, and begin in ways that are more giving and loving? Poet, philosopher, and cancer survivor Mark Nepo will explore these topical issues in this free reading and conversation on September 11, 2021.
Register at live.marknepo.com
Lisa Barry: You’re listening to 89-1 WEMU, and that’s Art and Soul. This is Lisa Barry, and this week Art and Soul is about the art of wellbeing – being confident, living an emotionally balanced life of peace, love, and joy. And we feel very honored to be accompanied by a very special guest this week. He’s a poet, a bestselling author, a public speaker, a human inspiration, as I have called him. Mark Nepo, thank you for talking to us.
Mark Nepo: Oh, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for the invitation.
Lisa Barry: Of your many, many books, one of the bestsellers is called “The Book of Awakening”. And some people listening right now may not know exactly what you mean by that. So I thought this would be a great place to start with you describing what this is and why it matters.
Mark Nepo: You know, I think, in my experience, everyone, everyone living, is given the chance to be transported into the depths of life. And sometimes it’s because of something difficult, or a loss, or a life-threatening condition. But it can also happen through amazement, or surprise, or beauty, or be fully loved for the first time. But when that happens, as we need it with all our hearts and minds, and hold nothing back, it gives us the chance to be fully awake and fully live with the one life that has been given to us.
Lisa Barry: Do you find this message difficult to share or for people to hear?
Mark Nepo: As much as we want, I don’t think we can change anyone. We can be like greenhouses and give light and warmth, and then people grow at their own pace and all traditions speak of it. What enables us to grow, whether we like it or not, is great love or great suffering. You can tell me something and I’ll say, “Yes, yes, yes. Until I fall and get up and see things differently.”
Lisa Barry: I think there is a lesson in everything. I think that’s what I hear about you saying.
Mark Nepo: Definitely. In fact, I am a long-term cancer survivor and I learned years ago that there is a teacher in everything and I have become a student of all traditions. And in the Hindu tradition they actually have a term called “upa guru” which means the teacher who is next to you in that moment. And next to you is always a teacher. And you don’t have to worry if we miss this one, there will be another one right behind you.
Lisa Barry: Well, you write a lot about healing. And you just mentioned that you had a cancer journey yourself. How long ago was that?
Mark Nepo: Well, it happened thirty-four years ago now.
Lisa Barry: But that really wasn’t the beginning of your awakening, was it?
Mark Nepo: Well, I think before that I was always awake and a heart centered person, but to be honest, I was at the top of my head and almost died because, you know, I was turned upside down and tossed inside out. Everything fell into my heart. And since then my mind has served my heart and not the other way around.
Lisa Barry: One of the books you’ve written that speaks to me out loud is called Finding Inner Courage. Let’s talk a little bit about it – having the courage to be aware and caring. And what inspired you to write about courage?
Mark Nepo: I think most writers, when they admit it, write about what we need to learn, not what we know. And even though some people thought I was brave and had cancer, I just did whatever I had to do to come tomorrow. I didn’t find it brave, but I got to a point where I ran out of what I knew about bravery. So writing the book is like examining how you can be more courageous yourself. And what I learned, which got me into this book, was the original idea of the word courage to mean to stand by its core. That was so helpful to me because when we stand by our core, when we open our hearts, we are attuned to our own authority of being, which only gets its authority because it is lined with everything, like being a mountain, you see, a mountain from afar, and it’s great. And you rise there. It’s only great because it’s rooted in the earth and you can’t tell where the mountain ends and the earth begins. And when I can stand by my core, I am rooted in life itself, and it’s like the roots of a tree that make it strong. And then there are many ways and all traditions speak of them. How do we practice this? How do we find it when we lose it? How do we feel safe when we are afraid? How do we get up when we fall?
Lisa Barry: Mark Nepo is currently here at Eighty Nine One WEMU. And when you say you stand by your core, some people may not understand what you mean by that.
Mark Nepo: What do I mean by standing on solid ground so that when I’m scared at the moment, everything is around me. But there is something beneath my fear that is not afraid, like the way the wind blows across the surface of the earth. But if you penetrate the ground, it doesn’t matter. So all traditions speak of how we can regain our center in the midst of all the storms that life brings us. And the first why there are so many meditation practices is to slow down and be present, present enough that we feel our fear. But we also feel what lies beneath our fear by being present and not holding back anything. And everyone who listens, you know, we need to personalize these practices. We cannot say how, or here are A, B and C. We can say that it is what it is like to be alive, but we have to inhabit ourselves personally. And that means that we have to reach out to others because we often cannot do this on our own.
Lisa Barry: Right. And one of your books, “The Bridge of Wellbeing: Why We Need Each Other”.
Mark Nepo: Yes, I think life has just been made so difficult that we need each other to ensure the journey of love. You know, I don’t know, or if not my cancer journey, but I think what erosion is to nature is suffering to people. Nobody wants to suffer. But you know, everything in nature erodes to its inner beauty if we can withstand the elements. And so that we don’t have to look for things with ourselves, but are simply alive, we are eroded to our inner beauty. But we have to help each other withstand this. And actually the word suffering means to feel keenly. Well, one also has to feel keen to know joy. And often we are warned about wrong or strange things, so that suddenly in life we can no longer feel anything between us. And then we are really awake. And that’s where love shows itself. And that’s where my gifts show when I drop everything and help whoever is right next to me
Lisa Barry: We could talk about so much, but unfortunately we don’t have time anymore. And you have several online events. You come back public and you will be there, let’s start with Ann Arbor. But that’s only next February, right around our birthdays. Our birthdays are two days apart, Mark.
Mark Nepo: Oh yes. Yes wonderful. I’m going. I’m excited. I will be attending a one-day workshop at the First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor on February 19-20. And then I’ll be the guest speaker at the service that Sunday.
Lisa Barry: And you have a couple of online events coming up soon.
Mark Nepo: Yes, I have a master class that is five days in a row to explore the gift of absorption and charisma in all things and to explore very deeply some of the things that we have touched. Then, on September 11th, which is no coincidence that this date is, I am offering – this would be the second year – a free online reading and conversation.
Lisa Barry: And we will link all of that on our website, WEMU dot org, as well as in this interview, and look forward to seeing you come to Ann Arbor. Mark Nepo, thank you very much for speaking to us here at 89-1 WEMU.
Mark Nepo: Oh, please. Thank you for having me.
** Special thanks to Paul Keller for providing the Art & Soul theme music. **
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– Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org