52 Paths to Living What Matters
by Mark Nepo
BOOKWORMS: Just like those sticky musical “ear worms” that keep playing in your head, my Bookworms are the standout, thought-provoking, belief-busting, awareness-shifting reads that stick with me the most. When it comes to shining new light on the way we view life, the world, and ourselves, these are the ones I recommend first.
About The Book
I MADE A BIG MISTAKE WHEN I FIRST READ
MARK NEPO’S THE BOOK OF SOUL.
If I hadn’t been reading it to prepare for an interview with Mark Nepo, I might never have read it at all. Which would have been a huge shame, given the effect it had — and is still having — on me.
The good THING about hosting a talk radio show is that I have to read a lot of books that I might not otherwise have time to read. The not-so-good part is that I don’t really get to choose when I read most of those books. Given that it’s a weekly show, I can’t read the book I’ll be discussing too early as I need it to be fresh in my mind. So, I didn’t pick this book up until seven days before our scheduled interview. And that’s when I realized — duh! — that I should have paid more attention to the “52 Paths” mentioned in the sub-title.
In writing this powerful guide to inhabiting an authentic and wholehearted life, Mark Nepo had cleverly designed this journey as a weekly reader, to be entered a chapter each week over the course of a year, so readers can weave their inner reflection into their days, letting one inform the other.
At the end of each chapter, Nepo included a small section titled “QUESTIONS TO WALK WITH,” which presents a couple of important suggestions designed to elicit deep contemplation and discussion. Here’s an example from Chapter 2: The Speed of Our Age, in which he shares stories and insights about judgment.
• In your journal, describe the most judgmental person you know and how this creates a wall around them. Then describe one way you are judgmental and how it keeps you from experiencing life.
• In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe one way the speed of our age affects you, and one step you can take to be more in your own life.
I love trying ideas on for size, looking at them from different angles, considering someone else’s point of view, and seeing how it fits in with, expands, or leads me to a different conclusion. I’m thrilled when I can do this with a like-minded friend. Walking while we’re talking, processing my thoughts aloud allows me to “look at” them and see aspects that aren’t as clear when I’m just mulling them around in my head.
The problem with leaving it so late before reading Nepo’s book is that every one of those 52 chapters offered enough fascinating topics to reflect on, and I only had 7 days in which to digest all this rich, fertile material. My mind was crammed with so many thoughts and questions, I needed every one of those 52 walking and talking sessions, and I desperately wanted to have them all with Mark Nepo.
I’m still thinking about this book. And I suspect I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.
If you want to push the boundaries of your awareness, stretch your mind, re-evaluate your beliefs, and “embark on a quest to know who we are in relation to everything around us,” as Nepo invites us to, this is the book for you.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO “THE BOOK OF SOUL”
Though no one can endure, discover, open, or stay awake for us, we are inextricably knit together. While you’re discovering, I may be enduring. While I’m awake, you may be struggling to open. But your discovery helps me endure, as my wakefulness helps you open. We’re linked in our humanity the way the earth holds a tree, so that tree can hold a nest, so that nest can hold a bird, so that bird can drop a seed that will in time give birth to the next tree. All our attempts seed each other.
To learn from life and its web of relationship, we are constantly challenged to stay in conversation with the moments of our lives. And so, I invite you to listen and reflect your way through this book, one chapter per week, and to write your way through the topics and stories by way of a journal. To help with this process, I offer “Questions to Walk With” at the end of each chapter. The doorway of questions here refers to a field of inquiry that includes but goes beyond literal questions. These sections include prompts to self-reflect in your journal as well as entry points to dialogue with a trusted friend or loved one.
It seems the purpose of suffering is to exhaust us of our differences, and the purpose of love is to awaken us to how we’re at heart the same. Then we discover that the temple is the world. Still, every life, every generation, every age takes its turn at pushing each other away, only to be loved and worn back to the one tribe we belong to. This seems even more relevant in our tense, modern world. For there is no “they.” We are they.
We are each other. And there’s a deep Unity that always waits below our righteous insistence that we know the way. So, yes, we can talk, but ultimately we make no ground until we listen—to each other and to the current of humanity from which we rise and return. We only have one turn at being here together before we pass what we’ve done or not done to the next generation. I pray we can listen to what love and suffering open us to, so we can drink from that well and build a better world.
FREE FOR YOU: Download your free excerpt from THE BOOK OF SOUL BELOW.
About The author
MARK NEPO has moved and inspired readers and seekers all over the world with his #1 New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening. Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His books have sold over a million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages.
In 2015, he was given a Life-Achievement Award by AgeNation.In 2016, he was named by Watkins: Mind Body Spirit as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People, and was also chosen as one of OWN’s SuperSoul 100, a group of inspired leaders using their gifts and voices to elevate humanity. And In 2017, Mark became a regular columnist for Spirituality & Health Magazine.
His most recent work includes The Book of Soul; Drinking from the River of Light; and More Together Than Alone, cited by Spirituality & Practice as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2018.
Mark was part of Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Tour in 2014 and has appeared several times with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV. He has also been interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. He continues to offer readings, lectures, and retreats.
You can read Mark Nepo’s 10 Best Spiritual Books HERE
You can view a variety of Mark Nepo’s videos on his YouTube channel HERE.
And you can sign up for his Weekly Reflections newsletter HERE.
FINDING OUR INNER COURAGE
Our Walk in the World
A 3-SESSION WEBINAR GUIDED BY MARK NEPO
JAN 24, 27 & FEB 7, 2021
1-2:30 pm EST | 10-11.30 am PST
About The Journey
Courage is the heart’s blossom.
It is the song from within
that keeps the pain of living
from snuffing our lives.
The original notion of the word courage means to stand by one’s core. In this webinar, we will explore how to find our way to our core, to stand by our core, and to then sustain the practice of living from our core—to live out of our courage. To encourage means to impart strength and confidence, to inspire and hearten. So, the question unfolds: How do we encourage ourselves, each other, and the world? And just what does it mean to live a life of encouragement? This is an education we seldom receive in school, but which life keeps shouting at us all. This is an education of what matters.
For the courage we all admire—where ordinary people summon unexpected strength to run into burning buildings or to stand up to tyrants, whether an abusive father or an abusive leader, this inspiring and mysterious impulse to rise and meet a dangerous situation, which Hemingway referred to as grace under pressure—grows from another kind of courage: inner courage. By inner courage, I mean the ground of quiet braveries from which the more visible braveries sprout. These are the ways of living and being that make bravery possible in the first place; not just as an event, but as an approach to life, as a way of life.
Thinking about courage in this way opens us to an array of small and constant efforts that no one ever sees, but which have changed the world: the courage to feel, to see, to accept, to heal, to be. Efforts of this nature often go unnoticed and unrecognized. Like the courage to break life-draining patterns and let the story of our lives unfold. Like the courage to persevere through the doorway of nothing into the realm of everything. Like the courage to choose aliveness over woundedness, to remember what matters when we forget, and to build on the past instead of hiding in it. Like the courage to choose compassion over judgment and love over fear, to withstand the tension of opposites, and to give up what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred. These subtle yet essential states, and more, make up the elements of living, and so, it serves us well to explore how they grow singly and together.
This time together is an invitation to be in relationship with deep and life-giving material. Using ancient and contemporary stories, poetry, and metaphor, we will delve into the courage to listen to your own life, the gift of vulnerability, the willingness to experiment and explore your own voice, and the abiding commitment to respect your own journey and the journey of others. No experience is required, just a Beginner’s Mind and Heart. And a willingness to enter. — Mark Nepo
REGISTER at live.marknepo.com
Enjoy Mark Nepo’s recent free class on Growing in Place: Strengthening Our Roots
Watch Mark’s interview in which he shares the stories behind his 10 Best Spiritual Books with Sandie Sedgbeer.