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Art & Soul: The Art Of Well Being - Author & Speaker Mark Nepo Talks About Being Fully Awake & Alive

Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo says he's always been a heart-centered person. He has written several best-selling books about many things, including having an awakening to having the courage to be conscious and caring. He speaks around the world, encouraging others to be fully awake and fully alive with this one life we have to live.

He shares more of his personal journey and mission with WEMU's Lisa Barry.

MARK NEPO: Two Offerings this Summer


Those who wake are the students.
Those who stay awake are the teachers.
How we take turns.


Credit Mark Nepo / marknepo.com


For five consecutive days, this 5-session online master class, The Gift of Deepening and The Radiance in All Things, will explore such themes as “The Underlying Reality,” “Bearing Witness,” “Not Great But True,” “Understanding Practice,” “Becoming One With,” “On the Precipice of Growth,” “The Commitments of Perception,” and “The Magic of Liberty.”

Whether you consider yourself a writer or a seeker, this journey is designed to deepen your connection to your own voice, to strengthen your resources, and to enliven your living kinship with the whole of life.  August 28 - September 1, 2021.



Credit Mark Nepo / marknepo.com



Things always come together and they always fall apart. And every generation is faced with making it whole again. Now, it is our turn to re-knit the kinships that hold life together. When all else fails, we are called to turn to the eternal resources that are inside everything. All the traditions speak of this renewal in the face of suffering. How do we try, accept, and begin again in a way that is more giving and more loving? Poet, philosopher, and cancer survivor, Mark Nepo, will explore these timely themes in this free reading and conversation on Sept 11, 2021.  

Register at live.marknepo.com


Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU, and this is Art and Soul. This is Lisa Barry, and this week, Art and Soul is about the art of well-being--being self aware, living an emotionally balanced life with peace and love and joy. And we're so honored to be joined this week by a very special guest. He's a poet, a best-selling author, a speaker, a human inspiration, as I've dubbed him. Mark Nepo, thanks so much for talking to us.

Credit Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo: Oh, it's great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

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 have a good grasp on what you mean by that. So I thought that would be a great place to start with you describing what that is and why it's important.

Mark Nepo: You know, I think that in my experience that everyone, everyone alive, will be given the chance to be dropped into the depths of life. And, sometimes, it's by something difficult or a loss or a life-threatening condition. But it can also be through wonder or surprise or beauty or being loved completely for the first time. But when that happens, how we need that with our whole heart and meaning in and holding nothing back gives us the chance to be fully awake and be fully alive with the one life we're given.

Lisa Barry: Do you find that's a difficult message to share or for people to hear?

Mark Nepo: As much as we want to, I don't think we can change anyone. We can be like greenhouses and provide light and warmth, and then people will grow at their own rate and throughout all the traditions speak of this. What enables us to grow, like it or not, is great love or great suffering. You can tell me something and I'll go, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Until I fall down and get up and see things differently."

Lisa Barry: I think there is a lesson in everything. So I think that's what I'm hearing you say.

Mark Nepo: Absolutely. In fact, I'm a long-term cancer survivor, and I learned years ago that there is a teacher in everything, and I've become a student of all traditions. And, in the Hindu tradition, they actually have a term called "upa guru," which means the teacher that is next to you at this moment. And there's always a teacher next to you. And you don't have to worry if we miss this one, there'll be another one right behind you.

Lisa Barry: Well, you do write a lot about healing. And you just mentioned you had a cancer journey yourself. How long ago was that?

Mark Nepo: Well, it's going on thirty-four years ago now.

Lisa Barry: That really wasn't where your awakening began, though, was it?

Mark Nepo: Well, I think that, you know, before that, I think I was always awake and a heart-centered person, but I was, honestly, I was way up in my head and almost dying, being, you know, thrown upside down and inside out. Everything dropped into my heart. And ever since then, my mind has served my heart and not the other way around.

Lisa Barry: One of the books that you have written that speaks loudly to me is called "Finding Inner Courage." Let's talk about that a little bit,--the courage to be conscious and caring. And what inspired you to write about courage?

Mark Nepo: I think most authors, if they admit it, we write about what we need to learn, not what we know. And even though some people thought I was courageous and going through cancer, I was just doing whatever I had to do to get to tomorrow. I didn't think of it as courageous, but I reached a point where I ran out of what I knew about courage. And so, you know, writing the book is like an inquiry into learning how to be more courageous myself. And what I learned, which was it gave me a way into that book, was the original notion of the word courage means to stand by one's core. That was so helpful to me, because standing by our core, when we open our heart, we are tuned into our with our own authority of being, which only gets its authority because it's lined up with all being the way a mountain, you see, a mountain from the distance, and it's magnificent. And you get up there. It's only magnificent because it's rooted in the earth, and you can't tell where the mountain stops 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 lots of ways and all the traditions speak of it. How do we practice that? How do we find it when we lose it? How do we feel safe when we're afraid? How do we get up when we fall down?

Lisa Barry: Mark Nepo is our guest right now here on Eighty Nine One WEMU. And when you say standing by your core, some people may not understand what you mean by that,

Mark Nepo: What I mean by standing on solid ground, so that when I'm afraid in the moment, that's all around me. But there is something underneath my fear that's not afraid, just like the wind might be blowing on the surface of the earth. But if you get down into the ground, that's not disturbing anything. So, all the traditions speak about how do we regain our center in the midst of all the storms that life brings us. And the first thing this is why there are so many meditation practices is to slow down and be present, to be present enough that we feel our fear. But we also feel what's below our fear by being present, holding nothing back. And then anyone who's listening, you know, we have to personalize these practices. We can't say how to, or here is A, B and C. We can say this is kind of what it's like to be alive, but we have to inhabit personally ourselves. And that means we have to reach out to others because we often can't do this alone.

Lisa Barry: Right. And one of your books, "The Bridge of Well-Being: Why We Need Each Other."

Mark Nepo: Yeah, I think that life has been made just difficult enough that we need each other to ensure the journey of love. You know, I wouldn't know this or if not for my cancer journey, but I think what erosion is to nature, suffering is for human beings. Nobody wants to suffer. But, you know, in nature, everything is eroded to its inner beauty if we can withstand the elements. And so to with us, we don't have to look for things, but just being alive, we are eroded to our inner beauty. But we have to help each other stand up to that. And, actually, the word suffering means to feel keenly. Well, you also have to feel keenly to know joy. And often, we're warned of what's false or extraneous, so that we can, all of a sudden, feel nothing between us in life. And then we're really awake. And that's where the love shows up. And that's where my gifts show up when I drop everything and help who is right next to me

Lisa Barry: So much we could be talking about, but we are sadly out of time. And you've got several online events. You're coming back out into the public, and you'll be in, let's start with, Ann Arbor. But that's not till next February, right around our birthdays. Our birthdays are two days apart, Mark.

Mark Nepo: Oh, yeah. Yeah, wonderfully. I'm going to. I'm excited. I'll be joining the First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor next February 19th and 20th for a day-long workshop. And then I'll be a guest speaker at the service on that Sunday.

Lisa Barry: And you've got a couple of online events coming up soon.

Mark Nepo: Yes, I have a master class, which is five days in a row of exploring the gift of deepening and the radiance in all things, exploring very deeply some of the things we've touched on. Then, September 11th, which is not by accident of choosing that date, I offer--this would be the second year--a free online reading and conversation.

Lisa Barry: And we will put links to all of that on our website, WEMU dot org, as well as this interview, and look forward to you coming to Ann Arbor. Mark Nepo, thank you so much for talking to us here in 89-1 WEMU.

Mark Nepo: Oh, you're welcome. Thanks so much 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 email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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