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Lessons from Mark Nepo on Falling, Rising and Blooming

Guest Interview

Hello beautiful souls! Mark Nepo joins us on the podcast today as we explore the profound insights and lessons from his latest book, Falling Down and Getting Up. Mark delves into the philosophy behind his book as we also discuss purpose and the soul’s calling as well as the resilience needed to overcome obstacles. Mark unveils the beauty of embracing life’s depths and shares rituals that cultivate intention and connection. He also leaves us with challenges to recognize when we should open our hearts even more.

To learn more about Mark Nepo and his work:
Mark’s book Falling Down and Getting Up is available at all major book retailers


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Julie Jancius (01:38): Hello, beautiful souls. Welcome back to the Angels and Awakening podcast. I’m your host and author, Julie Jancius. And friends, we have a special treat for you here today. We have Mark Nepo. And I just have to tell this story real quick. I was at a woman’s house, spiritual leader in my town. And every Christmas does this thing where for the holidays she has, uh, everybody who’s coming to her house for this holiday party bring something that has just really touched and transformed their lives. So we get into a big circle and we sit down with the thing that’s touched and transformed our lives. And we’re going to kind of white elephant, right? Like trade things around. And it keeps going, keeps going, keeps going until you end up with the thing that you wanted. And Mark, your book was in well, one of your books, the one with the white lotus flower on the front.

Mark Nepo: The Book of Awakening.

Julie Jancius: Yes. So everybody wanted this book. And there were probably like 20 people in the circle. And everybody kept going after Mark’s book. And, uh, I was like, I’m just going to sit in oneness. And if it’s meant for me, it’ll come to me. But it did. I ended up with the book that night. And that was kind of my intro to your beautiful, beautiful poetic and writing within spirituality.

Mark Nepo: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Julie Jancius: Mark has written a new book, Falling Down and Getting Up. And I think that this book, it couldn’t be more needed than right here, right now. What gave you the idea for this book?

Mark Nepo (03:20): Well, actually, this book, um, I was kind of invited into it by my publisher and editor, Joel Fotonus, at, uh, St. Martin’s Essentials. He was just always wonderfully interested in my teaching and asking about my teaching, because I teach a lot, and I hold circles with workshops and retreats. And he kept wondering, he said, well, if someone couldn’t be in one of your circles, what book would come closest to that experience? Well, what an invitation. And so that started me, um, to look across all of my years of teaching and kind of say, what were the themes and what were the sessions that were so touching, and see how they would all go together.

Julie Jancius (04:07): Yeah. And when you start off the book, you start off with talking about how the Buddhist monks say that we have to fall down and get back up. And you’re like, how many times do we have to do this? Uh, one more than your fall.

Mark Nepo (04:23): Right. And there’s a wonderful and as I started to look into this, other cultures speak about it as well. And there’s a Japanese expression, uh, fall down seven, get up eight. And it really when I was going– I’m in my 70s, but in my 30s I had a rare form of lymphoma and almost died. And I remember waking up after one surgery. I had a rib removed from my back. And this nurse who was very gentle but kind of gruff, I barely woke up. And she said, okay, get up, we’re going to walk. And I said, we’re going to walk. Are you kidding me? And she said, two steps forward, one step back. And I think that is a rhythm. Then I’ve since discovered in the Hindu tradition, in the Upanishads, which are the anonymous, holy, sacred texts, in the Hindu tradition, there’s an image where it is said that spiritual growth, we move like a caterpillar. And the way a caterpillar moves, it stretches out. But then in order to move forward, it bunches up and comes back a little and then goes forward. And that’s how it keeps moving.

(05:45) So all of these things, this rhythm. Of falling down and getting up, uh. No one likes to fall down, but it’s actually a dance of life, how. Uh, we live in the world, how we move inwardly, how we grow, we fall down, we get up often. We need each other to help us do this.

Julie Jancius (06:01): Yeah. Now, do you come from the philosophy of thought that we’re all given a purpose before we come here to Earth school or to Earth to live in these bodies and have this lifetime? Or is it more so that our soul is wanting to know itself, express itself, experience itself, and that our purpose is more so to do this dance of communication and falling down and getting back up in order to know ourselves at the deepest level?

Mark Nepo (06:41): Well, I think it’s a little of both how I see it. So I kind of hold it this way that I think that the call of our soul, really, the heart and the soul just wants to be alive. As alive as possible. And the same way that you would feed wood to keep a fire going, the soul just needs us to feed care, to keep it bright. It doesn’t really matter what we care about, just as long as we keep feeding it care. And so, uh, I think the call of our soul is like the capacities we’re born with. And then we do have to live this journey, this incarnation on Earth to discover who we are. And, um, then as we discover our gifts, the soul’s calling is, where do we use those capacities? So, for instance, I might have this gift to help things grow. Well, as I learn about that, as I come alive, where will I apply that gift in the world? And that’s where our purpose comes into being. Will I be a teacher and help young people grow? Will I be a gardener and help things in the Earth grow? So that’s where our soul’s calling leads to our purpose in another way. An image, uh, metaphor, that I would offer that helps with this is we All know, like a wooden match. And you take that and we know In the phosphorus tip, the flame is waiting there to come alive. When you strike the match against a surface. Well, our gifts are like that match. They stay dormant until we strike our gifts against the needs of the world. And then our light and our warmth. And our love come alive.

Julie Jancius (08:34): I mean, you can just feel that so deeply within every cell of your being. That’s so beautiful. So there are so many people who get started on that journey, right, of, uh, applying their gifts to the needs of the world and taking action. And sometimes things don’t go our way. They’re not always going to go our way. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to fall down, we’re going to get pulled back in some way, just like that inching worm. Some people kind of mistake these as signs. Well, if I’m not perfect at this from the beginning, then this must not be my path. And then they kind of stop and they start something else. But after a while, what you find is that you have to fall down and learn how to get back up. And it’s one of the biggest, I would say, lessons of our lifetime. Right?

Mark Nepo (09:33): Absolutely. And I think in nature, everything in nature takes so many times to come alive and grow. Actually, astonishing as it is, it takes a, um, million grains, pollen grains to seed one peony.

Julie Jancius: Wow.

Mark Nepo: So we’re the only ones that say Oh, I tried this once. I guess it’s not supposed to be. No, we need to keep trying again and again. And I believe that because I believe the relationship between effort and grace is we need to keep trying because we Never know when grace is going to show up. And so I do think that this Is coupled with another kind of spiritual truth. That what’s in the way is the way. Mhm again, just like we don’t like to fall down. Oh, here’s an obstacle. Oh, no. Oh, this oh. You know, in the Hindu tradition, also they have a deity, a god known As Ganesh, or Ganesha, And Ganesh, uh, looks like, uh, an elephant with four arms. And Ganesh is the provider and remover of obstacles. So this tells us that obstacles are teachers. As much as we don’t like them, we have to engage them to keep learning and growing.

(10:58) And I’m in my study and I have Ganeshes everywhere. I’ll show you one that’s beautiful. Uh, I didn’t realize it, but everywhere where I go or I travel and I go around, I go in these kind of shops, and I go, OOH. And then I buy one and bring it home, and I bring it home–you know, a few years ago, my wife Susan came in my study and said, oh, I see you’re collecting Ganeshes. And I looked around, I said, oh, my God. They’re everywhere.

Julie Jancius (11:30): Know. I think it’s such a great reminder, though, I don’t have a, uh, Ganesh, but I have this sign in my bedroom that I see every morning right when I wake up. And it’s a quote by Babe Ruth that says something to the effect of it’s hard to stop a person who doesn’t quit or who doesn’t give up. And as I’ve channeled the angels and just loved, uh, ones on the other side in readings, they always say the same thing. The difference between somebody that we see as successful here in this lifetime and somebody who we see as not is that one person chose to quit and one person chose to keep going well.

Mark Nepo (12:12): And I think also that there is a gratitude of compassion that a lot of times, folks, depending on what they go through, sometimes they don’t get up. But we’re all connected. And in the beginning of the book I open the book with, uh, a dedication, which is from a poem of mine, and I’ll just read it. It says, the dirt that packs the plant is the beginning of beauty. And those who haul the piano on stage are the beginning of music. And those who are stuck, though they dream of soaring, they are the ancestors of our wings. And this book is for those who are stuck.

Julie Jancius (13:55): Because it doesn’t matter. We really have to redefine success, right? I mean, what your book is about is resilience and getting back up time and time again. And I have a lot of counselor friends and I interviewed them for the next book that I’m writing and I said, okay, if you could say one thing to all of your clients, what would it be? Or what do you think the main problem is that people aren’t working through and they go resilience, hands down. People want to have this grit innately within them. But it’s a lot of work to build resilience within ourselves.

Mark Nepo (14:35): Yeah, and I think a couple of things let’s talk for a moment about our sense of dream and ambition and goals. And of course, it’s wonderful to have goals and work toward things. But I’ve learned that often working for what I want is an apprenticeship for working with what I’ve been given. And so often it’s important to stay devoted and give our all to our dreams. But we know that dreams don’t always come true. But sometimes by giving our all, we come true. And that’s more important. And so I have come to think about holding dreams and goals and ambitions loosely, loosely because I suddenly see something and I want to work toward it. We tend in our modern world, oh, now, uh, we deify it. Uh, and then if we miss or it turns into something else, we’re a failure. No, it just means that working toward one thing often leads us to something we couldn’t foresee. 

(15:42) So I’ll tell you a little story that kind of illustrates this. And this is from a different book of mine. That’s a book of teaching stories called as Far as the Heart Can See. And it’s a little story about a cyclist, like a Tour de France cyclist. So this guy is training. He’s working every day. He has state of the art equipment. He’s shaved all the hair off his body, so there’s no resistance, right? And finally, the day of the race comes and they’re off and in the first leg, which is tut in the country, he is so far ahead as he comes over a hill that briefly, you can’t see the other racers as he’s coasting quick, very fast down this hill. As he comes to the bottom of the hill, suddenly, out of nowhere, a great blue heron with its wingspread swoops over his handlebar and it stops him. 

(16:36) And there he is straddling his bike in the middle of the race because the heron opened something he was chasing. And now we go years later, and once in a while, as he looks into the woods behind his home, once in a while, if you ask him, what cost you the race without looking at you, he’ll say, I didn’t lose the race. I left it. Yeah, that’s the end of the story. And, um, now, someone could say, that’s all very poetic, but he did lose the race. He didn’t win. But I hold it differently. I think he trained to meet the Heron, which changed his life. But if you told him he was training to meet a Heron, he wouldn’t have trained.

(17:22) So we train for what’s in view, never knowing that it might lead us to something magical and mystical and spiritual that we couldn’t have seen in the first place until we trained for the Race and entered it and then we see what happens. So we have to hold these things loosely, because every experience is an apprenticeship for something we can’t yet see. And I’ll give you one more story from history. It’s a beautiful story about this. This is how Albert Schweitzer became Albert Schweitzer. So we know Albert Schweitzer was this great humanitarian who started this hospital in Africa and opened up this incredible whole healing into that continent. But Albert Schweitzer, in his 30s, he was a tenured high school teacher at a very prestigious Lutheran high school in Germany and on weekends, he played classical organ. He played Bach And, uh, amazingly, and he’d travel throughout Europe to these concert halls to sold out crowds and play classical organ. And then one day, he had this vision that he was supposed to start a hospital in Africa. There was only one problem. He wasn’t a doctor. So he went to his friends and his colleagues, and he said, you know, I think I’m supposed to do this. What do you think? And they all said, Are you crazy? You’re tenured on weekends, you’re playing to sold out crowds. Forget about it. And he listened respectfully, said, thank you, and then he resigned and went to medical school and became Albert Schweitzer.

(19:02) And it doesn’t mean that all of what he did before was a wrong turn. It was an apprenticeship for his soul’s calling that he couldn’t yet see until He had lived that part of his life, until his heart came alive. And then how he could best give. And serve came into view.

Julie Jancius (19:25): So I’m 41 now, but I think I really struggled in my earlier years understanding what people meant by self limiting beliefs. And looking back, hindsight is 2020. Do you feel that a lot of people block themselves from their soul’s journey through their own judgments, and maybe even shunning or neglecting what we call their egoic mind, uh, their own desires, passions, wants, needs, within? Because from this perspective of my life, looking back, all of those things were guideposts leading me on that apprenticeship that you talk about.

Mark Nepo (20:18): Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is archetypal. I think everyone alive, and that’s why we have to have compassion for each other. Everyone alive goes on this journey. Carl Jung talked about it as individuation. And what does that mean? Well, everyone is born we’re born into a family, of course, whether that– it doesn’T matter whether that’s a difficult passage or a supportive passage. Everyone is born into an inherited set story, a set of values, a story. And then we go along and we might believe in that. It might be a good story we find helpful and healing, but we have to make it our own. Or we have to say, you know what? That isn’t really how I’m experiencing life, and I have to find my own way, or we take some of it, and then we find so whatever that process is, as we grow up, we have to test and try out the beliefs we’re given and see which ones make sense to us and which ones can we make our own and which ones do we have to say, no, that’s really not for me. I have to find my way? And so we go on this journey. And sometimes those stories we inherit the critical voice of a mother or a aather that we have to work to get out from under. And how do we find our own authority of being our own place in direct relationship to life? And everyone has to go through this. 

And when we do, along these lines, I believe that everyone who’s ever lived and will live, we all get an opportunity to be dropped into the depth of life. Now, that can happen, like me with cancer. It can happen with a life threatening situation or something, or loss or a, uh, dream breaks or a loss of an identity or relationship. But it’s not just difficulty that opens it. We can be dropped into the depth of life by unconditional love or beauty or surprise or wonder, but whatever it is. And I talk about cancer journey because that’s what it was for me. But once we’re dropped into that depth. Of life, that’s when the real journey the spiritual journey, begins. And deepens, because now it’s a relational journey. What kind of part am I in? What kind of whole? How do I relate to the rest of life? How do I fit in and be who I am and strike my gifts against the needs of the world?

Julie Jancius (22:52) : When it comes to deepening, what does depth feel like? Because it almost feels like an emotion sometimes at some points when you’re in the midst of this.

Mark Nepo: Well, I think that everyone has to and I like to say when I have these conversations or I’m in teaching circles, what I share are not instructions, but examples.

Julie Jancius: Yeah.

Mark Nepo: And we all compare notes, really, about what it is to be here. So my experience of depth over the years, uh, is that depth is the place where I know I’m in depth because I feel more than one thing at the same time. And the contemporary world and the rational world, we’re often asked to choose well, what do you mean choose one or the other? But as I’ve been opened more deeply by experience and love and difficulty, great love and great suffering are the two great teachers, then it’s like, no, actually, I can be happy and sad at the same time. I can be clear and confused at the same time. I can be fearful and also feel safe at a different level at the same time. And how do I hold those in my heart so that they can be my teachers? Not feel to be running from one to the other. 

(24:03) And so there’s an experience that I feel of more and more wholeness as we’re in depth. And then also a symptom of depth experience for me is that it’s harder to name where we are. There’s a little story to, uh, exemplify. That there’s two fish in the surf and a jogger comes by and he stops. He goes, hey, what’s it like to live in the ocean? Well, they’re surprised to have someone talk to them. They don’t say anything. And he jogs on. And when the jogger’s out of you, one fish looks at the other and he goes, what’s an ocean? Because from the shore we call it the ocean but when you’re in it, what is this mhm? So the deeper we go, the harder it is to name and the more important it is to keep trying to name it. Because that’s where all the poetry and art of the world come m from as placeholders. As placeholders. You know, this is one more story. I like to tell stories.

(25:10) In the life Of Buddha, there’s a story where he was after dinner with his students and The Moon Was out and He Beginning a Dharma talk. And he noticed that his students were too enrapt with his talk and he stopped and he said, my words are just fingers pointing to the moon. Make sure you look at the moon. So all these things that are inexpressible, it’S important that we try to find stories and metaphors and ways to talk about it. But they’re all fingers pointing to the moon. Make sure you look at the moon yourself.

Julie Jancius: I’ve been watching this documentary on Netflix, and I’m not all the way through it yet, but it’s about infinity.

Mark Nepo: Ah.

Julie Jancius: And what infinite really know, when you’re kind of like spirit keeps bringing something in, bringing something in, but you’re still marinating on it and chewing on it and sculpting it a little bit. What have they shown you when it comes to the infinity of all that is outwardly, inwardly? And is there something that ties in there with being the oneness of all of it and yet still our own individual selves at the same time? Because I know what you were saying before, but I kind of want to just bring this deeper.

Mark Nepo: Yes, absolutely. And all the traditions speak about this differently but this is how let’s start here. Because your question offers a, uh, constellation of some things to explore. So start with William Blake, the English poet, the great prophetic poet. One of the things famous of his sayings is you can see eternity in a grain of sand. And so one of the things that all the traditions speak about and it’s at the heart of all poetry is.

that infinity, eternity, the universe wholeness is feelable and knowable briefly through the smallest details. If we open our heart to you– Martin Boober was one of the great Jewish philosophers of the last century. And he said, the world is incomprehensible, but it is embraceable. And so by holding and touching, we glimpse. And this is where in one drop of water is the entire ocean and in one gesture of love is all the history of love. And in one drop of truth is the entire river of truth from the beginning of time if we can open our hearts to it and touch those details in our lives and, uh, open us to all that they’re a part of and all they represent. And this is the importance of being in the moment. 

(28:07) Often in our modern world, we make a cartoon. Being in the moment doesn’t mean that we don’t have to have responsibility. Oh, well, um, I’m in the moment. Forget about that appointment or forget about the past and the future. No, the reason the moment is so important is because through the details of the moment, the felt details of the moment, we feel our place in the entire history of life, living history of life.

(28:35) Again, let me offer here this is another Hindu story. It’s not a story, but it is a little story, but it has a great metaphor in it. That’s a teaching metaphor. And that’s indra’s net. So Indra is the god of connection in the Hindu mythology. And it is believed that Indra had a castle floating out in the heavens and Indra wove a net that encompassed all of existence. And in a net there are knots that hold the net together. Well, in Indra’s net, wherever you would normally see a knot, there was a jewel. And if you look closely into one jewel, you would see reflected all the other jewels and the entire net. And this became a metaphor for that– Every soul, every heart is a clear jewel. And just like every cell in a human being, you can find DNA. Well, if you look in the clear heart of any person, you can see every other heart that ever existed and how they’re connected. Like Indra’s net.

In being human, we’re not clear all the time. We fall down and get up. We are clear and confused. And so when we’re not clear, we lose sight of all those connections, but we turn back into a knot. But we’re still holding everything together. We just don’t see it for the moment. In the Sufi tradition, they have a practice that’s known as polishing the heart until it becomes a mirror. So what are the practices, the relationships, the experiences by which we can become a clear jewel again? The clear jewel that we are? Because that’s how we can feel and see all the connections. So often I invite people to, whether in circle or readers of, uh, some of my books to whether it’s in nature or in the city, whether it’s alone or together, walk. Take an open hearted walk in silence until a moment stops you and be with that detail until it becomes your teacher.

(30:52) Years ago, such a moment for me that they’re everywhere. And these often are the moments that become the, you know, a moment for me. I was in New York City, an earlier publisher that I was, uh, working with. And I was on my way to keep an appointment with my editor. And as I was walking down one of the streets in, uh, midtown Manhattan. A little alley between, like, a bodega and another store, there was a pigeon eating some crumbs. And the light all of a sudden was on it and it stopped me. And it was one of those moments where everything in the world was in that that was a scene that opened up and I stopped. And it was like the pigeon in the light was saying I don’t know where you’re going, but it’s all right here. And I stopped and I hung out there with that lighted pigeon and I was late for my meeting. And I was a little sheepish back then, I didn’t say I was late because I was watching a bird, a pigeon eating, uh, crumbs in the mystical light. But now I would say that. But it’s important that wherever we’re going, I feel like the soul is always calling us to stop or these other appointments.

Julie Jancius (32:10): So when a poem strikes you like that because I had moments back in my teens and 20s where it just hit you, like you said, all in that moment, like a sunset or a beautiful sky. And I would get this feeling like I am truly alive. And just like the whole universe is in the droplet of sand or the little green of sand you have these moments where you can feel the magnitude of all that is in just a second. Today, it more so happens with kind of these epiphanies that come in where, like you said, in the moment something will be happening. Or I’m with my daughter or my husband and it’s almost like this just huge consciousness, deepening revelation. Do you stop after those and go write them down? Do you sit with them? Do you let them marinate? How does it end up becoming the poem for you?

Mark Nepo (33:14): Well, all of the above. So I’ve always been a scribbler. I feel like an inner explorer So. I always take notes. This is one of the things that I think the way this informs my life as an artist, as a writer as well as a teacher, is that when I was young, like all art forms and I was a young writer, I was taught be on the look for good material, good stories, or good things to write about. Well, but then in my early thirty s, I almost died from cancer. And a gift that was for coming through all that was that I awoke on the other side. And I was given the lens of the miraculous. That is extraordinary, is in the ordinary everywhere. Everything is good material, everything is miraculous. It’s only whether I am present enough and my heart is open enough to feel it, touch it, be a student of it.

(34:12) And so being human, that’s always there.Mark Nepo: My access to it comes and goes because I get tired, or I get agitated, or I get worried, or I have too many things to do today. But it’s always there when I return to it. So these moments inform the rest of life, because everyone has to both survive and thrive. But if all we do is survive, what’s the point? But if we thrive and we take in these moments of everything, then that makes going through the difficulties of life, it takes the edge off, it makes it have a context, a deeper spiritual context. And the way that I work, the tay is that rather again, being a young artist in a rational world, everyone is teaching you whatever the art form. Oh, maybe this will be of use in what I’m trying to write. Well, for me it’s gone the entire other way. It’s like I have a sense of what I might want to explore. I might have an idea for a book or for something that’s moving something or an outline, but it’s kindling, it’s a doorway. It’s only till a stepping stone for me to go out and explore. Oh, here’s this, and here’s this, and this has energy and this has heart. And I just collect all these things and then I look at them and they tell me how they go together. So that’s how poems happen and that’s also how chapters happen. Okay? I collect these things and I put them in word documents or folders and then I, after a while look at what I have there. And then they tell me how they go together. And then I might have to write as a constellation of things and I might have to write my way from one to the other. And then I might have to see what Carl Jung says about it, or what the Sufi poet Ghalib says about it. And then all of a sudden, there it is. And then the same process is how I put a book together. So one of the reasons I’ve been blessed to be so prolific is I’ve learned how to get out of the way. And I write about what I need to learn, not what I know, wrote About what I know.

Julie Jancius: I would have written very little yeah, that’s amazing. For my own personal just knowledge. Do you have a process like do you write a little bit every day? Do you sit down a couple of times a day or just kind of when it flows?

Mark Nepo (36:55): Yeah. My process is I’m a morning person. So first thing in the morning, I’m, uh, up. And let me share this too, because this also speaks to what we’re talking about. So the first thing I do is and I encourage anyone who’s listening or watching us to– I do three very simple rituals every morning, very ordinary. And I encourage people to create your own because it makes a difference in how the day unfolds and how wide my lens is and my heart is open. So the first thing I do is I open the blinds, but I do it so that I’m conscious that I’m letting light in. And then I take care of something living. Our dog. We don’t have children, so she’s like our dog child. I take care of her. And then my wife, who’s a potter, Susan, and she’s more of a night person, so I’m up first. So then I do something for someone I love and make coffee for her before she gets up. Now, when I am present to those simple things, that changes how the whole day unfolds because that’s a ritual. Um, and I’ll get back to my routine. But let me talk about ritual for a moment. So if I’m not present, like if I’m rushing and I’m like, oh, no, I forgot to pay the bills today and oh, jeez, I’m supposed to meet this person at 10:00. Oh, God, I got to open the goddamn blinds. Oh, I got to feed the dog. Oh, jeez, and I forgot to make the coffee. Well, then it just turns into a habit. But at any moment that I realize that I can stop, take a breath and go back and do it over And turn it back into a ritual. 

(38:35) So the ritual– the word ritual comes from a Sanskrit word RTA ARTA and it means the hidden order of the universe. So ritual is any gesture that help makes when we’re present to it makes the hidden order of the universe visible. And if we’re present, it happens. And if we’re not, it doesn’t. If we’re present, we’re a clear jewel. If we’re not present, we turn into a knot. Knot mhm.

So once I do that, I’m up In my study here and I always have the morning here. And then I’m either exploring something that’s either a feeling, a metaphor, a story or something, or I’m working on something that has been in process. And I’ll spend a few hours here In the morning and then in the afternoon, I will consciously go out and do errands. And if I have time, I’ve got to get back to this. But before the pandemic, I would always stop in like a cafe for a little bit in the afternoon and continue to work. And then in the evening we’re just hanging out, our little family, and that’s usually the rhythm. And then when I’m traveling to teach, I take pieces of a book with me so that I can look at it on the plane or around things like that.

Julie Jancius: Beautiful. You’ve mentioned a couple of times throughout our time together that the more open your heart is, the more present you are to everything that’s around you. What are some ways, if listeners are wondering, in your opinion, what are some ways that they can open their heart more?

Mark Nepo (40:18) : And again, these are examples, not instructions. I think one of the simplest ways is to lean in, especially when life pushes you back. So the difficult things push us back. That’s when we need to lean in, hold nothing back, give my full attention to whatever is before me until it starts to be my teacher, to express to journal, talk, listen, holding and listening are the oldest medicines on earth. Yeah, when we’re struggling to open our heart hold or be held or ask to be held, listen, or ask to be listened to, we breathe. This is another metaphor, but we constantly are inhaling and exhaling. We can’t say, oh, well, just for this conversation, we’ll exhale only, uh, no that’S not going to work. Way the heart breathes is we inhale by feeling and perceiving and we exhale by expressing m it doesn’t matter how and it could be alone or with others, but the heart has to express, we have to inhale and exhale and not for what we produce with our expression, but so that it keeps the heart breathing and healing.

(41:42) So another way to keep in touch with our heart is to keep being expressive. And that could be by making dinner or gardening or stamp collecting or however it might be. It’s not just the formal arts, it’s how do we stay in relationship and in conversation with the whole of life.

Julie Jancius (42:01): Another thing that just real briefly, that spirit’s been kind of bringing my way. We’ve had some grief experts on the podcast who say talk about spatial awareness. Like, if you go to the house of somebody who’s passed that you love and you see that they’re not there, it kind of registers more in the brain. And as you were talking earlier, I noticed my thoughts the other day as we were driving to the pool. I was like, okay, I have spatial awareness. As we’re driving to a place that I’m not turning off to go on this errand over here or this errand, but I’m headed towards my destination of the pool with my kiddo and I had this, uh, flash– When you were talking of spatial awareness, when it comes to this resilience. And if we have this direction, this kind of ping within our hearts of, okay, this is what spirit wants me to go work on, like, to your point before with the humanitarian and creating this effort, uh, that he left his career to go do. When you have this vision of this destination of where you want to go, resilience kind of shows you where you are, maybe spatially on this map of where you’re headed. Although spirit is always changing the destination, right? Uh, yes.

Mark Nepo (43:17): Let me speak about that from this angle or this way that we’re always asked outwardly to follow those moments we’ve been talking about. It’s like the modern metaphor is you have an electric car you got to plug in every once in a while.And these moments rejuvenate who we are and where we are and why we’re here, how rare it is. We renew how rare it is to be here at all and that changes everything. And inwardly, I think we’re always being asked to relate to our soul, to our inner voice. So let me talk about that for a moment. 

(43:55) So the word genius, we think of– It in the modern world, someone with extraordinary brilliance. A Mozart, an Einstein. Right, but that’s not what the word originally meant. The word originally means attendant spirit. Everyone has a genius. Everyone has an attendant spirit that can guide us to our gifts. Blake again, blake. One of his aphorisms is, straight is the road to improvement, but crooked is the road to genius. You don’t know where it’s going to take you. You have to follow what comes alive. So now let’s talk about there’s a lot of different names for that attendant spirit. Soul. Holy Ghost. Um brahman atman dharma. There’s a thousand names for it. Guardian angel. So when you think of, like, let’s say, the famous story of Aladdin and his lamp, that’s from a 1001 Arabian Nights. It’s not just a story about rubbing the lamp and getting what you want. No, it’s a story that says if you embrace the lamp of your life, your guardian attendant spirit will show up to help guide. Wow.

Julie Jancius: Yeah.

Mark Nepo: Wow. Everyone has a genius, and everyone has a connection to the teaching that is life, that shows up in the details of the world.

Julie Jancius (45:33): I just don’t even know where to go from there. You’re amazing, Mark. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Everybody. I didn’t even get to ask all the questions that I had written down because you can see I’ve just got so many, uh, pages noted throughout your book. This is an amazing book. It deserves to be on everybody’s bookshelves. Falling down and getting up. Discovering Your Inner Resilience and Strength by Mark Nepo. Thank you for being here. Please let everybody know where they can find you, your book, your work.

Mark Nepo (46:03): Yeah, thank you. Uh, and it’s a joy to be in this conversation together. Thank you for having me. So through my website, marknepo.com, and another website, threeintentions.com, you can find out where all my books and today actually, as we’re talking, is publication day. So it’s wonderful. Yeah. Thank you special to be able to do this. There you can find where I’m teaching and the things that I’m doing all over.

Julie Jancius: Amazing. Thank you so much for being here.

Mark Nepo: Oh, you’re so welcome.

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