The Book of Awakening - Having the life you want by being present to the life you have
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Lovely daily wisdom distilled in a poetic way. Through everyday life's stories.
We can get lessons from our ordinary lives, it just take an extraordinary attention and reflection.
Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon preserved in a museum.
Only when we find the spring of wisdom in our own life
can it flow to future generations.
-— THICH NHAT HANH
This book is meant to be of use, to be a companion, a soul friend. It is a book of awakenings.
It is my profound hope that something in these pages will surprise and refresh you, will make you glisten, will help you live, love, and find your way to joy.
FOREWORD - by Wayne Muller
When he reads in public, you hear people catch their breath as they recognize something deep and true, something known but forgotten, or missed.
In the end, there is a sense of gratitude for being awakened again to something truly precious.
There are a thousand tiny miracles that punctuate our days, and Mark Nepo is a student of the miraculous.
he invites us to see, taste, touch, dance, and feel our way into the heart of life.
A life well lived is firmly planted in the sweet soil of moments. Mark Nepo is a gardener in this soil; he plants seeds of grace that grow only in the soil of loving attention and mindful time. We receive the deepest blessings of life when we fall in love with such moments—and Mark shows us how to fall in love deeply and with abandon.
Mark had cancer, and it shook him awake. His descent into illness gave birth to an astonishing mindfulness. Now, he invites us to use his eyes and heart to see and feel how awake our being alive can be.
This is a book of sacraments; it is Mark's generous gift to us, a banquet of miracles made from the stuff of days, the ordinary riches of a human life. Take your time, savor each page. Above all, be willing to be surprised. Life may already be more miraculous than you ever imagined.
JANUARY 1 - Precious Human Birth
Of all the things that exist,
we breathe and wake and turn it into song.
There is a Buddhist precept that asks us to be mindful of how rare it is to find ourselves in human form on Earth. It is really a beautiful view of life that offers us the chance to feel enormous appreciation for the fact that we are here as individual spirits filled with consciousness, drinking water and chopping wood.
It asks us to look about at the ant and antelope, at the worm and the butterfly, at the dog and the castrated bull, at the hawk and the wild lonely tiger, at the hundred-year-old oak and the thousand-year-old patch of ocean. It asks us to understand that no other life form has the consciousness of being that we are privilege to. It asks us to recognize that of all the endless species of plants and animals and minerals that make up the Earth, a very small portion of life has the wakefulness of spirit that we call “being human.”
You could have been an ant. I could have been an anteater. You could have been rain. I could have been a lick of salt. But we were blessed–in this time, in this place–to be human beings, alive in rare ways we often take for granted.
All of this to say, this precious human birth is unrepeatable. So what will you do today, knowing that you are one of the rarest forms of life to ever walk the Earth? How will you carry yourself? What will you do with your hands? What will you ask and of whom?
Tomorrow you could die and become an ant, and someone will be setting traps for you. But today you are precious and rare and awake. It ushers us into grateful living. It makes hesitation useless. Grateful and awake, ask what you need to know now. Say what you feel now. Love what you love now.
- Sit outside, if possible, or near a window, and note the other life forms around you.
- Breathe slowly and think of the ant and the blade of grass and the blue jay and what these life forms can do that you can't.
- Think of the pebble and the piece of bark and the stone bench, and center your breathing on the interior things that you can do that they can't.
- Rise slowly, feeling beautifully human, and enter your day with the conscious intent of doing one thing that only humans can do.
- When the time arises, do this one thing with great reverence and gratitude.
JANUARY 2 - All Fall Down
Lead us from the unreal to the real.
—- HINDU INVOCATION
Amazingly, we all do this, whether with groceries or paint or with the stories we feel determined to share. We do this with our love, with our sense of truth, even with our pain. It's such a simple thing, but in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door. Time and time again, we are offered the chance to truly learn this: We cannot hold on to things and enter. We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.
It is a basic human sequence: gather, prepare, put down, enter. But failing as we do, we always have that second chance: to learn how to fall, get up, and laugh.
- Meditate on some threshold you are having trouble crossing in your life. It might be at work, at home, in a relationship, or the doorway to greater peace.
- Breathe steadily and look to yourself to see if you are carrying too much to open the door.
- Breathe slowly and with each out-breath put the things you are carrying down.
- Breathe freely now and open the door.