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Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart
Mark Nepo, the author of the eulogized Book of Awakenings is back with another classic of the same kind:
Stay with us and get a glimpse on how to find the wisdom that waits in your heart.
Who Should Read “The One Life We’re Given”? And Why?
On November 19 and November 22, 2010, Oprah Winfrey hosted the biggest Favorite Things show to date; on its second day, between Josh Groban’s Illuminations and a Talbott Teas holiday assortment she listed a book which was little-known by then: Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakenings.
Unsurprisingly, this launched Nepo’s 2000 book to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, where it stayed for a while.
Considering the fact that Oprah subsequently named Nepo one of the 100 most inspiring visionaries of today, it’s only natural that all of Nepo’s subsequent books have been both eagerly awaited and well received.
The One Life We’re Given is not an exception.
Combining poetry, personal stories and spiritual lessons, this book is for anyone who wants to discover the innermost parts of his soul; and find a way to come to terms with them or elevate them to a higher plane of being.
About Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo is an American poet, philosopher, and spiritual adviser, dubbed “a consummate storyteller,” “an eloquent spiritual teacher,” and “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time.”
After obtaining a doctorate in English, Nepo taught for almost two decades at the State University of New York in Albany, New York; afterward, he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan where he still lives.
In 1987, Nepo was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, a struggle which helped him form an idiosyncratic and syncretic spiritual philosophy which he has since shared in a number of books.
The most famous among them is The Book of Awakenings, which though published in 2000 made it to the top of The New York Times bestseller list a decade later, after being endorsed by Oprah who included Nepo in both her The Life You Want Tour and the Super Soul Sunday program.
Many of Nepo’s recent works have been included in Spirituality & Practice’s list of best spiritual books: Things That Join the Sea and the Sky (in the 2017 list), Inside the Miracle (in the 2015 list), The Endless Practice (in the 2014), and Reduced to Joy (in the 2013 list).
Find out more at http://www.MarkNepo.com.
“The One Life We’re Given PDF Summary”
On his webpage, Mark Nepo notes that The One Life We’re Given “affirms how precious this one life is and opens the chance we have to be fully alive and to be of use to each other and the world.”
In other words, it moves on from where The Book of Awakenings left off, and it’s unsurprising that it shares much the same short-chapter format of that book.
“A continuous inquiry in what it means to be human, to be here, and to care for one another,” The One Life We’re Given is divided into four thematic sections, each of which contains twenty or so few pages’ long chapters.
Each chapter contains an autobiographical story, a metaphor or some other type of example “that brings a question or quandary of living into view.”
Next, Nepo digs deeper and uncovers the lesson hidden beneath these stories.
Finally, he offers a question, a meditation, or a type of conversation to have with a loved one.
Nepo calls these “seeds of water along the way” and invites you to keep a journal as you read, “as an intimate space where you might hear your soul, as a sketchbook where your heart can personalize the themes” explored by the book.
Since there are so many of them, it is very difficult to summarize this book; if we have to use just one excerpt to do so, it will certainly be this one:
The one life we’re given is more than enough, if we can help each other through the storms that time can bring. Though we shake our heads, admitting on bad days that it’s all too hard, if some legendary film director were to offer you such a part, you’d think it the role of a lifetime – and it is.
Key Lessons from “The One Life We’re Given”
1. Getting Closer to Life: Your Legacy and Your Personal Mythology
2. Loving What You Do: Touch the Branches of Meaning
3. Finding What Can Last: Face the Serpent King
4. Being Kind and Useful: Cultivating Wonder and Self-Awareness
Getting Closer to Life: Your Legacy and Your Personal Mythology
Your life is what is happening to you at this very moment; and yet, most of the people reading this sentence think that it’s something about to begin, something in the distance.
Unfortunately, it is usually the undesirable events in life which awake us to its mystery and beauty, to the fact that it is all around us and that we must get closer to it before it slips away.
Three years before Mark Nepo published The One Life We’re Given, his father, Morris Nepo, died at the age of 93.
Sitting beside him during the last months of his life, Mark started thinking about what his father had left behind him; and that called into his mind the fact that he is part of a lineage that goes way back to a Russian leatherworker, his great-grandfather.
“When in trouble,” he would supposedly say – remembering the time he fell into a river after being chased by Cossacks who didn’t kill him because they didn’t want their horses to get cold – “wait till you see a way out.”
Mark’s grandfather lived through the Great Depression in the US. “Break whatever we have in half,” he’d say to his wife when she’d complain that they don’t have enough. “It will be enough.”
And what sentence was Morris’ legacy?
“Give me a minute, and I’ll figure out what to do” – the thing he’d always say to his wife, no matter the hardship or the circumstance.
After braiding their lessons into a rope he can use, now it’s time for Mark to leave a legacy, a personal story his loved ones will further braid into the rope.
And that rope, you see, that’s the essence of a few personal myths; even the largest ones began the way this chapter does.
Loving What You Do: Touch the Branches of Meaning
“Regardless of what you do for living,” writes Mark Nepo in the first chapter of the second section of The One Life We’re Given (“Bring Up the Lights”), “the only important vocation is listening to the heart when it says: this is vital, this is alive, this can’t be lost.”
Most of the things we have that help us go through life – “every book and form of art, every keepsake and treasure we pass from generation to generation, every story told” – are this kind of cries of the heart.
Someone, somewhere, sometime thought that something mustn’t be lost; and he made every attempt in his power to make sure that it won’t.
“No one knows how to live or how to die,” writes Nepo. “We only know how to love and how to lose, and how to pick up branches of meaning along the way.”
These are, in fact, the words a wise old woman tells to a widower who has lost all faith in life after the death of his wife.
He comes to her to ask for advice, and instead, the woman asks him to poke a branch through a running stream and feel the movement of the water.
“You see,” she says to him, “that you can feel the water without putting your hand in the water, this is what meaning feels like.”
That’s how we feel the presence of someone who is absent; and that’s how meaning saves us.
By way of proxy – even when it’s seen through the glass, darkly.
Finding What Can Last: Face the Serpent King
In one of the chapters of the third section of The One Life We’re Given, Mark Nepo talks about fear – and relates a story about his crippling fear of snakes.
Two decades before he published the book, Nepo noticed a large snake (about five feet long) in a crack of the front stoop of his house.
Incapable of facing it, but fearing for the safety of his family, he did the first thing that came to his mind: he bought a liquid concrete and sealed the snake within the crack.
However, a few hours later, he noticed that the snake had somehow managed to slither away.
There was no way out now: the only thing he was left to do was to kill it; so he did.
However, after dumping the remains, the fear was not gone. “I couldn’t calm my heart,” writes Nepo. “I came close to vomiting several times, and wondered why it had never occurred to me to call someone to take the snake away. I’d let my fear create a life for itself.”
The story doesn’t end there.
Twenty years later, Mark – now with his new wife – took a walk and a small snake jumped in front of his feet; then another one; and then a third one.
Mark Nepo realized in a second what was happening: it was his karma, coming back to haunt him for needlessly taking away the life of another sentient being.
Much of the harm we do on this Earth comes from trying to remove or cripple what we’re afraid of, rather than face what stirs us to be afraid.
Being Kind and Useful: Cultivating Wonder and Self-Awareness
One of the chapters in the final section of his book, Nepo begins with a quote by George Bernard Shaw: “the only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
This is the work of self-awareness, says Nepo: to be our own tailor, to take those measurements (whether ours or someone else’s) anew, over and over again.
For these are the eyes of the child, the ones which see everything as if they have never seen it before; the ones which seem to always say: “Oh, my God, look at that magnificent something!”
These are, of course, the eyes everyone should have, filled with wonder and astonishment:
Wonder is the rush of life saturating us with its aliveness, the way sudden rain makes us smile, the way sudden wind opens our face. And while wonder can surprise us, our daily work is to cultivate wonder in ourselves and in each other… Wonder doesn’t just appear as a function of peace or joy or things draped in light. Wonder is a matter of depth, not mood.
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“The One Life We’re Given Quotes”One life lived wholeheartedly and without disguise is more than enough. Click To Tweet Our continual effort to remove everything in the way makes the glow inherent in all things knowable. Click To Tweet Part of our task in being human is to be worn of all our requests, until a deeper version of what we were born with meets the air. Click To Tweet It’s the giving of our full attention that releases our own light. Click To Tweet Under all our troubles, we each have a constellation of personal, foundational stories that we can rely on to remind us of what matters. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“I would follow this man anywhere his words want to take us,” wrote Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Big Magic, in praise of Mark Nepo and The One Life We’re Given. “His voice helps us find pathways where we might have believed that no pathway could possibly exist.”
Reverend Ed Bacon went even a step further: “Mark Nepo is one of our national treasures,” he states. “That is because Mark inhabits that rare and beautiful consciousness that enables him to express the language of the soul. The words and energy flowing from the font of his heart not only make our lives more beautiful but heal us.”
“A powerful guide to being in the world without being overwhelmed by it,” The One Life We’re Given includes many “profound and poignant stories and insights” which can help you survive what life brings you, and to thrive inwardly (Arianna Huffington).No wonder it was named one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2016 by Spirituality & Practice. “The wisdom presented in the shining pages of this holy book,” says the review, “is another luminous gift from a gallant, grateful, and imaginative spiritual master.”