In this enthralling interview, Jannecke engages in a thought-provoking conversation with Mark Nepo, a distinguished best-selling author with an impressive repertoire of 25 books. Delving into the profound realms of human experience, they explore coping mechanisms for personal and worldly suffering, emphasizing the significance of embracing diverse spiritual teachings. The dialogue extends to the nuanced understanding of emotions, urging the importance of fully experiencing life without numbing its vibrant hues. Together, they navigate the complexities of depression, offering insights into coping strategies, and delve into the subtle distinction between being driven and being authentically drawn to life’s pursuits.

Mark Nepo’s Perspective on Courage and Choice

In this insightful dialogue, Mark delves into the intricate topic of fear, profoundly articulating its nuances. He skillfully communicates his perspectives, shedding light on the multifaceted nature of fear. “We all have this choice, every day, and every generation, to choose between love and fear,” he asserts. According to Mark, residing in the heart doesn’t imply overlooking challenges; instead, it means discerning with caution and making thoughtful decisions, free from the governance of fear. He emphasizes that fear serves a legitimate purpose—to alert us to real danger—but notes the human tendency to inflate it. Mark shares a profound realization: “I’ve learned that fear is something to be moved through, not obeyed.” In his perspective, acknowledging fear, rather than blindly obeying it, becomes a transformative journey toward courage and understanding.

Falling down and getting up

Join Jannecke in this enlightening episode as she engages in a profound conversation with the renowned author of 25 best-selling books, Mark Nepo, focusing on his latest work, ‘Falling Down and Getting Up: Discovering Your Inner Resilience and Strength.’

Don’t miss this enlightening conversation that delves deep into the realms of human existence, resilience, and the profound wisdom shared by Mark Nepo in his latest book.

Transcript of the interview

Mark Nepo 0:00

You know, one of the chapters in the new book "Falling down and getting up" is a chapter I call them the endless vows. I think they always return us to a life of feeling, and a larger life of spirit. And what matters in the four vows are; Help. Thank you. I'm sorry. And, I love you.

Jannecke Øinæs 0:25

Hello, Mark, a warm welcome to the show.

Mark Nepo 0:28

Oh, thank you. It's great to be with you again.

Jannecke Øinæs 0:32

It's lovely to see you again. I remember that I interviewed you many years ago, it was in my old old apartment. And so many things have happened since then. And you're still writing these amazing books. And now you have a new book that have just come out, falling down and getting up. And that is part of you know, the other 25 books that you've written. You are a poet, philosopher, you've been on Oprah many times, and you're doing such amazing work. And the last time I really enjoyed our conversation, I, I remember, we spoke about suffering, it was just before Christmas like it is right now. So feel like today, we're also going to go deep. That's my expectation.

Mark Nepo 1:17

Yes, thank you.

Jannecke Øinæs 1:19

Now, I'm curious, because I know one of your books is called the Book of awakening. And on my show, we speak a lot about awakening. And I get curious about how your own awakening was like, because I know that you had cancer. And that really changed your life. So was that when your awakening process started? Or was it earlier? Please share what is awakening.

Mark Nepo 1:47

So first, let me just share about about awakening that, I think everyone will get an opportunity to be dropped into the depths of life. And, you know, often it can be something that is difficult or even life threatening. But it's not always that it can also be wonder and joy, and surprise, and beauty and grace and being loved unconditionally for the first time. So it's not just suffering, we we don't have to seek suffering, you know, like gravity will get our share, just because of the nature of life. So. So within that context, you know, for me, I'm very much I'm 72. When I met someone my age, when I was younger, I thought they were ancient, it doesn't seem so old now. But when I was in my 30s, as I've written about, I had a rare form of lymphoma, which I almost died from. And that was my being thrown into the depths of life. And so I was awakened to the workings of the heart. And that was before I wrote the book of awakening, I wrote the book of awakening on the other side of my cancer journey. And so, you know, a couple of things that happened to me in that journey was not for any wisdom on my part, but simply by virtue of being, you know, thrown upside down and inside out. I was in my head a lot before that experience. And I woke up the other side, everything had dropped into my heart. And so ever since then, my mind has followed my heart and not the other way around. And the other thing that that happened is that I was raised Jewish, I have a deep tie to the Jewish heritage. But I was offered so, so many blessings from all different traditions, people from all faiths, formal and informal, even atheists and scientists, that when I was blessed to still be here, and I wasn't, and all these years later, I'm still not wise enough to know what worked and what didn't. And so I was challenged to believe in everything. And so ever since then, I've been a student of all paths and all my work and my teaching, tries to affirm the common center of all paths and the unique gifts of each. And I'd say the lat the last like, thing about awakening awakening is that you know, I discovered that all that matters is right where we are, you know, a menacing assumption in life has always been, but it's more so in our modern age is that life is always over there. If I could just get over there, if I could just have that relationship or that experience or achieve this, then then then I'll be happy, I'll be at peace. And if there's anything I've learned through my life, that awakening opens us to the mystery that there is no there. There's only here. Now certainly we, we traveled vast distances, your continent in a way or an ocean away, and I am on the surface. But then when we're talking like this, we uncover the same moment, the same eternal moment, which is always here.

Jannecke Øinæs 5:46

I thought that was very interesting what you said that you sort of embrace all directions, because I identify the bits with that. Because in my work with Wisdom From North, especially in the beginning, I was trying to find that one teaching that one truth, that one way. And the more I interviewed amazing teachers like yourself, the more I sort of understood that there's so many ways. And in the beginning, that got me a bit confused. And I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to how you sort of found your balance in that because I see many people hold on to one direction or one school of thought. And then sometimes they are like, teachings are contradictory. And then my mind gets confused. So what should I believe in? And then I go into my heart, so what resonates? But still, my mind really wants to know, but what's the truth here? So how have you sort of navigated that, that you're so like, so open and acceptable all directions?

Mark Nepo 6:54

Well, I think that, you know, one of the things humbly that goes back to that cancer journey, is, you know, when people were so kind to offer me help. I didn't add, I didn't have any prerequisites. I didn't say, you know, I had a woman who was Catholic who offered me a rose petal and a gold purse that she said, had fallen from the sky in the Philippines by a miracle by Mary. And she offered it to me to help me heal. Well, I didn't say, Oh, well, I don't believe in that. No, say, I said, thank you. And I put it by my bed side. And so I learned quickly that there are no prerequisites to being open, other than to be open. It doesn't have to fit my worldview. And we suffer this today. It doesn't have to fit my opinions are my beliefs, my beliefs? And so what became the barometer is the heart is whatever. And this is a question that I often ask in simple ways all the time, which I offer to people who are listening is when troubled by something or something feels contradictory or complex, I asked, is what's before me, life giving and heartening? Or is it like draining and disheartening? And if it's life giving and heartening, then I'm even if it's difficult, I hold nothing back. If it's like draining, what am I doing there? So, you know, throughout history, and it's not, when we look at traditions, let me say a word about that, that all the different pads, certainly anyone can find their way by devoting themselves to one particular path. That's just not how it happened for me, so I don't, you know, so I welcome even, you know, all of that, as well as once in your spiritual toolbox. So I look not with judgment. But I look to each tradition and try on different things practices and saying, Oh, that feels right for me, that I can put that in my toolbox. And so it's it's a matter of having a filling our individual practices with, with all the things that seem to work for us.

You know, back back in the Renaissance, in Medici garden, which was the famous, you know, where Lorenzo Medici gathered all the great geniuses and artists of the time and supporting them. There was a young man named Pico, who was brilliant humanist and philosopher at the age of 24. He knew like sixteen languages. And while the other people like Michelangelo was sculpting and other people were painting, he wanted just what we're talking about. He wanted to try and see if there was one unifying principle or value that was at the heart of all the known traditions, and he read everything he could. And then he wrote what was called the 900 theses. And Lorenzo called him after he did all this after several years, and said, Okay, share what you've learned. And he said one thing, he said, from all these things I've read and study, the only thing I've learned is that friendship is the end of all philosophy.

Jannecke Øinæs 10:46

Oh, that's beautiful. Yeah. Now, when you speak about that, when you had your awakening that you were very in your head, and then you drop down into your mind. Now, like, intellectually, I understand that. And yet, I feel like, that's not sort of my experience very often. Even though I know I want to be in my heart, I want to meet people from my heart, I want to meet difficulties through my heart. I'm just having like a practical difficulty right now, which is pretty big, but it's practical. It has to do with my apartment, someone who's not paying what they should pay is a big deal. And then I'm thinking, okay, so how can I meet this with my heart, but I still feel this fear? Whoa, what if this is not working out? What if this, and this happens to me because of this, and the people I care about, and when I move into fear, it's so difficult to be in the heart?

Mark Nepo 11:51

Well, you're describing something that all human beings experience. And it's also we're seeing it around the world as well. And we all have this choice, every day, in every generation to choose between love and fear. So it's not that the heart can't be discerning and cautious and make good decisions. So being in the heart just doesn't mean Oh, everything's wonderful. No, it means looking carefully and clearly, and not being governed by fear. So the legitimate place of fear is to alert us to real danger. But what happens because we're human, I know I experienced it, too, is we inflate the fear. And we was very normal. We go, what if Oh, my God, what if what if this, and so there is a part of us that needs to try it on? But one of the things that I think is a practice for me that I've discovered, is whenever I'm afraid of anything, or is something difficult is coming? All things are possible, but none are yet true. And so while I need to say what if, what if, then I need to come back to what I know in the moment, will not live out there in the fear. But to come back and go, okay, okay. But what I do know is this, and we're not there yet. So always returning to the moment we're standing on because even if the moment we're in is one of difficulty or pain, it is known. It is known, and it will evolve. So that's what I think that's a practice of, yes, try things on. But not I've learned that fear is something to be moved through, not obeyed.

So if I went, I'm afraid, if I asked my fear, what should I do? And they'll say, Oh, I thought you'd never asked, be more afraid. So I don't ask my fear. I acknowledge my fear. And let let me tell you this wonderful story about fear and pain. It's an ancient, anonymous teaching story from India. There's my master and apprentice always. And the truth is that the master in this case, is very annoyed by his apprentice because all he does is complain, complain, complain. So the master says to the apprentice, I want you to get a handful of salt, put it in a glass of water and bring it to me quietly. So he does and the master says, well, drink, takes a drink. He spits it out. Now, a master says what's the matter? And he says, oh, it's bitter. Master says I want you to get the same exact Have the amount of salt, carry it in your hands and follow me quietly. And he does in the master leaves into a lake. And he says, put the salt in the lake. And he does. The Master says drink and he kneels down and He scoops up water and it dribbles down his chin. And the master says, well, and the apprentice says it's fresh. And the master looks at the apprentice and says, stop being a glass become a lay. Stop being a glass, become a lake. That's an ancient, hundreds of years, all anonymous teaching a story. And I think what it says or why I tell it is that everyone gets their hand full assault, everyone gets their amount of pain, their amount of fear, we can't eliminate that. But we can right size it. And so when faced with fear and pain or a situation like you're in how can we enlarge our sense of things so we can right size, the pain or fear. So if we don't, we will stay small pain and fear will be more acute, and will grow bitter.

So the question is the practice question is, what experiences relationships and practices can help you enlarge your sense of things, when you meet pain and fear? So you might listen to the story and say, Oh, well, being last is not a good thing. I won't do that. Well, yes, yesterday will is But will I? Well, that's how pain and fear say hello. But we don't have to stay that way. And so our personal practice, like what do you do when you refer to you read that favorite passage that touches your heart? Do you listen to that piece of music? Do you call up your dearest friend? Do you cook a meal? Do you garden? Do you go for a walk in nature or stand by the sea? So what are the things that are in our toolbox? So the next time, pain and fear surprise us, we can turn and enlarge our sense of things.

Jannecke Øinæs 17:20

That does make sense. And it's also very healing, I feel like just speaking about it, like acknowledging that is there like you're saying, I don't have to talk or like ask my fear what to do, necessarily. But acknowledging that is there, it doesn't need to go away, like I'm going to get rid of it just going to feel good all the time. But the to move through it, like you were saying, and like sort of speaking of this, but your book is called falling down and getting up. And in a way that title to me was a bit healing right there. Because sometimes is our society, especially in Scandinavia, it is this notion that we all should be happy all the time and be successful. And if we're falling down or sort of not successful, but you're saying that this is very, very normal. Sort of all, all of us go through some fall downs, sometimes. Now share a little bit about why you chose this title.

Mark Nepo 18:23

Yeah. So and let me start by saying about what you were saying that because I think that's a prevalent around the world is this, you know, demonizing or pathologizing. When we fall down, we're deficient, or we're not seeing or something's wrong. And the truth is that there's a lot of suffering that comes from resisting legitimate suffering. Like we are not, you know, Carl Jung, one of the things he said was that neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering. So, it you know, when we can face and help each other face, the full range of the human experience is by being authentic and caring, we become strong and all so the book falling down and getting up in the title comes from that in Europe, in medieval Europe, when monks were asked how they practice their faith, they said my falling down and getting up. And I love that and it's like, again, you don't have to look for it. But like, you can't escape gravity, we will fall down we will, you know, and, you know, I I have gotten my oldest friend for over 40 years, Robert is children are on godfather to his three kids who are now in their 30s and just turning 40 But when Eli the youngest was just learning to go on a two wheeler bike at all, I happen to be there. And there was a this very parental moment loving moment between his mother and father, before he first tried to ride the two wheeler and his mother said, Well, I want to run alongside, so he doesn't fall. And Robert said, well, well fall, and I want to be there and help him get back up. And I think that that's a loving thing. Both both things are wonderful. And so when I was looking into the book, I think that if we back up enough over a lifetime, falling down and getting up becomes like a dance. So the question is not how to avoid falling, don't seek it out. But how do we need it. And there are many ways to fall down, you know, not just physically, we can get clear and confused as falling down, we can go through grief, which is falling down. You know, there's all kinds of ways that, you know, we can inadvertently hurt each other and then make amends. So I did learn, you know, it made me think of their other traditions have all kinds of sayings like this in Japanese, there's a proverb that says, fall down seven, get up a. And then I realized that in the Hindu apana shots, which are the anonymous sacred texts, in India, filled with metaphors. There's one that talks about how a caterpillar moves, it punches up, it goes back, and then it inches forward. It bunches up and goes back, then it inches forward. And they say that this is the rhythm of spiritual growth, falling down and getting up. And that made me remember that when I was going from my cancer journey in the hospital, I had a rip, one of one of the surgeries, I had a rib removed from my back, and I woke up in the room. And there was a nurse leaning over me saying, Get out, we're gonna walk. And I said, like, who's gonna walk? And then she leaned in whispered, and she said, two steps forward, one step back, which is the same rhythm of healing, falling down and getting up two steps forward, and one back. So the question is, how do we meet this? How do we what is our rhythm of falling down and getting up as we over a lifetime? And it's not it's, it's natural. It's not unsuccessful or a failure? Or? No, no, not at all.

Jannecke Øinæs 22:54

Now, do you think or believe that we all have some fold downs, because I've heard of the concept of vacation lives. And I don't know if you heard of it, or if you're sort of into that sort of teaching. But I've interviewed many who have had near death experiences, and pre birth memories, who said that some or channelers will have said that sometimes, you know, at so could choose a vacation life, with not so many contrasts and challenges. What do you think about that concept?

Mark Nepo 23:32

Well, I honestly, I think it's denial. I think the human the human journey is both you know, you've heard the expect proverb, Is the glass half full or half empty? It's always both. It's always both. Oh, it's this. There's always light and dark. There's all and dark is an evil, it's just dark. You know, it's always been a human being being a spirit in a body and time on Earth. We involves struggle, which is not bad. It just is. And so this idea that we can manifest only good thing, so always stay positive. No, no, I think, I think that is denial of the full breadth of what it is to be here. And we don't have to choose suffering. And we don't have to. We do have choices at some point of, you know, what we can do with what we've you know, we're, we're more than what is we have to face what has happened to us, but we're more than what is done to us. And by the same token, we can't run from life. We can't run from death. The only way I feel to be fully here is to feel everything you know, Rilke of the great poet Rilke, aka, he said, let everything happen. In beauty and terror, no one feeling is final? Keep going. Keep going, I think that life has been made just difficult enough that we need each other to ensure the journey of love.

Jannecke Øinæs 25:15

And that makes sense. Could you speak a little bit to how, or maybe have some thoughts around or can share how yourself are sort of managing to deal with all the horror that's going on in the world. And I've been thinking a lot about this, that I see people around me handle it better than me, sort of they watch the news. And then they're okay afterwards. And I watch the news. And I'm devastated. Yeah. And I haven't yet found that balance and how to sort of accept that there's horrors going on in Israel and Gaza and everything. And then Ukraine, when you hear those terrible stories, it's like I lose lifeforce. And a part of me wants to protect myself, and I'm being a bit personal here. And then it's sort of easier now to look at the news. But then I feel like I'm ignoring it. And then I'm thinking, Okay, this is my work. You know, I want to enlighten the world with these interviews with amazing teachers like yourself, but still, like, personally, I sort of don't find that way to handle it. Do you? Can you speak to that?

Mark Nepo 26:38

Yes. Yeah. So first off, it's a struggle for everyone. I struggle with it too. I don't have answers. But let me speak to it. And I think this is a challenge for every life, and every age, and it does speak more, again, to this sense, do we face life? Or do we turn from it or try to deny it, I think there's nothing wrong with you at all, because it affects you. That means that you're fully alive. And that matters when we can turn from it. And yet, at the same time, we don't we can't drown in it. And this is a challenge for every, every person on earth, regardless of the age that we live in. So first, let me just say, back up and say that. I think that, you know, when we look at the horrors that are happening, and the difficulties that are happening, humanity is like a global body. So take my body physically. If I have one more healthy cell than toxic, I'm considered healthy. I'd like a lot more. As long as I have one. I'm I'm on the healthy side. Well, I think humanity is a global body and every soul is a cell in that body. So in addition to the actual actions we can take, to relieve suffering. Being a healthy soul helps keep humanity healthy and not disease. So even conversations like we're having matter. So when we look at these, at these horrible things, I think that we see, when we are open hearted and authentic. We do become conduits of compassion. And yes, we feel the terrible things that are happening around the world as we should and so I can feel sadness, that's not mine personally, I can feel troubled now. Now let's let's talk for a moment about worldwide 24/7 media. So our challenge I think, is how do we stay open to the suffering of others without laying around down by it and on the other side is how can we not transcend out of here? And and go on as if nothing happened? No, there's a corridor of aliveness in the middle that each person I think in our in our authenticity has to find where we are touch and care about life all over. But we're not ground powerless by it. So when we can veer to one extreme or the other we can look at be numb and look at the news and go oh, that's nice. Let's go get ice cream. Or we can simply solid paralyzed in the heart ache that we can funk and neither extreme doesn't say any good and being human will, will spill into one or the other. But that's that. How do we come back? What's in our toolbox in our relationships and our practices to bring us back to the Carta? Of, of aliveness. So So with 24/7 Media, and I'll go back to 911, to as an example, years ago, my wife and I were traveling in Montreal, when, when the towers were struck, and, and we actually were packing to come home. And we saw it that morning on the TV in the hotel room. Now we all know, all over the world, we've seen the image of that of those planes going into those towers hundreds of times, the only value of that is it 100 Different people see it once and take it into their heart, you and I don't need to see it 100 times. And so, you know, part of the problem with constant media is that we see tragedy so much, that it numbs us. And it's part of our practice to say, I have that in my heart, I don't need to see it over and over and over again. I'm able to feel it and internalize it. So I can be an active citizen of the world.

Jannecke Øinæs 31:26

Yeah, that makes sense to me. I was just thinking of those who are suffering from depression. I've suffered from that as well. And I have many people writing me saying that they are depressed. And for me, it was the spiritual thoughts and the spiritual path that really helped me out of it that I saw that there was something else. And I can assume that many people have contacted you also, who are depressed and feeling nothing. And it's so interesting with depression, because we come down to this light to have a light to lift up lifeforce. And then all of a sudden, it feels like you just shut down and feel nothing. And everything is just gray. Like I remember the sensation. I'm curious to if you have any thoughts, so why certain people experience sort of no light in this depressional state?

Mark Nepo 32:28

Well, and again, I don't have answers, but let me speak to it. I think, you know, I think that one of the things that happens, and let's look at as a metaphor, before I talk about that, not so clouds. So one of the challenges for all of us is, you know, the sun is always still shining above the cloud. So often we have, again, these extreme responses. Well, if you know the the positive outlook, the vacation outlook, the turn away, Outlook says, Oh, well forget about the clouds. They're not important. Don't you realize the sun's shining? It's okay. And the other is, I can't see the sun. I start to question if it's still there. And I live only under the clouds, which is real. Under the clouds, it's damp, it's wet, it's cold, it's dark. And the challenge of an open heart and how we help each other again, the glass is half full and half empty. Both are always true, the reality of living under a cloud cover is real. And the sun has never stopped changing. And so I think often depression comes when through sometimes through no fault of our own, because it is also biochemical. We, we feel so far away from the light, that you start to feel like well, this is all there is. And I think one of the hardest things when people feel depression is that kind of out of reach through it, how to reach out because it often feels like you can't So depression I've learned it's not just about sadness, but a weightiness, a heaviness that somehow prevents you from Oh, you know, it seems like getting out of the house is a you is you know, you might as well try to go to China you can help. And, and so again this this notion of, of whenever possible. Well first off, it is also biochemical and if if you know we're blessed to have medicines that can help relieve some of the weightiness so we can do the inner work. And then I think they go hand in hand. And so I think also that there is another kind of source of depression, which is what we were talking about earlier that if we refuse to feel what is ours to feel, we wind up hovering in a place of an old feeling. So that's where fear makes us so afraid of feeling that we lose access to feeling which makes it worse. I believe we even if a feeling is difficult, it's worse not to feel at all. And so if I'm afraid, and I feel like I need help, this is another example of how we need each other. So if I have a feeling I'm afraid to feel, but I kind of know if I don't feel it'd be worse. But I don't know how to do it, I need to reach out to you as my friend and say, you know, can you come over and help me because I'm starving? You know, one of the chapters in the new book falling down and getting up is a chapter I call them the endless vowels. And these are four simple vows that helped us throughout the ages. Anytime we've engaged in any of these four vows. I think they always return us to a life of feeling and a larger life of spirit. And what matters in the four vows are Help. Thank you. I'm sorry. And, I love you.

Jannecke Øinæs 36:36

That was similar to that. pono pono. Have you heard that?

Mark Nepo 36:41

Yes, yeah.

Jannecke Øinæs 36:43

Yeah, that's beautiful. Yeah, I think it's very wise, what you're saying about we need each other, that we're this life is sort of constructed in a way that we actually need to reach out to each other. I'm very interested in what you said about the cloud and depression, because that's the way I was feeling it. It was like it was a cloud. And then all of a sudden, it disappeared. Like, from time to time, it started to disappear. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, I it was like, yeah, like it was never there. And so I started to work with my ego to sort of let it know, every time I felt depressed again, but but it might disappear, the cloud might disappear, know that this won't last forever. Yes, temporary state of being.

Mark Nepo 37:35

Well, that's one of the hard things also about being human is that we tend naturally, to extrapolate and make what we're going through a world view. So if I am in pain than the world's a painful place, if I am afraid, the world's a fearful place, you know, if I'm broken the world's broken place, and, you know, I learned during my cancer journey, again, not through any wisdom on my part. But through a very difficult passage that to be broken is no reason to see all things as broken. And while if I'm broken, I need the company of those who know what it's like to be broken. I need everything whole to heal. And when I'm afraid, I need the company of those who know what it is to be afraid. But I need everything saved for thinking, you know. And so thank God, everything isn't just my experience. Because it's, you know, we We rightfully talk in the modern world about diversity as as ethnic diversity or racial diversity. And, but not but but and there is a deeper spiritual diversity of life that is healing. And that's also why we need to be open to everything. So an example would be a water. Water we know is made of hydrogen and oxygen, h2o. I can't say to you, could you give me a glass of the hydrogen please. Because even if you can separate it, it would no longer be water and no longer be healing or life giving. And so we need to let everything in and help each other. Move through the difficulty, and celebrate and share the things that are healthy and whole.

Jannecke Øinæs 39:44

Make sense? Beautiful. I would like to jump over to something else. And I'm using myself as an example here. Because I know that you were very driven when it came to being a poet and writing and then it sort of changed in you I don't remember what words you use, there was like an interview I saw with you. And it's sort of identified a bit with that, because I've also been very driven. And I've felt that I haven't found my purpose would wisdom from north and I'm went from being a musical theatre artist in Norway, like a child star, I lost my voice. And now I found like a deeper voice and all that. And now, like after I've been doing this for a long time, I sort of feel like very contempt in life, and like this peaceful place where I'm just enjoying living, and I'm not so driven anymore. And it doesn't mean that I don't want to continue because I love what I'm doing. It's just sort of I just don't have that hunger anymore. And I'm wondering if that's wrong, like it? Shouldn't that be there? And what's the next Shun? There'll be a next? Like, I'm just 43. Like, if I have, hopefully a lot more years to live. So where's that next, you know, purpose or step? Or is it okay, like, Is this part of life that maybe I'm just going to enjoy things I've built?

Mark Nepo 41:10

Yeah, I think for me, and I think that again, this is not a problem. It's, it's a good evolution, transformation. Because, and again, let me go back to that moment for me, or it wasn't a moment, it was a long passage. But before my cancer journey, I was driven, I was a driven, young poet. And I hope that if I worked hard enough, and was true enough, maybe I'd write one or two great poems, hopefully, well, then I almost died and forget, then I was in the hospital and forget writing great poems, I needed to discover true poems that would help me live. And now all these years later, I just want to be the poem. And so what happened to me was that this is a metaphor, a water metaphor. But being driven, was like the rush of a strong river. And you can hear, you know, in a strong river, you can hear it moving, roaring downstream, and against its banks, it's churning. And it's, and you know, so that was the first way, I think it's the first way we understand our passion and our energy. But what happened to me was, and you know, when I woke up on the other side, and I actually felt like, like, you're saying, My Drive was gone. And it was very confusing and disorienting, because I thought I lost my gift. But what I discovered over months was, I was now drawn to things I wasn't driven, which was actually deeper and freer, and more joyful. So my inner creative energy was the same, if not more, but it was quieter. And because I was used to only hearing in one way, I thought I'd lost it. But it was more like that river, when the river reaches the mouth of the sea. It doesn't the river and the force of the river doesn't disappear. It goes deeper and joins the rest of the water. And so it's quieter. And it's more it goes and it has more room to move. And to go in different places. So when you're saying that, your view and it's also as I was saying that, where there is no there, there's only here. Well, that causes us to stop chasing things. So we think that chasing things, and my dog just came in and

Jannecke Øinæs 43:56

Yeah, and so it.

Mark Nepo 43:59

We think when we're chasing things that that gives us a signal, wow, I've got a lot of energy, I've got a purpose. This is all wonderful. And it's fine. And it is but as we grow, we join more with life we go deeper. And it's the energy is still there, but it's more subtle. And, and I have found the freedom of being drawn to things is that, you know, so when I was young, I had a plan to write certain books. Well, now, if I have an idea for a book, it's more than I am discovering the books, and I am on a journey to discover what matters. And then and then retrieve it. Rather than I'm going to create this out of nothing, which is the Western way of the artists playing God. You know, I think we're in our explorers. And so, you know, the the creative Trail and the trail of service is in, in following what I said earlier about being what is heartening, you know, there's a month Ramana Maharshi, was a great Hindu sage. And one of the things he said was to try to save the world, before liberating yourself is like carpeting the earth rather than where he sandals. So this is the inextricable link between inner work and service. So I don't think that I think that, you know, this is not the world of, if we if we lose what we call initial ambition. That's, that's not a problem. It's a transformation. And you're to guard the Swedish philosopher, Danish Danish philosopher, excuse me. One of the things he said is that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. So not anxiety, like, I'm gonna go to the dentist, I don't want to, but the disequilibrium that things are changing. So like when I when when the drive toward things dissipated. And, and I was, I was confused. That was the anxiety, the is the dizziness of freedom until I discovered I was drawn to things more deeply.

Jannecke Øinæs 46:35

That makes sense to me. And I'm glad you spoke to that. Because I can notice in myself that I'm sort of still looking for that ideal way of being is not funny. Instead of just being I'm like trying to be something that I've read in a spiritual book, or heard in an interview, and a part of me knows that it's not about that young gap, it's still like a part of me wants or my ego is trying to find that perfect way of being. And then I cannot go against what's happening inside of me. You know, that the change and the transformation that you call it that's happening, I can work against that it's, I can't force you know, the drive to come back. You can't.

Mark Nepo 47:29

No and that's good that you can't and so there's a big difference between you know, the word perfect. The aim for perfection is, I think, is a mis education. And, you know, in the original, there's a wonderful book by Neil Douglas plots called prayers for prayers for the cosmos. And what he did, he was a link, he The linguist, he went back and took the sayings of Jesus, and translated them from the original Aramaic language is believed he spoke and he found several Miss translations. So, and perfect was one of them. It's said in one of Jesus sayings supposedly Be thou Perfect. Well, the original translation that was translated into English but the original Aramaic word didn't mean perfect, it meant the whole hearted fork in the road in 1000 years of education, being halted. So to be perfect, is to try to eliminate flaws and it removes us from life. To be wholehearted, you have to be thorough. You have to live, you have to follow what's heartening and be where we are, so that the journey of life is not from here to there. But from in to out. So let me give you one more metaphor, which is of a flower we take this for granted. So flowers, whether it's a wild flower, or when you plant, a seed starts underground. And it feels this immense let's call to grow toward a force it doesn't yet know light. It has no idea what light is. It's underground. And it grows toward this unknown force. And it breaks ground and now it grows in two directions. It grows shoots and roots. And when it grows strong enough it starts to show its flower. And what does the flower do when it blossoms it literally reveals its inner beauty by turning itself inside out. And it does this without going anywhere. This is a great metaphor for the transformation that we go through being a spirit in a body and time on Earth.

Jannecke Øinæs 50:11

Yeah. I mean, just exploring what's going on inside is just such a journey. And like you're saying, it's not there, it's here. And not working against that, not resisting that. But like a river that is just, you know, moving like, it's almost like, I'm trying to catch up with what's going on inside of me and is so mysterious. You know, this has been very healing, to speak with you. And I felt it was the last time as well. And I have three questions that I ask all my guests. The first one is what is self love to you?

Mark Nepo 51:25

Well, happiness, you know, I have a different, so I'm going to use another water image. Happiness is one of the 1000 human moods. So you know, there are 1000 waves in the ocean. So imagine that those are all different human moods. I like to be happy, but it's kind of like ice. There's an ice cream. It's wonderful. But I as I get older, I'm more interested in joy, which is the depth of the ocean that holds all the way.

Jannecke Øinæs 51:58

Makes sense? And what is the deeper meaning of life from your perspective?

Mark Nepo 52:03

Oh, well, we could do a whole nother session on that. But I think the deeper meaning of life is simply to live as fully as possible. I think the soul just wants our heart to be as alive as possible. And the way that if you keep a fire, you throw wood to keep the fire going. I think the soul wants us to throw care onto the fire of our heart. And it doesn't matter what you care about, as long as you care. And so it is for us to be as alive as possible, as caring as possible. For all the days that we're here.

Jannecke Øinæs 52:53

Beautiful. And now this book is out and what else are you working on right now if people want to reach out.

Mark Nepo 53:02

So I'm I am teaching. Actually, I'm in February, I'll be teaching in Mexico, you can find that on my website at the modern elder Academy teaching a week in February, which is a very wonderful place. And, and, and also my next book. coming out next year is a book on friendship, spirit and friendship that is called you don't have to do it alone. The power of friendship is beautiful.

Jannecke Øinæs 53:35

Your 26th book! Amazing!. But thank you so much, Mark. This has been a joy as always, thank you for doing what you're doing and for coming to the show today.

Mark Nepo 53:47

You're so welcome. And you know, thank you. It's great to be with you and I look forward to next time too.

Well, self love is honoring the portion of Universal Spirit that each of us is blessed to carry while we're here. And by honoring it, we let we can call that soul, we can call that inner voice we can call there's 1000 names for it. But by honoring that portion of Universal Spirit, we can let it be our teacher.

Jannecke Øinæs 51:21

Yes. And what is happiness to you?

Transcribed by

Jack Morrigan – Official site


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