Spirituality & Health Magazine

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2015 November-December

5 Questions for Mark Nepo

Diagnosed with cancer almost 30 years ago, author Mark Nepo shares his transformative healing experience in his new book Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness.

1. What compelled you to reflect on this significant time in your life after so many years?

One of the mysteries of being human is that healing is a process that never ends. And I remain committed to surfacing the lessons of transformation as they continue to shape the lens that life has given me. Since everyone endures some form of suffering, the stories and lessons here are for everyone.

2. How can an open heart alleviate suffering amid the reality of so much pain?

As fish must keep their gills open in order to survive moving through the water, humans must keep their heart open in order to move through the difficult and wondrous river of experience. Letting life move through an open heart is how we make medicine out of our suffering.

3. In what ways does a crisis like illness deepen your relationship to God?

Obstacles in general unravel the way we see the world. For me, having cancer scoured my lens of perception, landing me in a deeper sense of living. Being reduced to what matters by suffering and love is how we meet God in the daily world.

4. How does poetry play a role in healing?

Poetry is the authentic expression that removes whatever is in the way. Being real in this way is always healing.

5. You are often referred to as a spiritual guide to many. Who are your spiritual guides?

I am humbly just making my way like everyone else. At best, we’re just comparing notes on what it means to be here. As for my guides, the Hindu word Upaguru means the teacher that is next to you in this moment. And so, my teachers include the wind, the stranger, and the broken bit of glass in the alley. And among the living, I have been inspired by Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, Abraham Heschel, Howard Zinn, Joel Elkes, and the Chinese teachers Tu Fu and Tung-Shan.