The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
Review by By Pat Weeks
This month many of us will be looking for a special gift to give family members and friends. I would like to recommend a beautiful book, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. It is a perfect book in which to start the new year. (Reverend Ogun referred to it in a recent Sunday talk.) It has deeply insightful reading for each day of the year—each reading contains hard-won truths, stories, and experiences that Mark Nepo offers the reader in hopes that the book will become a “soul friend.” It is beautifully written with profound truths on every page.
His own experiences of a difficult childhood and painful relationship with his parents, his developing and survival from a rare form of lymphoma (losing a rib in the process), and his emerging spirituality have shaped his life and career as a writer, poet, philosopher, and speaker. His daily offerings are truly inspiring in their honesty,
He feels that to live our lives authentically and to stay close to the sacred, we have to give up what no longer works. We all have difficult obstacles in our daily lives, but it is important, he feels, to not to resist that pain but to let it pass right through you. When a butterfly emerges from a cocoon, the cocoon can be released because it has served its purpose. He feels we are all broken open by life, but we can willfully shed what no longer works in order to stay close to the sacred. Rather than dwelling on those experiences in the past that have hurt you, it is important to know that it is those experiences that there are blessings. He says, “I know this to be true. From broken marriages, to losing a rib to cancer, to being laid off after eighteen years of teaching, there has always been a gift waiting for me once the ache and fear and grief have settled.”
He feels that there has been too much time spent in arguing about the primacy of one spiritual path or set of beliefs over another—that the world needs its diversity and that each set of authentic seeking needs to be respected and accepted. (In nature, a bee does not tell other insects that they must follow the bee path of pollinating flowers—but, instead, the bee follows the its own path and lets all other forms of life follow theirs in order the create the individual marvelous, complicated patterns of life that join to create the whole of wondrous being.)
He illustrates his points with great stories. In talking about our wanting everything to be perfect and how it often hinders our ability to take advantage of possibilities, he tells the tale of an Alaskan traveler who wanted to go to Miami, Florida. A trucker stops and offers him a ride and says that he is only going as far as Fort Lauderdale. The traveler turns him down, and the trucker goes on his way, leaving the traveler by the roadside.
In another daily passage, he notes that sometimes he awakens with a dark cloud around his heart and it dulls everything. But just because he can’t make it to the light that day doesn’t mean that the light has vanished. Sometimes faith can be defined by effort to believe in light when we’re covered by clouds. Just because we feel that the sun will never come out again doesn’t mean that the sun has stopped burning in light.
This book gives so many spiritual insights and tools for transformation and are a wonderful addition to one’s day. The daily readings don’t take long and truly serve, as the title implies, as a book of awakening.