book club 21 small

Virtual book club

drinking from the river of light: the life of expression by Mark Nepo

Post 1

Welcome to week 1. In case you missed it, here’s the link to watch the hello Zoom from last week. It’s certainly not a requirement, but you’ll meet some of your fellow book clubbers and hear me explain the process. If you’re feeling confused about anything, I suggest checking it out.

CLICK HERE for video. Password: 73rtJ+3n The video will stay active for 5 days.

A note about spirituality/religion

Each of us will have our own take on the spiritual/religious aspects of Mark’s work. All points of view are welcome to be discussed related to the material. Please refrain from proselytizing.

Okay! HERE WE GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

But where, even, to begin?

One thing I loved about these first few vignettes is how Mark shines a light on the act of creativity itself, and why it is so important to life. I speak, far less eloquently, in my art journaling classes about the joy of creating, how most of us cherished writing, drawing, singing, dancing, when we were young, but then we grew up. Somewhere along the line we heard and believed the lie that creating is a waste of time, or something to be done only after all the other commitments of day to day life are complete. Or, we may have been told that our art sucks. Asked why we colored our precious tree purple instead of brown and green, “like it’s supposed to be.” An authority figure criticized our artistry and launched an arrow straight into heart, igniting the need for self-protection.

Often, students who come into class and face those fears, grabbing paint and spreading it across the paper, cry.

This is a step towards reclaiming what was lost along the way. I view the journey we’ll be taking together over the next several months as an extension of this same process. We’ll be brave together, taking risks and dismantling a few more layers of self-protection. How? By expressing.

If you stop expressing, you may still walk around and buy groceries and pay the bills, but you will not be alive.

Mark Nepo

So then, as basic human truths go, prioritizing creative acts is lifesaving, which means we already have permission to organize our daily, weekly, or monthly schedules to give creativity equal weight with other tasks. This feels liberating, and scary!

Who are we if we stop buying into the lies we’ve been sold about what’s required to be “okay” or “worthy” in this society?

Many of you know the basics of my story, the spine of my memoir. My daughter–at 13 years old–experienced a significant mental health crisis. In addition to fearing for her life, I was overwhelmed with feelings of responsibility. I did everything I could to try to make her get better. Instead, she got sicker. Our lives spiraled out of control into chaos. In the middle of the night, on a gurney in an Emergency Room, snuggled next to my wounded and hurting girl, I was gutted by the realization that saving her was beyond my control. She was on her journey, and I was on mine. I would do what I could, but the rest was not up to me. Later still, I realized that the path to acceptance would be paved by my healing work.

(She is doing great now, just fyi!)

It would take a while, but eventually I could identify and embrace the gift in our suffering, find the “cinder of life-force.” Two primary tools I used to wake up were connecting to mindful spirituality and developing my creative art journaling practice.

Using these tools, on a few rare occasions, during meditation and art journaling, I was able to access, inside myself, the “unencumbered spot” Mark references. This is how I know what he shares is real, not theoretical rhetoric.

To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it.

Mark Nepo

I know…it’s like, “Huh?”

But this is the true “us,” the “real” us. This is who we are underneath the falsehoods of ego. This is where we are all the same–the seat of our common humanity. We don’t need to do anything or be anything to become worthy or to earn our place in the world. From this spot inside issues a wellspring of peace.

I journaled during the worst of my daughter’s illness. Throughout those pages I pined for peace, for me and for her. Where would I find it? It was “out there” somewhere, and I wasn’t going to give up until I knew where to go or what to do to have it. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it wasn’t “out there,” and never had been. I was looking in the wrong place!

The final vignette of my assignment is What It Means to See. I love the layers of this section, the way Mark writes about actual sight and then our interpretation of what we see, and how we distract ourselves when we see what we hope for instead of what is actually there. If you’ve ever been in therapy (and trust me friends, I’ve sat on a very long line of couches), you learned that you look at life through a pair of goggles that are uniquely yours, that are designed and built based on your life experiences.

Every interaction we have filters through our goggles, and our responses are colored by that filtering. This is partly a gift and partly a curse because our goggles are bolted into place. Similar to the way that pure spot inside of us gets buried under layers of dirt and grime, so too, over time, do our goggles fog up. An important function of therapy is getting help to defrost our goggles and clarify our view. A shocking amount of time, we see what our goggles want us to see instead of what is really there.

Waking up to my blurry version of reality was an important early step in healing. I noticed how much I was judging myself and, by extension, other people. Sometimes I knew I was doing it, but other times I didn’t, especially in regard to people I love, especially in regard to my daughter. I’d fallen into the trap of expectations. She’d be “normal,” whatever the fuck that meant, healthy, smart, and accomplished. She’d grow up, graduate, get married, and start a family of her own. Of course she’d do all these things. They’re what people do.

But did she have a say in the matter? What of neurodivergence that might have rendered some of these achievements impossible? And what of the pain caused–mine and hers–by perceived failures? Writing was a critical component of finding and letting go of what wasn’t serving my or her best interests.

All of this is to say that I’ve had personal experience with some of what Mark writes, and I’ve learned a bunch of lessons the hard way. I’m excited to dive into this opportunity to explore more of my blind spots and open my heart to invitations that will be appear in the coming months. Through seeing–what each of us writes and how we respond–we’ll receive insight and wisdom greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s what community building is about.

What struck you about these early pages?


Schedule reminder to date:

  • Week #2 The Origins through What it Means to Perceive, Sue Schwartz Sept. 9
  • Week #3 To See One Thing in Another through As a Tuning Fork, Maria Rodgers O’Rourke Sept. 16
  • Week #4 The Inner Experience of Truth through Feelings Are Paints, Tammi Scott, Sept. 23
  • Week #5 <<<Break>>> pause, breathe, and catch up, Sept. 30

I will make the next round of assignments by random selection and announce them soon. (See below for the spearheading guidance.)


Art prompts (optional): If you were able to identify a thread, can you in some way depict it? Or, can you use images to depict the essence of your “spot of inwardness” on one piece of paper and then, on another piece, images of what, for you, tarnishes that spot?


sept 2021

P.S. It’s Self-Care September!

If you’ve been here before, you know I’m a huge advocate for making self-care a lifestyle rather than a to-do list item. Today is 9/2. The beginning of Self-Care September. I borrowed this calendar from actionforhappiness.org. I hope you’ll check it out, download it, review it.

We probably won’t be able to do each day’s suggestion, but how will we feel by the end of the month when we do even a few?

Self-care. It isn’t selfish!

Spearheading Guidance

One last time, here’s the guidance on spearheading. If you need it, you can return to this first post for review.
1. If you are spearheading the chapter for the week, you must email your comments to me at traceyyokas@gmail.com by Wednesday morning. As far as length goes, if you’re a writing type person, try to keep your post under 1,000 words. If you’re not a writing type person that means up to about 3-4 pages, double spaced. To find out how many words your post contains, look in the lower left hand corner of the document. Microsoft Word keeps track there of word count.

2. Here are some things to keep in mind, when your turn comes, if you feel stuck. (You do NOT have to use these questions. They are suggestions to help you get started.)

Does the passage resonate related to your life? How so?

Pick a specific passage to discuss that struck you as significant or interesting. What was memorable, or confusing, about it and why?

What have you learned from a particular section? How has it broadened your perspective and how do you plan to incorporate into your life? Do you see something new in the ordinary?

How does what Mark writes in this section coincide with how you were raised or what you were taught? What does this section teach you about “the life of expression?”

3. I know it can be scary. Remember not to share anything too personal and think how good you’ll feel when you try something new! Every one of us will have nerves about our post. You’re not alone!

33 Comments

  1. I can relate to Nepo’s quote that Tracey included above, about how if you stop expressing, you aren’t fully alive. For those of you who don’t know me yet, tragedy stuck my family in early 2016 when my husband of 30 years died after a long illness. I felt grief. I felt anxious about what my future would look like. I felt comfort from friends and relatives. But sometimes I felt numb. At times, it was easier to feel nothing than everything.

    At some point I knew I was at a crossroad, where I needed to figure out how to move forward without falling into a depression.

    It is not a coincidence that some of the greatest strides we make in our personal growth come out of tragedy.

    I am grateful that my path became clear pretty quickly. Tracey and I had already signed up for a mixed-media journaling class that was soon to begin. And it was in that class that I felt fleeting moments of joy, when the creative process had overtaken my brain. It was enlightening to realize and it gave me hope that I’d be ok. So Much Hope.

    Creating art wasn’t new to me, but I’d given up on what I thought was folly when my husband got diagnosed with cancer. Thank goodness I came back to my creative side. It was like mediation for me, being in the zone, straying, getting back out of my head…

    As Tracey writes, we must nuture our creative side as part of our self-care. We can’t look at creative endeavors as simply a reward for getting everything else checked off of our to-do lists.

    1. Thank you, Sue, for diving in and sharing about your journey. I think I also should have said in my post that when we can let go of judging the process and the product creating is FUN!! I tried to think of a way I could more adequately express what sensing or feeling that spot of inwardness is like, but I bet everyone experiences it differently…where in the body it’s felt and how that feeling manifests. As to waking up due to tragedy or suffering, yes. But it sure sucks, even after all that changes because of that suffering.

      Yay for HOPE.

      And even I forget to prioritize self-care! Like everything else, the acts of self-care that are the most meaningful are as personal as a fingerprint. And, for me, this book club is one of them!

      Thanks Sue

    2. Sue, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Although we did not have anywhere near 30 years together, I lost my first husband when I was 29. Although he had been chronically ill, it was unexpected. I am 45 now, but that loss put me on a journey of deep self-discovery that I am still on today. I am so happy for you to have rediscovered your creative side and feel honored to be sharing this journey through Mark’s book with you. OXO

  2. I dare say that we all have met an experience that has what Nepo calls “torque” in our lives. It is that experience that pulls us “from all….goals and routines and aspirations.” Nepo says that after his cancer diagnosis he “was left in the raw, uncertain simplicity of being alive and trying by any means possible, to stay alive.”

    For fourteen years, I sailed along in my second marriage, . I believed I’d found the perfect man for me; I knew about the destructive forces that broke up his two previous marriages but felt confident that these had been resolved.

    “After all,” my ego assured me, “I’m better than the past wives. I deserve more. I’m smarter. My standards are higher. Those things won’t happen to me.”

    It took a while for reality to catch up with my ego. Then, at dusk on a damp February day, reality hit me head on. Like Nepo, I was reduced to thinking consciously about how to manage my next breath. How to stay alive.

    The carefully formed tapestry of my life included some hideous, hairy threads that didn’t fit my picture at all. They’d been woven in from underneath in a subtle/skillful way for years – invisible from where I’d stood. Now I couldn’t deny them. How on earth could this ugliness become part of my bigger tapestry? Was the whole thing ruined?

    I think what happened next was once called a “breakdown.” Trauma blocked my inner light. For weeks, I didn’t eat. Didn’t sleep. I battled migraines. I missed work. I obsessed. I passed out in the bathroom of a Burger King. (For clarity: no, I wasn’t there to dive into a whopper.) That “torque” experience landed me in the ER twice.

    Nepo says that “we mistakenly shut down as a form of protection, though this only incapacitates us more.”

    In that shutdown mode, I felt ferocious anger. I was angry that the actions of any other person had pulled me from my own aspirations, had diverted me from being my own self. My body felt damaged. My spirit felt damaged. I feared that my “self” was gone forever. My very soul needed time and space to recover.

    I learned to meditate. To pray without using words. To use music as a healing force. To give voice to my pain on the written pages of journals and workbooks. (And in some damn good therapy besides.) To admit and accept my own raw emotion and vulnerability and sensitivity – no small task for a woman who’d always taken the lead, been the strong one.

    I picked up the thread of healing and followed it, hand over hand and step by step. I learned a thing or two about those forces that unite us and understand now that all of us have stood nose to nose with pain. With torque. I am human. I was not and am not “above it” or exempt from that human experience.

    1. Thank you, Lynn, for sharing this with us. I was just thinking about this idea that we shut down as a form of protection. I wish this wasn’t so, but I think so many of us do it because we were never shown that not doing so can be safe, depending, of course, on who we’d count on and what type of help we’d receive. I suppose, though, that traversing part of the journey alone is what makes no longer going it alone so meaningful and powerful. Thank you again for this touching and inspiring post. xo

    2. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, Lynn. As you say, all of us have experienced emotional pain. I am glad you found several ways to work through the trauma. Hopefully, working through a trauma makes us stronger and better adept at dealing with the next one, as well as feeling more capable in everyday life.

  3. Hi, Tracey and all our book club members,

    This river runs deep! I’m enjoying his insights so much, and feel my breath and heart rate slow down as I read.

    My favorite exercise so far is the one on page 20 where you take a walk and detail in your journal all the forms of creativity you see along the way. Last evening, I walked in our subdivision, where most houses have a similar design and style. It’d be easy to dismiss them as “cookie cutter,” and I supposed that was true when they were built over 50 years ago. Now, many of the homes have personal touches that set them apart from the others on their block. One of my favorite ones has transformed their front porch into a sitting area. I love the rich colors of the cushions and pillows. String lights give it a festive feel. I don’t personally know the owners, but I feel as if I could just walk right up and settle in for a glass of wine or cup of tea and some great conversation! I’d love to sit on that porch and write. I’ve created a spot on our back deck, inspired by this neighbors’ porch.

    Which brings me to my favorite quote, so far:

    “And when the same red bird seems to be following you, though that seems impossible because you’re seeing it in different cities, the unexpected utterance is telling you to stop running.” – p. 12

    My best days start with a cool morning on my deck, listening to the birds singing.

    1. Oh Maria..I was there with you on last night’s walk, looking around your neighborhood, taking in the sights and colors and textures. Isn’t it amazing what reminding ourselves to see can do! And knowing your love of birds…YES! thank you xo

  4. In reading this material, what came to mind for me is that we are all powerful creators .
    Our thoughts are creative and shape our existence. All minds are active. Anyone who meditates knows this. In my opinion our only choice is to create consciously or unconsciously

    My main outlet for creativity when I was in my teens and twenties was singing and acting. I was a theatre arts major in college with a minor in voice. I dreamed about being a successful performer and actually making a living in show business. I moved to Los Angeles in 1972 in order to pursue this goal. Unfortunately I began to have panic attacks every time I tried to audition. This led me to my first psychotherapist and the beginning of my fascination with the journey within.

    In my early thirties I made the decision to go back to school to become a therapist. This is not what most people think of when they are talking about creativity but for 25 years
    I had the privilege of helping my clients change their lives by changing their minds. Helping others to create more consciously has been the focus of my work.

    I also began journaling in my twenties which I continue to this day. Journaling is a powerful tool for self awareness. It bears witness to my life and feelings, and is a place I can vent, explore and create.

    Most recently I have been art journaling with the help of Tracey. I never thought I could create in this way but it is bringing me much joy. The more I do it the more I love it. It has been a lifesaver during the pandemic. Thank you Tracey for teaching me so many wonderful techniques and helping me to create in this way.

    1. Thank you, Diane, for this touching comment! And I agree 100% about creating consciously or unconsciously. I mean..I think that’s the main “thing,” right? And the powerful difference it makes in our lives, and by extension the lives of people we care about, when we’re creating consciously. And I love that you point out that your career in psychotherapy was creative. It’s such an important reminder that we get to determine what’s creative for us..traditional stuff is, of course, but anything that ignites our passions in this way is creative. Thanks you!! Wonderful. xoxo

    2. Diane.
      I really relate to your life trajectory and completely agree about creativity in the therapeutic process. We will have to connect a bit.
      Kim P

  5. There is so much rich material to digest in his writing that I feel like I am rushing a bit. This is what has come up for me thus far.
    I was born a seer. I see and feel things at deep levels. Over time those gifts were diminished in myself for various reasons. The end result is a rejection of parts of myself that I let lay dormant for over 20 years. I still squash the parts that scare me. The most important part I locked away was the creative part of myself that loves acting. I did that at age 20.

    I was able to channel some of my gifts into a very rewarding profession. I too am a therapist. And as a therapist I am the tool. And this very much the same as being an actor connected in the moment.
    And yet it is not the same. So about 10 years ago I started doing community theatre again and slowly reclaiming parts of myself. I have a long way to go but I am getting there. It’s easy to let the excuses of life circumstances dictate my choices and not deal with the fear of letting myself just BE who I know deep down I am. And there have been too many life experiences to list here that have reinforced this.
    I don’t know all the layers of the onion this book will unpeel but I look forward to the journey.

    1. Thank you, Kim, for this inspiring comment. And yes! The pattern is emerging as more of us write and say that who we were when we were young, for various reasons, gets squashed or covered over or whatever. Then, this becomes the work..as Mark has written in this book and in other work of his that I’ve read, as Tammi mentioned on our zoom. This moving toward and away, or the untarnishing and retarnishing or whatever words make sense to us. It is a, what? A battle. A struggle. A {fill in the blank} to stay dedicated to the act of reclaiming our authentic self. The older I get the more I agree with Mark that this journey back to ourselves is what matters most. And I agree about the onion layers left to come! xo

      1. Hey Kim,

        It seems like our journey has been similar in many way. I have not yet found my way back to performing but the idea intrigues me. Would love to connect with you further.

  6. Hello everyone. Sometimes a book will come to me just when I need to read it, or it will be a book that I read with great interest and ease. Mark Nepo’s ‘drinking from the river of light’ is both. After a long poetic career Mark Nepo has brought us a distillation of his lifetime of learning how to answer the whys of humankind; a guidebook for his fellow light seekers.

    When I retired in 2017 I left my profession, sold my home, my possessions and moved across the country to be closer to my only daughter, her husband and young family. I longed to be nearer my daughter, spend time with my two grandchildren and help out when and how I could. I bought a motor home and traveled Vancouver Island for two years before settling down in Victoria in the fall of 2019. Looking back on those 2 years I can see clearly now that being rootless, friendless and without work had completely unmoored me. By November of 2019 I was suffering from the aftershock of all this change and drinking far too much in response. Most days I felt generally very unwell physically and mentally. It was time for another big shakeup. It was time to stop drinking and see if I felt better.

    In ways that I could never imagine, recovery has brought me many unexpected gifts. One of these serendipitous gifts has been that I reconnected with my love of poetry. Mark Nepo believes everyone of us is a poet; that poetry can restore us when we have lost our way. He defines poetry as “the authentic life of expression that arises from us when we touch into the depth of life.

    In recovery I learned I had been living a life of distraction. Far from “…the gift of vision.” All while “Yearning to Be”. I agree with Mark. Poetry can save us. My love of poetry is helping me to dig deeper, befriend myself, and listen to my heart. I look forward to where he will lead us next, xx

    1. Welcome Debborah! So glad you’re here…and I completely agree about books (and other things) entering our lives when we’re ready/need them! And thank you for sharing about your journey to date…numbing, which we all do on various levels and in different ways, may be necessary for a while, but is a curse in the long run. I’ve been there, too. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking how much better it is to not feel at all. But it was Brene Brown who taught me that we can’t selectively numb, meaning, we numb the pain but we numb joy too. Ugh! Darn her. Anyway, I’m still a work in progress in that regard. But thank you for sharing how important poetry is to you. I hope you’ll share some with us along the way! xo

  7. Hello Wonderful Ladies,

    I cannot find the right words to express my gratitude for Tracey’s post on fb, this book club and Nepo’s work. His words speak directly to my heart in so many different ways and levels. I feel so grateful. It is such an inspiration! It gave me a thousand ideas of how I can incorporate his wisdom, his beautiful and so eloquently chosen words into the work that I’m doing.

    I meet a lot of people who feel less of themselves because they think they are not creative. In their minds since they are not Picassos, Beethovens or Nepos they are not artistic at all! And I get it, I have been there.
    When I first moved to New York 11 years ago that was one of my goals. Get in touch with my creative self, that I thought it didn’t exist! (Funny enough I ended up marrying an artist and soon realized he is not that different from me.)

    As Nepo says: “For when we practice our own authentic, open form of expression, we all become artists.”

    “For when we express, when we let out what is in, regardless of how, we are drinking from the river of light. And that act, that devotion, allows us to glimpse the fabric of the universe and the web of connection that holds life together. Glimpsing this, we are forever enlivened.”

    It was on my 30th birthday that I received a card saying “IT’S OVER HAPPY 30TH BDAY”.
    OMG I thought, shouldn’t I have all the answers by now? What am I doing with my life? Who am I? Next thing, I am on an airplane flying from Athens, Greece to New York. This is where I will find the answers, I thought. In an 8 million people city, all by myself, my journal was my only friend.

    Ha, I realize now, that I always loved drinking from the river of light. I just wasn’t aware of it..

    For me the river of light runs through all of us. Connects us all with the Creation of all there is, the pure source, the divine energy, the unconditional love.

    “A core purpose of dream, feeling, expression, of art itself, is to return us to the ground of the eternal, unchanging principles that we knew in our soul carried by a self.”

    I now find myself whispering to my 30 year old self:

    “Remember, when you struggle to find answers, just return to the light. This white pure light that runs like a river in all of us.

    Look inside and “If you can’t see what you are looking for, see what’s there. It is enough”

    Just take a big breath in and listen..

    Listen with your ears…

    Feel with your heart deeply feeling..

    And Trust….”

    1. Here, here, Eva! Thank you for this comment! And for sharing some of your story with us. Yes..I agree. It’s so common for us to think if we can’t be the absolute best at something that means the inverse..that we suck and shouldn’t bother. We’ve been sold a bill of goods about how good we’re supposed to be to be able to enjoy something. We’ve also been sold a bill of goods about the fact that our creativity, like almost everything else, can get better with practice. I’ve been watching a documentary about Bob Ross and he believed this 100%. Everyone, with practice, can learn how to paint. It’s not magic. Of course, there will always be capital A artists..those who are born with certain talent..who go on to become masters in a particular genre. But this in no way means that regular old us can’t do those things and get just as much enjoyment and meaning out of them! And how I love what you wrote about taking a breath and listening, feeling and trusting our hearts. It can be scary to do so, but oh the rewards! xo

  8. In these first few chapters/sections of the book there were several ideas to me that were so aspirational about how the act of expression is necessary to really, fully live. One concept that kept returning to me this past week was about “the thread” and trying to identify how I can relate to that and to the world.

    For me, the constant thread that seems to run through my life is defined by traits that represent core values and a way of interacting with the world. These traits or inherent characteristics are a sense of self-efficacy, of calmness and resilience even in times of dire personal lows and challenges. These seem to be strengths that I rely on and look to during times of success and failure to keep the low but constant hum of seeking connectivity with other humans, family, the universe, and paths forward. Mark talks about how we keep our jewel clean, by writing, expressing or listening. For me the most natural and connective of these 3 is listening. Listening to a friend share and confide in me about her feelings and experiences, my kids talking to me about the things they are working through, my husband describing what has his attention, what he is thinking about. Listening at once feels like both receiving and giving. In a more Universal way it would seem to me that the common thread is that of survival, our innate need to push forward and go on.

    The other piece that I am ruminating on is from this quote: “We create because we have to… like anything we devote ourselves to, we will in time become good at it. But we don’t do it to become better. We do it to become whole.” – I really love this! For me the art journaling practice I began in Tracey’s class just about a year ago, it felt freeing and lovely and without judgment. I can also see how this creative time for me helped to fill gaps and spaces in my sense of self that had been damaged by some difficult experiences over the last few years. Pull out the stencils! What color is talking to me today? This is not about getting better as an artist or making something extraordinary. This time spent with these materials and natural light with music playing and good coffee is about seeking wholeness and balance. I love the experimenting aspect and keeping judgmental thoughts at bay. I love feeling emptied out and tired after a huge chunk of weekend day is spent with paint and words and collage imagery. I had no idea how rewarding this journey with art would be.

    1. Love this so much, Julie. I love how you identify that listening is both giving and receiving. I think listening is often underrated because a lot of people don’t know what “real” listening is or how to do it. This isn’t a judgment. Listening, for many of us, is a skill that requires education and practice. The Nami Family to Family class I teach has an entire class on communication. Why? Because doing it well is HARD!!! Like seeing what’s really there instead of what we want to be there. If I’m reading what you wrote “correctly” it seems that you have always been (?) connected with core values. Is this so? If so, I’d sure love to know more about how you think you got that education early on. And yay!! about art journaling and your experience of it. It’s hard for people, and me, sometimes to understand in classes or while reading the the doing of the art isn’t really about the art! I mean, it is but it isn’t. It’s the process of doing it and giving ourselves the space to BE and the space to connect with ourselves and to listen to what our heart is yearning for. What respect we show to ourselves when we wonder..what color today? What stencil? Many of us have insides that are starved for attention…what joy our insides get when we finally give it what it most wants..love and respect! thank you! xo

  9. I so enjoy reading everyone’s comments. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. This is a very deep group of women! Thank you to Tracey for bringing us together to share and support each other.

  10. So much…..I love Nepo’s words and insights, and I also love all of yours. I am so grateful to Tracey for this opportunity. The first reflection – The Thread, although difficult to describe makes so much sense to me after writing about it. I have always known a knowledge, or feeling, or longing within myself. I have not always listened to it, and so I have had to pull myself back to it. I have had to break free from the undertow a few times to get back to myself.

    I have not given writing much of a chance in the past several years. It seems that I ran to it during or following difficult times in my life. Following my divorce, I wrote pages and pages describing my childhood and my beliefs in relationships, marriage, and love. It proved to be extremely healing (of course). Months following my father’s death, I could not seem to come up for air. I went away to a cave (sort of) and wrote for 48 hours. Again, it helped me process my grief. I have written just a tiny bit since, and long to get back to it. This past year has been a doozy for the entire world, and I need to get to writing about my little corner of it.

    This spoke to me “what is not expressed is de-pressed.” I have not honored my creative side, and I am going to commit to putting it on my schedule thanks to Tracey and now all of you.
    Thank you. ❤️

    1. Thank you, Joan. I wrote constantly as a kid. I still have all my diaries! I continued journaling well into my twenties, after I moved here to Ca. I reviewed a bunch of my journal writing while I was writing my memoir, trying to remember/recapture what I was thinking and feeling during certain periods of my life. This was both wonderful (that I had the material) and terrible. I felt so sad for younger me, what I thought, how I felt about myself, things I did. I no longer judge my younger self because I understand where she was coming from, but, in a certain sense, what a waste. As many and you have point out here…I know this is part of the waves coming up and out into the open, but it sure is messy. Like you, now, except for writing the book, I usually only turn to writing in times of extreme duress. I haven’t even been able to get into a routine with Mark’s material, and this is writing I want to do! Interesting, isn’t it…how we can eschew that which we feel calling to us. I cannot wait to see where your creative side takes you! Thank you for sharing. XOXO

  11. I honestly needed to take a break from this book when I was halfway through this section, page 14. I’d forgotten that about Mark Nepo. He’s not someone I can take in daily or read through consistently. At least I can’t with his Book of Awakening.
    Answering the questions about “the thread” of my life shocked and delighted me when I realized my own personal ‘thread’ was exactly what he meant- just written in my own terms/perspective. Expansion and contraction.
    The Invitation to Listen to my Heart took me somewhere both familiar and unexpected. It’s not a story I wish to keep going back to yet it’s what came up for me. That was a lot of writing and processing. More than I wanted to be doing at this point in the book.
    That led to strong reticence in going forward with his other “invitations”. Which is not how I usually respond or react but I listened to myself and stopped. I did finish the section last night but I had no desire to answer or address his invitations. So I haven’t.
    Two things struck me and stuck with me:
    #1 may be the very reason I stopped in the middle. In section, The Life of Expression pg xv he writes ” I have also discovered this book is not meant to be read all at once.” He goes on to urge us to read and consider, then stop and explore…
    I find myself doing this with a lot of books lately, especially books of poetry and meditations.

    #2 In the section Yearning to Be pg 19 he writes “Yet, despite the press of our ambitions, excellence is more a by-product of immersion. A dolphin breaks surface to taste the air. It doesn’t leap to be an acrobat.” and “Immerse yourself and live. More than accomplished artists, the world needs impassioned creators to dive and break surface.”
    Such an effective and extraordinary metaphor to make his point.

    1. Tammi, I think that taking breaks from reading this book is a good idea, especially when something really hits you. It’s like going to therapy, where you go once a week for a year or years. We are not able to understand our deepest feelings, come to terms with them and make changes in a short amount of time. I would have much preferred to be in therapy 8 hours a day if that would have sped up my journey to feel at peace with myself! But alas, that is not how it works!

    2. Thank you, Tammi, for sharing about your need to stop, to feel, to process. I think it’s important to reiterate that most of us will likely need to pick and choose related to what we want, can, and do write about. As you point out Tammi, even Mark suggests taking it slow. For myself, I’m reading through each week’s material and then deciding what I want to write about it. This may not be how Mark intended it, but we can only do what we can do! Most of Mark’s invitations are deep so even in small chunks, there’s too much to do in a week. I’m glad you took a break. That’s important for all of us to remember. Breaks are OK! We can always return to material we want to explore further after the club or even years down the line! And I LOVED the dolphin metaphor too. “Excellence is a by-product of immersion.” Whoa and yes!! We’re definitely getting immersed, lol! Thank your for this.

      1. Whew! Thank you so much for your understanding and for sharing some of your insight into how you are reading the book! I, too, have decided to read through and pick what I can answer. Lol, never expected this to take me so deep. But I appreciate that I am in good, safe and brave company!😘

    3. Tammi, I am right there with you. I love his Book of Awakening, but he is deep. It is all good and so profound that I, like you had to stop. So I think like Tracey mentions I will have to not to all or maybe any of the invitations, depending. I think that I will have to come back to this book again and again throughout my life. Thank you for speaking to this aspect. I love him and his work, which is why I am here (and I so enjoy Tracey on social media), but but whooaa. I should have known after the Book of Awakening, but somehow I was not totally prepared. I am glad that we are taking several months at least vs some book clubs that do it all in a month! Here’s to getting exactly what we need from this deep journey of expression.

  12. I discovered Mark Nepo only in the last year when I was gifted the Book of Awakening by a friend. It’s a daily where you read the day’s topic followed with some actions for contemplation and meditation. Although I haven’t read every single entry I’ve stuck with it more than most dailies I’ve used. His writing and use of metaphor really speaks to me, so I was doubly excited to learn that Tracey had chosen one of Mark’s books for her virtual book club. I tend to be a note taker because the act of writing helps me to remember things a little bit better. I often use colored pencils to underline and take notes in the margins while I am reading. I find that Mark is one of those authors where I will underline something in almost every paragraph! Just the introduction & first chapter and I am so blown away that I’m overwhelmed. Hence my late post. I have been marinating … This is definitely a book that I will return to again and again.

    There is sooo much food for thought. It speaks to my soul. I have a been in a process for years that I call Remembering Self. In the beginning he talks about The Thread that weaves through life and connects everything in the universe. Nepo writes, “to discover the thread that goes through everything is not only how we survive the tumble through life, it is also the way we inhabit our connections. In truth, when we listen, express, or write we wipe our jewel clean and sustain the threads that hold the world together.”

    He goes on to say that just to discover the threads that weave through everything is the whole purpose of why we express as humans. I identify with this so much! I am utterly pleased that my past self made the decision to join this book club for my own growth and self-care. Thank you Tracey!

    Later he goes on to talk about “the unencumbered spot.” Nepo says, “regardless of subject matter, this is The Only Thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original Center and how to Live there once it is restored.” {capitals are my emphasis}

    To this I say YES! This is exactly how I feel and have always felt deeply in some way. I have not had an easy time of articulating it, but this inward knowing and the longing of it is literally what has kept me alive during my darkest days, of which I have had many.

    I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am finally beginning to really express this in my own ways. This month I have also returned to a spiritual journaling process a’la author Janet Connor called Writing Down Your Soul, where you communicate with the Voice Within or your higher power on the page. It is feeling prophetic to be reading Mark’s book, this book in particular, while returning to WDYS.

    When I was in the midst of my experiential transpersonal counseling psychology program I was really busy with so much deep personal growth, but my soul was pushing for me to create. To express. Art and writing poetry & journaling were things that were very important to me growing up and as I became an adult I felt like I had to leave it all behind. I had been slowly rediscovering it all after my first husband died when I was 29, but after so much personal pain and growth, and really awareness, the need became visceral while in my program years back. Then even more so after a fall and subsequent back injury a month before I was to graduate in 2016. Although I couldn’t sit for 4 long months and had nerve pain for 2 years, the intense need to do art overtook me and I finally started experimenting with some of the things I had been watching on art related YouTube videos, while in pain and standing up! It was such an intense time and pull that I did not fully grasp. It was definitely The Thread coming through and speaking to me.

    It has all been intensely calling to me again. So I can identify with what so many of you have already written about here, this process of returning to our selves again and again.

    I have continued on the journey, with plenty of getting in my own way, yet it has lead me here. I am finally creating and writing again and beginning to share with the world as The Thread has pushed me to do this for years. I purchased the Remembering Self URL way more than a decade ago and haven’t done much of anything with it, but I started an Instagram account this year. Now, it feels like no matter as I am on my way and holding onto and following The Thread.

    I apologize for posting so late AND that I missed the Zoom. I was actually available, darn it, but missed all of the emails as they were going into my Promotions folder in Gmail. 😛 That has been remedied. I am so grateful to Tracey for offering this to the greater community. I am excited to be here with you all.

    1. Andrea! So glad you’re here!!! I want to spend time with your comment, but for the next few days we’re moving our daughter. More to come! Thank you! And I’m so sorry to read of your loss to Sue’s comment. Thank you for sharing and helping us see, again, that as humans we have so much more in common than not.

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