Best-selling author, poet and philosopher Mark Nepo explains how battling cancer led to a profound spiritual awakening. In 1987, Mark discovered a lump on the back of his head and was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. While undergoing treatment, he embarked on a journey that would ultimately lead to his greatest life lessons and influence his later works. Now a two-time cancer survivor, Mark is the author of nearly 20 books, including the New York Times best seller “The Book of Awakening.” Mark discusses his book "7,000 Ways to Listen" and shares why he believes listening with an open heart is the key to living a vibrant and meaningful life. Mark explains how modern-day distractions can keep us from truly connecting with the world around us, and offers practical insights on how to cultivate our listening skills.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast I've leave that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present. Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deep. World around us start right now when work, maybe was diagnosed with cancer and nineteen eighty seven, he expected a difficult and painful road, but one thing he did not anticipate was the transformative spiritual journey that followed his cancer. It was this book the book of awakening that introduce me to mark a collection of daily, operations. I liked it so much. I chose it is one of my favorite things back in two thousand in his recent work. A spiritual memoir call seven thousand ways to listen and is laid his poetry collection reduced
Joy proves that mark shows no signs of slowing down his calling was evident from the time he was a boy while marks parents were jewish, they were not especially devout, but Mark says he's always felt drawn to the spiritual began- writing poems to have what he calls a conversation with the universe, seeking a deeper connection to something bigger than himself ass. He grew up. His passion for poetry grew to he pursued writing in college and grad school earning his doctorate and publishing his first poems in the Ladys. It was in the summer of nineteen. Eighty seven one mark first noticed a lump on the back of his head. After months of appointments and test after test doctors confirmed, it was cancer, a rare form,
Foma Rowing in and around his skull as began. His battle mark found himself on a deep spiritual journey, one that would be shaped his perspective and for ever change. The intention of his work welcome to my sacred space. Thank you is just fabulous to be here. Well, we to be here a desert decibel wholly. That does well. One of the reasons why I wanted to do super salt here is because it does have its own, sacredness and holiness and majesty, but you speak about how having cancer literally change the landscape of your life yeah, so tell us about the day
ain't. You discovered the lamp on the back of your head her and that love was growing and growing and growing. And finally, you said: I'm gonna go see something while this was going on twenty six years ago, which is hard to believe he s the others, because it seems like yesterday in a lifetime, back twenty. Six years ago I was in a former life and a former marriage, and I had this lump start to grow and it was huge and I've never been here. I didn't. I had a lot going on. I didn't really pay much attention until an old friend said, I think, to growing a second ahead at her look at that and I went and I went out to the doktor and first doctor, I went to a sports doktor, collective thinking,. It was wrong to me- and he said I think, there's somebody else. You should say and
all of a sudden. As I think most people experience, I went through a door and when I went to go back out that door, it was gone. There was no way to get back to the life I had lived Everything change had changed because you say, and everybody under the sound of her voice right now has in some way, if you lived pass. Fifteen experience some sense of loss, absolute, some sense of loss. Some night is devastating as coming to face to face with cancer, but cancer is a great loss at the loss of the life that you thought that you were gonna live at the loss of, and I think that as we as we talk about this, it's also that its it
not the cancer, it's what the cancer open. It's, not the loss of a loved one. It's not the loss of a job, it's nothing! What ever opens us is never as important as what it opens. The feel that it opens What matter so, let's not deify, we can there are the obstacle or the thing, but it's it's not, I think, to be romanticized or deified or in a negative way. It like you, know prey to the obstacle. So you know years and years ago, and so whatever opens s and everybody at some point and in a lot of people whose country experiencing joblessness you lose somebody that you love you get the dream that you'd aspired four things, don't work out the way wanted them to and
you're saying, is it's not that thing that matters it's what that thing opens within yes and that that is not to minimize the difficulty of the law. Just lie ahead when you're in all its new in its real, and that is something that everyone has to go through and what it opens is to begin. The next point about your saying that everything what it opens its next part of the journey, and are you saying that, because I believe this an x instant, myself and believe it to be. One of the laws of the universe is that no experience is wasted. No experience so where's no experience is wasted and allow it to be. I feel like we're. We we are asked to be committed to this unending dynamism of what it is to be human, and that is that ending dynamism of what it means it doesn't stop. One day I can be plodding along like anybody with the neck, like an
with the grain of sand. My head and everything is this task that I can't seem to get out from under and all of a sudden here we are all of a sudden vowed to clear it opens up. He opened and theirs and expand If this for no reason and there's a billowing of spirit and as we talk before and other things, God is in both that moment focused moment. And in the billowing of spirit, so over the years, I've started there with with ie that carrying the burden over loudly and God is there when it all opens up and, and so I've I've stopped over the years, trying to get through the tasks and in a running from them and running to the other, because started to understand its the rhythm between the two that lets us periods Heaven on earth. I hear that I feel that
and sometimes I can actually live. It had not all the time, but I certainly I know what you're talking about. We it's the rhythm between them. It's it's not getting there. It's the yes, I had a rare form of lymphoma. It was systemic. That means that, The council should have shown up throughout my body, but it was site specific. It was growing in Bonn, so it was in my skull, born pressing both ways on my brain and it was the size of, a great fruit and I should have had all kinds of neurological problems I didn't have any. I just had this huge growth growth and so I went through a gauntlet of tests. Months of tests in open biopsies in different all without being put out so I had to meet pain. I had never known in.
And actually the pay, the fear of pain at times was a greater pain than the pain I wound up encounter so those where my first like the way. All of us lead our lives, the fear of any pain, it's the end and what we do to resist. Having to what we do to resist that fear thinking. It's gonna, be so painful that we do everything to go around the pain to avoid the pain we numb ourselves in various ways to avoid the pain when, in fact, the only way is through that are the only ways through an initial it was just surrendering and letting go. You know I was in my thirties trying to contribute, make it change and live help to achieve what your teaching writing and all of a sudden life changing me and I had no control. Anything don't go anywhere more to come after this short break. Is episode is supported by hallmark cards. We say
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code super soul to get twenty percent off your card purchase remark, surrendering and letting go meant enduring test after painful test until his doctor recommended surgery to remove the tumor. But the night before the operation worked, neurosurgeon arrive with an unexpected announcement. I kept feeling that the tumor was flux. And no one would believe me and he returned to your own body, and you could tell yet he came in at the left literally the eleventh hour, I'm gonna have a creamy autonomy to remove this the next morning, and he can what effect your speech and your and my memory, which is like needs to a quarter back from eighty. You know and He came in at the eleventh hour and said I've done hundreds of these, but I don't know what's happening and saw. I want to bring in one more specialist and he unhooked means at me home for a week, and I was like Jonas,
get out of the mouth of a whale back on the streets and what? What is this? What am I doing in? Isn't that amazing to you? Yes, I think that's amazing one. I believe that it it roots income ash and compassion really means being with means keeping honest heart. Company whip with after his operation was postponed, specialist were brought in and they determine that an aggressive course of chemo and radiation would offer mark his best chance of survival. But on the morning is treatment was set to begin mark, continue to feel the tumor fluctuate, entrusting what he calls a deeper. Knowing he decided to speak up, I insisted on one more MRI consent without giving you chemotherapy, they were getting ready to give me spinal chemotherapy and whole radiation, and I insisted on one more MRI before agreeing to that, because I felt the tumor
Moving in shifting, even though no one believed me, I just knew it and so at that time- and I remember it- was October 15th, one fifteenth eighteen. Eighty seven, yes and I woke up at five in the morning I spoke to have that. Am I right around nine and I knew the tumor was gone. You know it was gone because I could feel having the tumor felt like a slight vibration, interesting, like a tuning fork, if you hit a tuning for and when I woke up that, warning. That was gone. It was completely still- and I went in later that morning had the MRI and, by this time I had films held up in the waiting room and it was gone praying alive. Were you hopeful and not? Was it when I do? This is one of the first amazing lessons in openness I thought I was an open person. While I was an open until I was desperate to be here. Were you a religious person before then
Spiritual personally, I think I have the same holistic. If I'd world view, but I was much more in my head and one of the the gifts from. Going through this journey was a through normal them of mine. I will on the other side after a three year period living my heart and that my head well. So from that point forward, my my I am serve my heart and not the other way around did not happen automatically, or did you make a conscious choice for them? Now I wish I could say with some wisdom on my part. I just woke up having been scout by this experience into a more elemental being Did you lose your ambition in the process to I lost my dry? That's it! Ok! I lost my dream. Losing your drive to being drawn to something deeper
very to hire and yeah yeah. It was very disorienting because I had been driven out You imagine a river has bag banks and it's a strong river like the Mississippi When I was in my river, I knew because I knew this current. And the noise of the effort along the banks of what this experience had done. It had brought me to mouth of a larger c and there were no more banks. I didn't have any anything. Your signs I lost the drive and for a while I thought I had lost my creativity, but I look under the current. Is there just goes paper and its quieter, and then I search realize all I'm drawn to things now much more freedom in joy, so that cancer was able to teach you it really changed course of my work.
And so since that time I was put back in this body on this earth, with the challenge to believe in everything and to discover how it works Gather- and you know it's like we're all tat by carried around like a suitcase from adolescence did said open in case of emergency when they it is came. I opened it, there was nothing in it so well, I keep carrying around so lighter, but now I had to start looking for the real tools to help us live, so speak, speak for a moment ago. Out. You are now cancer free and you go for what ten months and then it starts growing on the river on the river, and so that was the deepest despair, because the first job, I don't know why I didn't I would die. I was afraid of what I have to go through. I was terrified of all the pain procedures and what it might cause. But then, when it returns
or had been there all along and I didn't know I really was afraid I was gonna die. I felt desperate, I felt off course I didn't know what to do. I tried to enlist all the things that I have been open to, and none of it were did you feel like a failure, somehow that you'd been given the second chance from the can your brain and now come back, so you ve got to say what is it mean I do something wrong that absolutely you now absolutely essential, Believin karma. At the time I was open to karma. I dont think I had very many fixed beliefs. I think Real journey. Spiritual journey is sharing the evidence and our experience and holding off on making conclusions even at my age and all that I've been through what we experience leads us to new horse
and as soon as I make a conclusion, I've kind of put that close the door on the barn, so I've learned too kind share what we want, what happens but hold on on what it means. Ten months after marked depots, brain tumor disappeared, Cancer was discovered in one of his ribs, and this time there would be no reprieve mark have to face surgery to remove the rib and multiple chemo treatments. What is remarkable to me about your story. Is that. When you were going through the second cancer and you say you mean you at a very prestigious well known hospital and they had not even warned you that the pills that you were taking we're going to cause you to throw up- Vomiting did described that moment
this was in a may. I this is my first chemo treatment and no one prepared me that I have not only might get sick, but would get sick and the only medicine they gave me was oral. So I can keep it down. We didn't know whether I was so. I got sick one's home. Maybe this pass and now wait and see. So This went on for almost all night, where I got sick every half hour to the point where you vomiting applied yeah, and then it was clear. I had to go to the emergency room, but but but what's important about this story is that. Alone five in the morning, while I'm kind of in the corner. With my hands on my knees- and you know my former wife said, whereas God and in the corner you're, throwing up he's doin
all night to the point you throwing up blood and everybody around you. You, with your wife in your friend, are frustrated and feeling helplessness, and she says where is God and somewhere from within me. I dont know where I whisper here right here. And I think you know I have spent all the books ever written in the last twenty five years, all the places I go to listen and teach. I think I've spent all these years trying to understand what what aims for me in tat moment. We'll let you know in your darkest hour in your lowest moment were you literally throwing up blood on the floor and too weak to move that you somehow sense. Tat, God is right here in the first kind of take away of that, for me is that I understood that too,
broken is no reason to see. All things is broken, we'll get so powerful, so powerful there. It is a powerful? I never thought of it. That way before that is so because in that moment certainly I was broken, but I needed everything. That's wasn't broke in our committee. I need a kleenex that is really good. I've heard a lot of things here, but that is really good at touch me deeply. I get it and I hope it helped You guys to this recharge I'd say: can I get an email address in a manner in the chemo, the damn chemo Was one of the dirty angels? It was part of the whole miracle
I can throw them out even really cause you had to have that it ought to be here, just like I needed every every effort from spiritual tradition. I needed every effort. So so one of the biggest lesson is that ever situation, wherein we are challenged. If we think where open, we need to double our efforts to be open and well, everything, because only the logic of the heart can put it all together. And so this leads me to what has been done for me in the last year after all this time, and that is that the teacher is that all things are true not at all things are right, but that all things were fair or all things are just but
All things are true, and only an open heart can start to make sense of how, because that helps us when we keep choosing right and wrong wish, and our energy sorting life rather than leaving it. Because it does not mean that there are things that are cruel or evil or heard or unjust, but only from the hole this of life. Can we see how the Spirit in the body can navigate, and so, One of the biggest humbling ways that I feel like I'm learning in my sixties is that We are all
continually asked to learn how to ask for what we need only to practise accepting what were given were asked to learn how to keep asking for what we need. Only the practice accepting what were given and that's a paradox. But what what so important about this, for me, is that asking for what we need doesn't always, the getting what we need. Sometimes it doesn't that's great but the reward for asking for what we need is that we become intimate with our own nature. We learn who we are by standing and who we are. The reward for practising accepting what were given. We become intimate with everything. It's not us. We become intimate with the nature of life,
the rhythm between our own nature and the nature of life that allows us to find the thread. We are a thread we are in the unsuitable connections that hold everything together. Well, that's beautiful beautiful. I remember you having said or written that many years, you wanted to be a great poet and now you're hard to desire is to be the poem. What does that mean? While it means that- and I think it's not just for a poet, but it works that way. For me, I think it's for all of us. I think for understandable we start out learning who we are. We start to become familiar with our,
gifts and then we want to be accomplished. That's if you were to do your life, if you're in your light and then we want to make a contribution and- and we have such a production imprint in our culture that we want produce something. But you know for me, as we ve talked you know, as life had other ideas, I found that it wasn't helpful to try to create great poems. I needed to find true. Arms to help me live and then, as I was able to still be here, it was all about being moment of life come alive that that's the poem to stay as close to our alive in this as possible, and that is how each of us can live a more poetical. I absolutely whether its I mean.
One of the interesting things is that in our culture in our world- and it's always been so if someone is good at something tell them if, if someone, if I write someone says you should be a writer, if someone loves the land or you should be a gardener. Or someone sings, you should be a singer. However, we we're being turned into a noun when the alliances in staying verb. Again? I know what you just said to explain it to me so that if you love singing just sing just sing, you don't have to become a singer. That's good! You don't have to become a gardener. Just keep your hands in the earth. And then than you know? Come there isn't necessarily just one thing you have to do now and then we follow the alive ness and sore identity evolves overtime. Yes, that's exactly two, because I for a long time thought I was gonna, be a teacher, and I thought I was gonna, be a teacher in a classroom with fourth grade students, retirement rates
where am I allowed the idea and the vision of teaching of inside me in such a way that that's what I'm doing right now you I my forties, I'm sixty two but I really wanted so badly to become a poet. It felt like you'll live near. Was there and it I didn't know it, but it was. Leading me into the depth and field of my spirit? So in my forties, as that, as my spirit grew, the identity of being a poet was too small And I had a crisis cuz I had to. I was never going to stop But what does this mean? I had to drop being a poet so that I could become the Spirit that it led me to woo. That's good at really enemies with that from that so deep, I gotta sit where D drop being a poet so that I could be led to the spirit that would leave
due to what is the enclosed, backed back to stay close to whatever it is. That brings us alive so without worrying about the names for it, but the labels for air wow beautiful. Your poet, alright, at the airport, I well I want to talk about your seven thousand, ways to listen, and so let's do that, another time our Congress issued, will continue in the next episode. You can listen by downloading part too, I'm over Winfrey and you ve been listings. Super soul, conversations podcast you can find. A super soul on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you haven't yet go to apple podcast, unsubscribe rate and review this pledge gas join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-15.