Books

As Far As the Heart Can See: Stories to Illuminate the Soul

HCI Books, Deerfield Beach, FL, September 2011 and Simon & Schuster , September 2011

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BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Since everything is sacred, staying close to what is sacred is a matter of presence and attention more than travel to some secret place. In essence, staying close is a pilgrimage to the heart of where we are. Since it is we who lose our directness of living, our task is often to restore that freshness of being alive.

Stories help us. They are teachers. They are medicine. They keep us connected to what matters. They keep us awake. This has always been true. And so, As Far As the Heart Can See is a book of stories and parables about staying awake and staying close. Each story has a life of its own that simply used me to become known again in the world. And each has some residue of my life on earth, for no story can come through without some taste of the teller.

This book then is an invitation to be in relationship with deep and life-giving material. The stories gathered here carry seeds of our humanness. They delve into the courage to listen to your own life, the gift of vulnerability, the willingness to experiment and explore your own voice, the abiding commitment to respect your own journey and the journeys of others, and the life skill of working with what we are given. No experience is required, just a Beginner’s Mind and Heart. And the willingness to hear one story and tell another. A willingness to keep listening and trying.

EXCERPTS

THE CYCLIST

On the day of the race, he waited with the others and felt that life was waiting in the hills. He couldn’t quite say why, but a blessing was about to happen. As the gun went off, he could hear the rush of all the racers breathing—like young horses in the morning.
He had trained for months, up and down the sloping hills, cutting off seconds by wearing less and leaning into curves. His legs were shanks of muscle. He often said, “It’s the closest thing to flying I know.”
On the second hill, the line thinned and he was near the front. They were slipping through the land like arcs of light riding through the veins of the world. By now, he was in the lead. As he swept toward the wetlands, he was gaining time, when a great blue heron took off right in front of him; its massive, timeless wings opening just in front of his handlebars.
Its shadow covered him and seemed to open something he’d been chasing. The others were pumping closer, but he just stopped and stood there, straddling his bike, staring at what the great blue had opened by cutting through the sky.
In years to come, others would ask, “What cost you the race?” Wherever he was, he’d always look south, and once in a while, he’d say, “I didn’t lose the race—I left it.”

JOURNAL QUESTIONS
Tell the story of a time when your hard work had an unexpected outcome and what you learned from that experience.
TABLE QUESTIONS
To be asked over dinner or coffee with friends and loved ones. Try listening to everyone’s response before discussing.
What does this story say about what we work toward and what actually happens?
What’s the difference between “losing the race” and “leaving the race?”
A MEDITATION
Close your eyes, breathe slowly, and imagine something you are working hard to achieve. Notice without judgment which has more energy for you: the process or the goal.
Close your eyes again, breathe slowly, and imagine your hard work without the goal ahead of you or your reason why to do this behind you. Focus, if you can, only on the process you are in.
Close your eyes, breathe slowly, and picture a bird flying without knowing where it’s going. Or a cyclist riding with no destination.
Open your eyes and enter your day.

KEEPING THE DISH ALIVE

Whenever he’d travel to Lansing, Don would go to a Middle Eastern restaurant he’d stumbled into years ago. He loved their Kibbe Nyah, a dish of freshly ground lamb mixed with herbs and olive oil, seasoned but uncooked. One day, it was off the menu, and Don spoke to the owner, Abu, who said it wasn’t worth it. Too few people ordered it. But Don said it was exquisite and pleaded with Abu that the dish shouldn’t be lost. Abu said, “You call before you come, and I’ll make it for you.” So whenever Don would go to Lansing, two or three times a year, he’d call Abu and remind him, “My name is Don. I’m the one who—” But Abu always remembered him, “Yes! Yes! Kibbe Nyah. How are you? Come. I will make it for you.” Each time Don would try to tip Abu or pay him extra, but Abu refused, “No. No. Together we keep the dish alive.”
After a year, Don asked one of the waiters, “What can I bring Abu?” His old friend smiled and said, “He loves flowers.” So the next time Don went to Lansing, he called and Abu said, “Yes. Yes. Come.” And Don walked in with four bouquets of lilies and iris and daffodils. The entire restaurant gathered, clapping and hooting, as Abu wiped his hands on his apron in order to receive the beautiful flowers. The music of his world was turned up and the smell of freshly ground lamb filled the one room and everyone ate with their hands. Abu took stems from the bouquets and placed them around his restaurant. A few of the waiters put iris and daffodils behind each other’s ears. Everyone was smiling. And for a long moment, the world seemed right.

JOURNAL QUESTIONS
Tell the story of a friendship that grew out of an unexpected kindness.
TABLE QUESTIONS
To be asked over dinner or coffee with friends and loved ones. Try listening to everyone’s response before discussing:
Describe one custom or ritual or daily gesture that you have seen practiced that you would like to keep alive. Why?
Tell the story of someone you’ve seen be kind in an unkind situation.
A MEDITATION
Center yourself and recall a time when you were kind for no reason. It could have been as simple as picking up what a stranger dropped. Or leaving an apple in the path of hungry birds.
Breathe gently and meditate on what being kind feels like.
Breathe deeply and note the difference you feel when you hesitate to give.
Enter your day, not trying to consciously be kind, but rather with a kind outlook that allows you to naturally be who you are and do what you do.

REVIEWS

Nepo is a consummate storyteller with a rare gift for making the invisible visible.
Publishers Weekly

Nepo’s work as a poet shines through in his writing.
Booklist

Nepo’s tone is intelligently lyrical, with the rich conciseness of Haiku.
New Age Retailer

Mark Nepo is a… master of metaphor (who) has assembled a collection of soulful stories that go straight to the heart. Poignant and poetic, As Far as the Heart Can See illuminates the soul so that we can find our way home.
New Consciousness Review

This book is like a door that opens only one way. When you open it, you become more than you were, and there is no going back. These stories will free you to move closer to your own dream of yourself and live more authentically, more joyfully, and more passionately than before. More than just a book, As Far As the Heart Can See is an exquisitely written invitation to live your real life.
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings

As Far as the Heart Can See is a tonic for the spirit, a series of revelations by way of a series of far-ranging stories as told by Mark Nepo, as only he can tell them: heartfully, honestly, and humbly. Read this book and see how much farther you can see.
Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage and The Oldest Story in the World

What happens when a poet writes a book of stories about how to live, how to love, how to heal and grow and find our distinct purpose? Here’s what happened for me when I read Mark Nepo’s As Far As the Heart Can See: Each word became a stepping stone on a path through the woods. And not only that: a host of helpers, teachers, cheerleaders, and friends popped off the pages of this charming and wise book to lead me out of the stuck places and into freedom.
Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of Omega Institute and author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

As Far As the Heart Can See is filled with stories and guided reflections that not only make us think about life but feel more connected to it. This book can help you access your inner wisdom and caring heart.?
James Baraz, coauthor of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness and cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

Part poetry, part spiritual narrative, As Far as the Heart Can See offers us a grounded experience of life seen through a spiritual lens. Mark Nepo invites us into a sheesh mahal—a palace of mirrors—where the soul sits on its immortal throne, sparkling like the Kohinoor diamond. Each narrative touches a unique facet of life and draws the reader into reflection—oh soul, look into the mirror of your heart and see with love. See the whole being, the visible and the invisible; the image and the reality; the shadow and the light. This precious book places truth in the core of the heart and shows how pure feelings set it free.
Gayatri Naraine, author of Something Beyond Greatness.

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