Seven Thousand Ways to Listen
Free Press, Simon & Schuster, NY, October 2012
WINNER OF THE 2012 BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE AWARD, FOR SPIRITUALITY
A consummate master of telling stories and parables about people's hopes, dreams, yearnings,
fears, sorrows and triumphs… Nepo has written a masterwork on the spiritual practice of
listening which plays such a predominant role in our private and public lives.
This masterpiece on listening comes at a vital time when divisions in American run rampant around politics, race, and religion.
Mark Nepo is the F. Scott Fitzgerald of contemporary spiritual literature. Every line he writes
contains a formidable, yet simple poeticism that strives for revelation. Each sentence exudes its own
cathartic beauty… This beautiful book is a balm for anyone who is questioning the blows life has dealt them.
Order from an online bookseller:
Available as an audiobook from Simon & Schuster, October 2012
We spend much of our time on earth listening and waking. When awake, we come upon the risk to be authentic. And taking that risk, we are faced with the need to stand by our core in order to live life fully. If we get this far, we are returned, quite humbly, to the simple fate of being here. And after all this way, it appears that a devotion to deep listening remains the simple and sacred work of being here.
To awaken our heart through this sort of reverence strengthens the fabric that knit us all together. Why is this important? Because as cells need to be rinsed by the river of blood to stay healthy, the river of blood needs healthy cells to keep the body alive and whole. In just this way, the world depends on the dance between the individual awakened soul and the river of Spirit that feeds us all. The world needs healthy awakened souls to stay alive and whole.
Yet how do we inhabit these connections and find our way in the world? By listening our way into lifelong friendships with everything larger than us, with our life of experience, and with each other.
We could say that our friendship with everything larger than us opens us to the wisdom of Source. This is the work of being. We could say that our friendship with experience opens us to the wisdom of life on earth. This is the work of being human. And we could say that our friendship with each other opens us to the wisdom of care. This is the work of love. Of course, while we may feel lifted or overwhelmed by each of these on any given day, they are intertwined and inseparable—three friends we need to stay connected to if we have any hope of living an awakened life. These three friendships— the work of being, the work of being human, and the work of love—frame the journey of this book. In this book, you will find reflective pauses throughout. Each will pose a set of questions or meditations, offered to initiate various forms of conversation as a way to locate what has meaning in your own life. So I invite you into the work of reverence; into the work of staying freshly connected by entering your friendship with this mystery we call life. I invite you to listen in every way you can, for listening in all things is the first step toward friendship.
Much of my life has been devoted to staying in conversation with everything around me—with the mystery, with God or Source, with the rivers of change, with you. As I get older, I long even more for the wisdom and companionship of other living things; to stay in conversation with all I love, with all I admire, with all who have suffered and given of themselves to stay alive and to keep life going. In many ways, our stories are part of one story. Our pain is part of one pain. Our surprise at the beauty and fragility of life is part of one chorus of awe. My passion now is to stay as close as possible to the pulse of what is kind and true; to stay in conversation with what happens there and to experience more and more ways to listen.
KEEPING WHAT IS TRUE BEFORE US
Faith is not an insurance, but a constant effort, a constant listening to the eternal voice.
I needed to have blood drawn for my annual physical and even though it’s
been twenty years since I’ve been spit out from the mouth of the
whale of cancer, it’s never very far. I kept telling myself that
was then, this is now. But in the early morning waiting room, I could feel
my breath speed up, higher in my chest, and below any conscious remembering,
the many waiting room walls began to appear, dark friends who say they
A Reflective Pause
JOURNAL QUESTIONSTell the story of a moment that surprised you with an unexpected flood of feeling and how this affected you.
Tell the story of one thing you know to be true and your history of keeping that truth in your awareness.
What does living below “the sheer fact of things” mean to you?
The Tuning of the Inner Person
U Thant (1909-1974) was a gentle seer. He was born in Pantanaw, Burma,
and became a diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations
(1961-1971). He was chosen for the post when Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld
was killed in a plane crash in September 1961. He was the first Asian to
serve as UN Secretary-General.
By being what we are…by attuning our own yearning to the lonely holiness in this world, we will aid humanity more than by any particular service we may render.
Heschel implies that the world is not complete until fitted with our yearning; that just as the earth would be barren without trees, plants, vegetables, and flowers, the holiness of the world, waiting just below the surface, will stay barren without the spirited growth of our dreams, creativity, generosity, and love. It seems that the first destiny of being here is to root our being in the world, that the world needs this as much as we need each other.
A Reflective PauseTABLE QUESTIONS
To be asked over dinner or coffee with friends and loved ones. Try listening to everyone’s response before discussing:
U Thant’s description of Spirituality as “the tuning of the inner person with the great mysteries and secrets that are around us” is very useful. He gives us an image of the individual in relationship to the whole of life.
Describe your own image for this. Are we each a rung on an infinite ladder? A star in a constellation? A bird in a tree? A root growing in the earth?
Share and inquire into each other’s images of the person and the whole.
Do not argue or compare them, just listen to them all.
Describe one aspect of your own tuning that seems to be working well and one inner aspect that needs more of your attention.
How do we begin then to inhabit our destiny of being here? I believe it
begins with reverence and listening, with honoring every bit of life we
encounter. So at the deepest level, when I say I
honor you, what does this mean? I’ve learned that to honor the truth of someone else’s
experience means that when I become conscious or aware of you, I make a
commitment to keep that truth visible from that moment forward. To honor
you means that what I’ve learned about you becomes part of our geography.
It means that what has become visible and true will
not become invisible again.
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Let us begin our walk along the sea.
A Reflective PauseA MEDITATION
Close your eyes, breathe slowly, and imagine the lineage of great listeners throughout time.
Inhale deeply and feel their living presence.
Exhale deeply and feel how such listening connects us all.
Open your eyes and inhale slowly, honoring what you know to be true about your life.
Exhale slowly, honoring what you know to be true about those you love.
Enter your day committed to keeping all you are aware of in view.
If you live the questions, life will move you into the answers. Mark Nepo offers you a map to explore the sacred in your own being.
Nepo has mastered a unique way of inviting the reader into a meditative state while reading his sublime wisdom about everyday life.
I found his work a comfort—and that's a rare find these days.
This profound and lyrical book teaches us the lost art of listening. And as we learn to listen, we open to the myriad voices of life
and the silent mysteries of the soul and begin to sense the truth of being alive. Mark Nepo's words are always like choice wine for the
soul, to be sipped slowly, allowing their flavor into all the secret places of our being. Beneath and between his words we can hear
this greatest wonder we call life. This is the real gift of this wonderful book.
Ninety per cent of writing is listening. To receive the world and to receive ourselves. In this book Nepo has generously taught us
how to listen. Do the reflective exercises he suggests to lead you deeply down the path.
Mark Nepo is a master of listening deeply to life's experiences where essential messages for the soul can be found. In
Seven Thousand Ways to Listen he shares his wisdom with us. Mark gives us hope that we can live more
vital lives through our own careful listening to our depths. Pain excavates those depths where life is trying to awaken our authentic
self. Visiting the pain in our lives is made more meaningful when we can do so with a spiritual master like Mark Nepo. I find myself
wanting to keep this book near me for frequent consultation and meditation.
"Listening is the doorway to everything that matters," claims Mark Nepo. In a world where we try to make ourselves known by making noise,
that's a revolutionary claim. Revolutionary but true. Read this beautiful book and learn to listen anew—to those closest to you,
to strangers, to nature, to your own heart, and to the great silence. Everything that matters is found on the other side of the noise,
and this book, written by a master listener, can help us find our way to it.
Honest… raw… (and) also comforting… Mark Nepo's luminous Seven Thousand Ways to Listen (reveals) that listening has
less to do with one's inner ear than it does with one's inner journey.
A meditative approach to silencing the world's noise…. Readers receive tools necessary to slow down and learn to listen in a deep,
meaningful way…. Nepo provides thorough methods for reaching deeper into the inner self.
Oprah Winfrey has said that the writing of Mark Nepo takes her breath away. She's not alone: His Book of Awakening and
Finding Inner Courage have been word-of-mouth bestsellers in our bookstores and online. Seven Thousands Way to Listen,
his latest effort, displays the deep synergy of his poetry and thought. His attentiveness to the natural lyricism of life
is conveyed in language that is both memorable and profound. Both autobiographical and philosophical, this marvelous work
teaches us to respond to the physical and spiritual challenges of life.
A thought-provoking exploration of the art of listening… Nepo's background as a poet shines through in his writing, which can be truly beautiful.
Have your ever read a book with such beautiful prose that you wanted to cry? That is the way that Mark Nepo's words hit me. See I am an older person and my time is precious to me. I am not inclined to read bad books or watch awful movies. This book made me pause and…well…listen.
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