The River of Life

The River of Life September 18, 2023


Since we first saw a bison on the prehistoric plain and it seemed to stare back at us, we have turned everything into us. With the curiosity of a child, we humanize everything—making the dog pout when we’re sad, making the bird sing when we’re happy, making the cloud lazy when we feel lost—all as a way in, as a way to feel a small ion of life’s force in everything we meet, as a way to experience the irrefutable fact that we are not alone. 

But all too often, we spend a lifetime turning everything into us—like a perceptual grinding mill, chewing up mystery after mystery through our self-centering gears until there’s no life left that doesn’t resemble us.  

All the while, the secret of the Universe resides in going the other way, in giving of ourselves to everything we meet in order to see and snort like the bison, to stretch and unfold like the flower, and to be clear and supple like the stream. The secret to the process of yes is to pour ourselves into everything we encounter, becoming what we meet. Then, we can enter our days with the humble, embodied feel of the common stuff of life coursing in our veins, our hearts, and our minds. 

Then, we can feel the river of life in our palms and realize that, though everything is different, everything is wonderfully the same on the inside. And it is from that immutable shimmer of being that we try, again and again, to utter a sound that will remind us of this wonder when we forget. This shimmer of being that unifies everything without changing our uniqueness is at the heart of all our efforts to speak and name. 


A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a moment when life spared you from greater harm. How do you understand this? 

This excerpt is from my book in progress, The Language of the Soul. 

You can follow Mark on Facebook and Instagram 

For more information about Mark’s books and upcoming events, visit and 

Information about his upcoming webinars, including Mark’s new webinar, Falling Down and Getting Up: Discovering Your Inner Resilience and Strength, that starts October 29th can be found at 

This is the first official event for Mark Nepo’s new book, Falling Down and Getting Up: Discovering Your Inner Resilience and Strength (St. Martin’s Essentials, September 6, 2023). Joining Mark is his publisher and editor, Joel Fotinos. We hope you enjoy!  (web link) 


Nov 9-12: Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael, CA, Four-Day Retreat, Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity. (web link) 

Jan 7-13, 2024: Global Journeys, Guanacaste Costa Rica, Saying Yes to Life: The One Life We’re Given — A Weeklong Retreat. (web link ) 

Feb 5-10, 2024: Modern Elder Academy, Baja, Mexico, Falling Down and Getting Up: Discovering Your Own Resilience and Strength (web link) 

2024-2025 Yearlong Journey: 4 Weekends in Kalamazoo, MI, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart (web link) 

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