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

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

by Mark Nepo


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Stories carry the seeds of our humanness. They help us, teach us, heal us, and connect us to what matters. As Far As the Heart Can See is an invitation to be in relationship with deep and life-giving material. Many spiritual gurus present dense metaphysical theses with an intellectual approach for "working" a spiritual path; poet and philosopher Mark Nepo reaches people through their hearts, bringing something fresh and new to the field by stimulating change through reflection of thoughts and feelings. The stories he shares in As Far As the Heart Can See come from many places—from Nepo's personal history to dreams to the myths of our ancestors. Each one is an invitation to awaken an aspect of living in relationship with the sacred.

Following each of the forty-five stories are three forms of an invitation to further the conversation: journal questions, table questions, and meditations. The questions, whether reflected upon in a journal or discussed in deeper conversation with friends or family, are meant to lead the seeker down unimagined paths and back into life; the meditations are meant to ground the learning. These stories and parables about universal concepts and themes offer a poet's sensuality and a philosopher's sensibility to personalizing the journey of the human experience in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757315718
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher who has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for more than thirty years. In 1987, Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, and as he went through his cancer experience, the lack of books available to guide him through made a deep and lasting impression. As a result, Mark has since devoted himself to the usefulness of daily inner life. He has published twelve books and recorded five CDs, including The Book of Awakening, which was chosen by Oprah Winfrey in 2010 as One of Her Favorite Things. Mark's prolific body of work also includes The Exquisite Risk (Harmony Books, 2005), which Spirituality & Health magazine cited as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2005, calling it 'one of the best books we've ever read on what it takes to live an authentic life.' The Book of Awakening was a finalist for the 2000 Books for a Better Life Award and was cited by Spirituality & Health magazine as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2000. As a cancer survivor, Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. In the past three years alone, Mark has been regularly booked for teaching engagements, seminars, keynotes, and workshops across the United States. Venues include universities, conferences, cancer centers, medical schools, writing programs, spiritual retreat centers, and many others. Mark taught at the State University of New York at Albany for eighteen years. His work has been translated into French, Portuguese, Japanese, and Danish. Today, Mark has extensive engagements in leading spiritual retreats, working with healing and medical communities, and teaching as a poet.To learn more, please visit and .

Read an Excerpt

The Tea Master and the Warrior

Rikiu was watching the cherry blossoms scatter on his path when he heard Taiko unstrapping his sword at the gate, and Rikiu wished the blossoms would cover his friend's sword while they tarried inside.

Without his sword Taiko looked like a huge child allowed to cry too long. Rikiu met him at the portico and even Taiko felt foolish, looking so stern, his bare feet stepping on blossoms.

As they walked the length of his garden, Rikiu wondered why they continued to meet, but knew that bugs suck at the heart of flowers and flowers love it so. The lanterns swayed, and Taiko unbuckled his suspicions on the path, and Rikiu watched them sink beneath the stones.

At the small door of Rikiu's tea room, there was a scent whose first blush could unravel selfish thoughts; a sweet bark-like scent, which could strip one steeped in calculation to a cricket hungry for a song.

Taiko knelt to shimmy through. Rikiu followed.

Inside, the walls appeared translucent and the wind through the trees shadowed them both and Taiko knew briefly that nothing was secret. The kettle began to sing, and the steam enveloped Taiko and softened his heart, and Rikiu, as he knew he would, recognized the friend he loved. In the steam, Taiko wondered yet again why he had to feel this good, if it couldn't last.

The kettle sang first like a woman dreaming of a thousand birds, then like a man swallowing his troubles, and finally like the screech of a soul fed up with earthly things. It was this final boil that Taiko longed for as Rikiu worked the leaves in the fire till they gave up their tiny stubbornness.

By the time the bowl was filled, Taiko was awash in the mood of Rikiu. Their eyes were brothered now. The steam and incense made them both deliberate as fish along the bottom. As they drank, it seemed impossible but their thoughts were close to pink.

And with Taiko's face aglow, Rikiu, his insides warming, fell to his old desire, and said for the hundredth time, 'You must give it up and stay with me.'

And Taiko, for the hundredth time, showed nothing. He waited, so as not to offend his strange brother, but finally, he placed the bowl to his left as he would the skull of an impotent god and bowed supremely.

As he left the steam, Taiko's heart began to harden, and, once he shimmied out the tea room, the cricket went unheard. As he passed the lanterns swaying for him to stay, he buckled up his cold suspicions. And Rikiu, still warm inside, tried not to be sad as Taiko at the portico swept the blossoms from his sword and strapped it to him like another leg.


• Consider the meeting between Rikiu and Taiko as a conversation between aspects of a single self. If the tea master, then, is our inner self that finds meaning in being alive and the warrior is our outer self that finds meaning in staying alive, describe your tea master and your warrior, and imagine the ongoing conversation they are having within you now.


To be asked over dinner or coffee with friends and loved ones. Try listening to everyone's response before discussing:

• Describe which voice is stronger in you right now, your tea master or your warrior.

• Tell the story of a defining experience that is foundational to the tea master in you.

• Tell the story of a defining experience that is foundational to the warrior in you.

• Describe your tea room and describe your sword.


• Boil some water for tea and listen carefully as the water sings its different voices. Note which voice of the tea you are most drawn to.

• As the tea steeps and cools enough to drink:

• Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let the tea master in you drink. Note what that feels like.

• Close your eyes, take another deep breath, and let the warrior in you drink. Note what that feels like.

• As you move through your day, let your tea master and warrior talk to each other. Note where that conversation lives in you.

©2011. MARK NEPO. All rights reserved. Reprinted from As Far As the Heart Can See. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442

What People are Saying About This

Gayatri Naraine

"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

Elizabeth Lesser

"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

Elizabeth Lesser,

James Baraz

"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.

Rachel Naomi Remen

"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

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Phil Cousineau

"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

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