Art & Soul: The Art of Wellness – Author and speaker Mark Nepo talks about being fully awake and alive

Mark Nepo says he’s always been a heart-centered person. He has written several bestselling books on many topics, including Awakening the Courage to Be Mindful and Caring. He speaks to the whole world, encouraging others to be fully awake and fully alive with this one life that we have to live.

He shares more of his personal journey and mission with Lisa Barry from WEMU.

MARK NEPO: Two offers this summer

Those who wake up are the students.
Those who stay awake are the teachers.
How we take turns.


For five consecutive days, this online master class of 5 sessions, The gift of deepening and radiance in all things, will explore themes such as “The Underlying Reality”, “Witness”, “Not Big But True”, “Understanding the Practice”, “Becoming One With”, “On the Brink of Growth”, “The Commitments of perception ”and“ The magic of freedom ”.

Whether you see yourself as a writer or a researcher, this journey is designed to deepen your connection to your own voice, to strengthen your resources, and to enliven your living kinship with all of life. August 28 – September 1, 2021.


Things always come together and they always fall apart. And every generation faces restoration. Now it’s our turn to renew the family ties that unite life. When all else fails, we are called to turn to the eternal resources that are within everything. All traditions speak of this renewal in the face of suffering. How to try, accept and start over in a more generous and loving way? Poet, philosopher and cancer survivor Mark Nepo will explore these hot topics in this free reading and conversation on September 11, 2021.

Register on


Lisa Barry: You’re listening to 89-1 WEMU, and it’s Art and Soul. This is Lisa Barry, and this week Art and Soul is about the art of wellness – being self-aware, living an emotionally balanced life with peace, love and joy. And we are very honored to be joined this week by a very special guest. He’s a poet, a bestselling author, a lecturer, a human inspiration, as I have nicknamed him. Mark Nepo, thank you very much for talking to us.

Mark Nepo: Oh, it’s great to be with you. Thank you for.

Lisa Barry: Among your many books, one of the bestsellers is called “The Book of Awakening”. And some people who are listening right now may not fully understand what you mean by that. So I thought this would be a good place to start with outlining you what it is and why it’s important.

Mark Nepo: You know, I think in my experience, everyone, everyone alive, will be lucky enough to be immersed in the depths of life. And, sometimes it’s through something difficult or a loss or a fatal condition. But it can also be due to wonder, surprise, beauty, or being completely loved for the first time. But when that happens, the way we need it with all our heart and all our senses and hold nothing back gives us the chance to be fully awake and fully alive with the one life given to us.

Lisa Barry: Do you find this a difficult message to share or to hear?

Mark Nepo: As much as we want, I don’t think we can change anyone. We can be like greenhouses and provide light and warmth and then people will grow at their own pace and through all the traditions talk about it. What allows us to grow, whether we like it or not, is great love or great suffering. You can tell me something and I’ll say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Until I fall and get up and see it a different way.”

Lisa Barry: I think there is a lesson in everything. So I think that’s what I’m hearing you say.

Mark Nepo: Absolutely. In fact, I have been a long-time cancer survivor and learned years ago that there is a teacher in everything, and I became a student of all traditions. And, in the Hindu tradition, they actually have a term called “upa guru”, which means the teacher who is next to you right now. And there is always a teacher next to you. And don’t worry if we miss this one, there will be another one right behind you.

Lisa Barry: Now, you write a lot about healing. And you just mentioned that you’ve been on a cancer journey yourself. How long ago was that?

Mark Nepo: Now, it’s been thirty-four years now.

Lisa Barry: That really wasn’t where your awakening started, was it?

Mark Nepo: Well, I think, you know, before that I think I was always awake and a heart-centered person, but I was, honestly, I was in my head and almost dying, being, you know , thrown inside out and inside out. It all fell into my heart. And since then my mind has served my heart and not the other way around.

Lisa Barry: One of the books you wrote that speaks volumes to me is called “Finding Courage Within”. Let’s talk about it, the courage to be aware and caring. And what inspired you to write about courage?

Mark Nepo: I think most writers, if they admit it, we write about what we need to learn, not what we know. And although some people thought I was brave and had cancer, I was doing whatever I had to do to make it through tomorrow. I didn’t see him as brave, but I got to a point where I lacked what I knew about courage. And so, you know, writing the book is like a survey to learn how to be braver myself. And what I learned, which is to say that it got me into this book, is the original notion of the word courage means to stand up. This has been very helpful to me, because standing close to our heart, when we open our heart, we are tuned in to our own authority to be, which only obtains its authority because it is aligned with everything like a mountain, see, a mountain in the distance, and it’s beautiful. And you go up there. It is only beautiful because it is rooted in the earth, and you cannot tell where the mountain ends and where the earth begins. And when I can stay true to my heart, I’m rooted in life itself, and it’s like the roots of a tree that make it strong. And then there are plenty of ways and all traditions speak of it. How do we do this? How do you find it when you lose it? How do you feel safe when you are afraid? How to get up when you fall?

Lisa Barry: Mark Nepo is our guest right now here on Eighty Nine One WEMU. And when you say stay by your side, some people may not understand what you mean by that,

Mark Nepo: What I mean by standing on solid ground so that when I’m scared in the moment it’s all around me. But there is something beneath my fear that is not afraid, just as the wind might blow across the face of the earth. But if you dig into the ground, it doesn’t bother. So, all traditions speak of how we find our center again in the midst of all the storms that life brings to us. And the first thing, which is why there are so many meditation practices, is to slow down and be present, to be present enough to feel our fear. But we also feel what is below our fear by being present, without holding anything back. And then whoever listens, you know, we have to personalize these practices. We can’t say how, or here’s A, B and C. We can say that’s kind of what it’s like to be alive, but we have to inhabit ourselves personally. And that means we need to reach out to others, as we often can’t do it alone.

Lisa Barry: Right. And one of your books, “The Wellness Bridge: Why We Need Each Other”.

Mark Nepo: Yes, I think life has been made just hard enough that we need each other on the journey of love. You know I wouldn’t know or without my cancer journey, but I think what erosion is for nature, suffering is for human beings. No one wants to suffer. But, you know, in nature everything is eroded to its inner beauty if we can withstand the elements. And so with us we don’t have to look for things, but just being alive we are eroded at our inner beauty. But we have to help each other to cope. And, in fact, the word to suffer means to feel deeply. Well, you also have to feel keenly to know joy. And often we are warned of what is wrong or foreign, so that we can suddenly feel nothing between us in life. And then we really woke up. And that’s where love appears. And that’s where my gifts show up when I drop everything and help who’s right next to me

Lisa Barry: So many things we could talk about, but unfortunately we’re running out of time. And you have multiple events online. You come back into the audience, and you will be, let’s start with Ann Arbor. But it’s not until next February, right around our birthdays. Our birthdays are two days apart, Mark.

Mark Nepo: Oh yes. Yeah, wonderfully. I go. I’m excited. I will be joining the First Unitarian Church in Ann Arbor on February 19 and 20 for a one day workshop. And then I’ll be a guest speaker at the service this Sunday.

Lisa Barry: And you have some events online soon.

Mark Nepo: Yes, I have a master class, which is five days in a row to explore the gift of deepening and radiance in all things, exploring very deeply some of the things that we have touched on. Then on September 11, which is no coincidence that I chose this date, I offer – it would be the second year – a free reading and online conversation.

Lisa Barry: And we’ll be putting links to all of that on our website, WEMU dot org, as well as this interview, and we look forward to your coming to Ann Arbor. Mark Nepo, thank you very much for speaking to us here at 89-1 WEMU.

Mark Nepo: Oh, you are welcome. Thank you very much for having me.

** Special thanks to Paul Keller for providing the music for the Art & Soul theme. **

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– Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or send him an email at [email protected]

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