To Instruct from Within
(by Mark Nepo)
This article first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Issue 39, Autumn 2014
What does it mean to follow our intuition? What kind of listening are we asked to engage in order to sense what is calling and whether we should follow? Even now, as I try to speak of this, I am stalled if I try “to think of what to say next.” What is out of view only opens into something knowable if I wait and try “to listen to what is there.” If it takes a while, it’s because some aspects of truth are shy like owls who don’t like to be seen during the day. It seems that intuitive listening requires us to still our minds until the beauty of things older than our minds can find us. Let me share a poem as a way to enter this more deeply:
What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a
street you’ve never heard of.
You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.
Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.
You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.
You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?
You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.
The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.
At every turn in every day we are presented with angels in a thousand guises, each calling us to follow their song. There is no right or wrong way to go, and only your heart can find the appointments you are born to keep. It’s hard to take this risk, but meeting each uncertainty with an open heart will lead us to an authentic tomorrow. In the poem, however far you go to follow the bird is beautifully enough. If you simply pause and continue with your day, you will be given something. If you wander after its song a block or two, you will be given something else. If you discover that following this bird leads you to another life, you will be given something else indeed. Each point in the journey is an end in itself. One is not better than the other. Only your heart knows what to follow and where to stop.
Mark Nepo is a poet, philosopher and author of fourteen books, including the New York Times bestseller, The Book of Awakening. His latest books are The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be and Reduced to Joy, a new collection of poems. Mark has appeared several times with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program (OWN TV) and has been interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. He lives in Southwest Michigan. For more information visit: MarkNepo.com ThreeIntentions.com
Seven Thousand Ways To Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred
Simon & Schuster
issue 39, Mark Nepo, modern teachers, spiritual teachers