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Mark Nepo’s keynote address explores how the soul works in the world, and how by engaging our soul in the world, we are shaped by the endless practice of becoming the person we were born to be. To bring who we are out and to let the world in is a brave and endless practice that clarifies and solidifies the gifts we are born with. We will explore the difficult and rewarding aspects of being human, which are often inter-related, including how to restore our trust in life, when suffering makes us lose our way; how to begin the work of saying yes to life, so it can enliven us; and how to make our inwardness a resource and not a refuge. At the heart of each spiritual tradition are the questions: how to be in the world without losing what matters and is living an awakened life is of any use if we don’t bring what matters to bear on the world? Though every path offers company and refuge, the journey of every human being is to discover—through their personhood—their own living relationship between the soul and the world, between being and experience, and between love and service. This session helps to discover that essential relationship.

WORKSHOP: Finding Inner Courage
MONDAY, MAY 25 • 9:30AM

The original notion of the word courage means to stand by one’s core. This half-day workshop is based on Marks’ book Finding Inner Courage. It is exploration into how to find our way to our core, to stand by our core, and to then sustain the practice of living from our core—to live out of our courage. To encourage means to impart strength and confidence, to inspire and hearten. So, the question unfolds: How do we encourage ourselves, each other, and the world? And just what does it mean to live a life of encouragement? These notions frame the journey of this workshop. This is an education I never had in school, but which life has been shouting at us all, as long as I can remember. This is an education of what matters.

For the courage we all admire—where ordinary people summon unexpected strength to run into burning buildings or to stand up to tyrants, whether an abusive father or an abusive leader, this inspiring and mysterious impulse to rise and meet a dangerous situation, which Hemingway referred to as grace under pressure—grows from another kind of courage: inner courage. By inner courage, I mean the ground of quiet braveries from which the more visible braveries sprout. These are the ways of living and being that make bravery possible in the first place; not just as an event, but as an approach to life, as a way of life.

Thinking about courage in this way opens us to an array of small and constant efforts that no one ever sees, but which have changed the world: the courage to feel, to see, to accept, to heal, to be. Efforts of this nature often go unnoticed and unrecognized. Like the courage to break life-draining patterns and let the story of our lives unfold. Like the courage to persevere through the doorway of nothing into the realm of everything. Like the courage to choose aliveness over woundedness, to remember what matters when we forget, and to build on the past instead of hiding in it. Like the courage to choose compassion over judgment and love over fear, to withstand the tension of opposites, and to give up what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred. These subtle yet essential states, and more, make up the elements of living, and so, it serves us well to explore how they grow singly and together.

This workshop will be an invitation to be in relationship with deep and life-giving material. Using ancient and contemporary stories, poetry, journaling and dialogue, we will delve into: the courage to listen to your own life, the gift of vulnerability, the willingness to experiment and explore your own voice, the abiding commitment to respect your own and others’ journeys, and the life skill of working with what we’re given. No experience is required, just a Beginner’s Mind and Heart.

Mark Nepo moved and inspired readers and seekers all over the world with his #1 New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening. Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” He has published 16 books and recorded 11 audio projects. Recent work includes The Endless Practice, Inside the Miracle, his book of poems, Reduced to Joy, and Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. His work is widely accessible and used by many and his books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Mark was part of Oprah Winfrey’s 2015 The Life You Want Tour and has appeared several times with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday program. The Exquisite Risk was cited by Spirituality & Practice as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2005. Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. He continues to offer readings, lectures, and retreats.