The Soul’s Place on Earth

Add to favorites

Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo discusses how we come to find—and live—our true nature in an ever-changing world.

By Mark Nepo

Every day, the heart keeps beating and the lungs keep breathing. Likewise, the endless practice of bringing our soul into the world lets us keep unfolding. It’s a limitless journey of coming alive, which entails the messy, joyous, unfathomable drama of being human.

Like it or not, life keeps engaging us, asking that we follow what is real, until the light of the soul is drawn out of us, and that we carry what is real, until the depth of the world grounds us. By real, I mean any moment met face to face and heart to heart, without pretense or illusion. When we can follow what moves us, we break open what is possible and the light of the soul spills out of us. When we’re moved to care and love, who we are extends into the world and we strengthen our roots.

Often, it’s our love of life that gives us the courage to follow what is real. And our love of others that gives us the courage to carry what is real. Of course, there’s no way to escape the need to do both: to let out the light of the soul and to let in the depth of the world. The challenge is to inhabit both.

While we constantly struggle with achievement and failure, with our want for fame and our fear of anonymity, it’s the heartful commitment to be completely who we are—no more, no less—that awakens us to the full beauty and truth of being alive . . . Ultimately, each of us is an invaluable, irreplaceable seed in the ground of existence, each of us a small miracle waiting to blossom in the large miracle.

I believe and give my heart to the notion that spirituality is listening for and living into the soul’s place on earth. A life of spirit, regardless of the path we choose, begins with a person’s acceptance that they are part of something larger than themselves. The want to know who we really are and to know the truth of our existence and our connection to a living universe is, to me, the fundamental life-giving question that the heart commits to once opened by love or suffering. How we are led and pushed to our true nature is what spirituality and personal growth are all about.

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 of any use if we don’t bring what matters to bear on the world? Though every path offers some form of 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.

Like those before us, we’re left to make sense of the kinship between the mysterious forces of life that remain unseeable and the things of this world with all their weight and gravity. It’s the interplay and friction between the mysterious forces of life and the things of the world that hone our qualities as particular beings.

To be living, growing, changing beings in a living, growing, changing universe opens a larger, more dynamic sense of relationship, to each other and the world, as we journey through the depth and surface of life. To find our way, alone and together, is the purpose of spiritual friendship. All we can do is hold each other up in the journey of becoming who we are, while sharing our experience of the mysterious unity of life.