Photo: Boris Austin/Getty Images

Written While Running
Sometimes I move so fast it hurts.
Though the things coming at me
are not moving at all.

They are soft and inviting. It's
approaching them as if they will
vanish that makes them sharp.

Running into any point
makes it a knife.
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.
on the ridge

Photo: Thinkstock

On the Ridge
We can grow by simply lis-
tening, the way the tree on
that ridge listens its branches
to the sky, the way blood
listens its flow to the site
of a wound, the way you
listen like a basin when
my head so full of grief
can’t look you in the eye.
We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep in-
side. We can last by listening
deeply, the way roots reach for
the next inch of earth, the way
an old turtle listens all he hears
into the pattern of his shell.
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.

Photo: Carlos Eyles/Getty Images

Way of the Dolphin
Standing in the harbor, these slick
wonders slip their fins in and out
of early sun. I close my eyes and re-
member being wheeled into surgery
all those years ago; believing my job
was to meet my surgeon at the sur-
face, so the rib he had to remove
would slip out, like a dolphin of
bone, as soon as he would cut me.

I've learned that everything that
matters goes the way of the dolphin:
drifting most of the time out of
view, breaking surface when
we least expect it.

And our job—in finding God, in
being God; in finding truth, in
being truth; in finding love, in
being love—is to meet the world
at the surface where Spirit slips
out through every cut.
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.

Photo: caracterdesign/Getty Images

Behind the Thunder
I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.

If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.

The strong live in the storm
without worshipping the storm.
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.
small birds

Photo: Jasper White/Getty Images

On the Way to Windsor
By what road did you come?
I can tell by your eyes—
you lost something along the way.
Were you hurt or did you do the hurting?
Me? Both.

Did you drop anything willingly?
I know. That's a hard one.
I seem to have lost everything
that identifies me.
My heart's become a knapsack
with torn little holes.
I knew we’d meet like this.

Oh, there are those who keep to themselves.
When the wind sounds like a loved one,
they come out and squint.
But tell me, what does it mean
to dream on this side of suffering?
That we can rest more?
That we can hear small birds
unlace the dawn?

It seems very simple now.
We can finally talk when there isn't
much to say. It's quite beautiful,
isn't it?
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.
reduced to joy

Photo: focusstock/Getty Images

Reduced to Joy
I was sipping coffee on the way to work,
the back road under a canopy of maples
turning orange. In the dip of woods, a small
doe gently leaping. I pulled over, for there
was no where else to go. She paused as if
she knew I was watching. A few orange
leaves fell around her like blessings no
one can seem to find. I sipped some
coffee, completely at peace, knowing
it wouldn't last. But that's alright.

We never know when we will blossom
into what we’re supposed to be. It might
be early. It might be late. It might be after
thirty years of failing at a misguided way.
Or the very first time we dare to shed
our mental skin and touch the world.

They say, if real enough, some see God
at the moment of their death. But isn't
every fall and letting go a death? Isn't God
waiting right now in the chill between the
small doe's hoof and those fallen leaves?
— Mark Nepo

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.

Next: Poetry that will get you through a hard time