In a deeply practical way, this custom invites us to locate ourselves in any given situation from the inside out and from the largest frame of reference possible to the immediate circumstance. Before we overreact or react prematurely to whatever situation we find ourselves in, it helps to ask, "E daí? What does this mean in the journey of one life in its time on earth within the larger journey of all life across all time?" Such consideration will affect whether we respond at all or in what way. After locating the event in the largest frame, it helps to look at the particular situation and determine, "E daí? What is in front of us? Will the ground before us bear our weight? Should we back up? Should we sidestep the situation? Or should we stand firmly where we are?" Both the larger and more particular context help us to ask and know, "E daí? What is our next step?"

To make this useful, I invite you to sit with a friend or loved one. Once you are both still, take a turn describing an obstacle, a wall, a divide or unknown edge that is before you. Say to each other, "I hear what life has given you. E daí? And so, what does this matter? What does this mean in the context of your entire life?" Hear each other out and enter this a second time, saying, "I see where you are. E daí? And so, from there, what is in front of you? What is just beyond where you are? Where is solid ground?" Hear each other out one final time and ask, "E daí? And so, what now? What is your next step?"

Helping each other stay in conversation with the life of obstacles is a spiritually practical act of love that requires courage and compassion. It is a profound gesture that can change everyone involved. To listen to what gets in the way with your heart will change everything, regardless of what you've been told.

So, E daí? What's your next step?

Excerpted and adapted from the book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred.

 Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred by Mark Nepo Mark Nepo is the author of 14 books and eight audio projects. He has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for more than 40 years. His new book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred, won the 2012 Books for a Better Life Award. His other books include the number one New York Times best-seller The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, which was selected as one of Oprah's Ultimate Favorite Things in 2010. Mark has also appeared with Oprah on "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN. As a cancer survivor, Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. To learn more, please visit, and

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